In the Spotlight – Jesaja #14

Community means people and stories. The dynamics of diversity are an essential part. Chabad on Campus spotlights every week another member of the community with each their own story and vision.

I was born and raised in Rotterdam and the surrounding area. Besides the fact that Rotterdam is known for its harbor and architecture, I especially have good memories of the museums and the artistic character that the city has. From an early age, I have had a great interest in music and literature. Whether it was small travelling art groups, music performances in De Doelen or literary evenings in the Schouwburg; I gladly took part in this. Often such evenings ended in inspiring experiences.

Rotterdam has a special Jewish history, even though the community is fairly small. Yet I see that more and more initiative is being taken by the Jewish municipalities to organize activities for students and young professionals. Especially considering the Erasmus University is nearby. This ensures that more and more international students, Jewish and/or Israeli, find their way to the community.

I myself grew up at alternately NIG Rotterdam and The Hague, where I received Jewish lessons and did my bar mitzvah. In terms of Jewish activities, I occasionally went to Tikwatenoe as a child.

Jesaja Spotlight studenten

Judaism is an important thread throughout my life. Both my parents ensured that I had a Jewish upbringing and I am grateful to them for that. My identity has shaped me in my vision of the world, spirituality and knowledge. The life lessons that Judaism shares are special and pure. It not only provides guidance but also structure and depth. It makes you not only look at something but also think about what something means.

Shabbat and the chagim have always been present and important in my home and I always carry that with me. Israel is my second home. The fact that I stand with my feet in two worlds has made me aware of thinking beyond borders from an early age.

For me, writing has always been a way of expressing myself. This often involves composition with music. The French chansons in particular appeal to me because the melodies and artistry of the lyrics have a lot of depth. Classic artists like Charles Aznavour or the modern sound of Stromae inspire me the most. They teach me that the combination of text and music is very powerful and that it can touch and move others.

I have always liked to listen to music with the lyrics alongside it, to see deeper meaning in music that can only be found by analysing lyrics. I believe that people naturally like to listen to stories.

From my own work, the piece below stays with me the most because others got a message from it. And that inspires me the most.


“ Als de regen niet lijkt te stoppen / “If the rain does not seem to stop

en de donder je verstijft / and the thunder stifles you

voeg je dan niet gelijk / do not immediately put yourself

tot de wereld der verslagenen / in the world of the defeated

maar veeg de tranen en onthoudt / but wipe your tears and remember

dat een ieder ander net als jij / that everyone, just like you

eerst huilend ter wereld komt / came into this world, crying

voordat het begint met ademen” / before it started breathing ”

I am a great believer in mapping out what your qualities are, what goals you have in mind and what steps you need to take to achieve those goals. That’s why I like to think that anything is possible if you have faith and that you can develop qualities in yourself to achieve those goals. For me, that meant that I wanted to get my master’s degree abroad. Obtaining my diploma was a moment of success back on it with great pleasure.

There are many books that have inspired me. Especially Yuval Noah Harari’s ‘Sapiens’ and Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A Little Life’ are books I often refer to when others ask which books I would recommend. I find Harari’s book special because it offers interesting perspectives on history. Although I do not share all his views, I have great respect for his insights and the way in which he makes complex themes manageable.

Yanagihara describes a fictional story in ‘A Little Life’ about the lifestyles of a group of friends in the United States who are all successful in their fields. Both her way of writing and the story itself is worth the read. It gives a special insight into the definition of friendship and the secrets people can carry with them.

jesaja spotlight community

Diplomacy has a very international meaning. It provides insight into how world politics works and how states relate to each other. In addition, it maps out how the history of a country has led to current regulations and the vision it has developed based on existing culture and identity. That combination makes diplomacy very intriguing and educational for me. Personally, I see myself more in an advisory role for the time being.

Chabad is special because it brings together Jews worldwide from different environments. It has personally brought me into contact with many interesting people from which close friendships have developed. It is a place of togetherness, safety and a sense of home from anywhere in the world.

Chabad on Campus ensures that people come into contact with each other and that is an important mission. This not only creates friendships but also ideas. An international network of students and young professionals offers opportunities to help each other learn and develop on the basis of a shared identity.

Jan van Brakel
Content Creator & Youth Worker at Chabad On Campus NL

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