by Josh 'Pinyan' Appelboom.
During pesach I had the privilege and pleasure of travelling to Beijing to lead the Seder for Kehillat Beijing, the Liberal community. Having not led a seder previously, I thought to myself… this could be a great story! I pictured the event as a big Netzer service, trading the siddur for the haggadah, the shabbat spread for the seder plate and the shabbat tunes for the pesach ones.
I was asked to include some creative flair, so in true Netzer style, I wrote a short play and asked the kids to re-enact the story from the time the Israelites arrived in Egypt to the exodus. To help, we had two community members narrate the play and it just so happened that one of these community members was a professional stand-up comedian! Needless to say it was the highlight of the evening. There were 130 people in attendance and in order to get people involved, we sent a "roaming mic" around the room for the brave to volunteer a reading. The songs were sung with great voice, especially Dayenu, and the four cups of wine (for some it seemed a few more) ensured we finished strongly with renditions of Echad Mi Yodeya and Chad Gadya.
The community were warm and welcoming and were keen to know "what stage of your rabbinical studies are you up to?!" I was fortunate enough to stay on for the community weekend retreat north of Beijing and enjoyed a beautiful hike, kabbalat shabbat, shirim, a shabbat morning ma'amad and what could only be described as numerous Chinese banquets.
Getting to know another Jewish community intimately was a special experience for me. I was delighted to learn that Kehillat Beijing and Chabbad have a warm relationship, sharing a sunday school and utilising each other's resources.
Kehillat Beijing is a lay led community, mostly attended by American ex-pats. They have weekly kabbalat shabbat services followed by dinner and celebrate the festivals with enthusiasm.
We are so fortunate to be able to travel the world as Jews and find belonging in local Jewish communities. And the skills we aquire at Netzer enable us to contribute to these communities in meaningful ways. I'd like to thank the UPJ, Kehillat Beijing and Netzer for giving me this opportunity.
If anyone would like to learn more about the community or my experience, feel free to contact me on 0409 322 428.
Josh 'Pinyan' Appelboom