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Chabad, Birthright, March of the Living Part of her Jewish path

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Through the Global Jewish Pen Pal program, Katie Keizner became friends with Sarah in New York, and they decided to tell their story to TheJ.ca (Photo: Katie Keizener)

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Katie and Sarah are part of the Global Jewish Pen Pal Program. The group’s founder, Madison mentioned that TheJ.Ca were looking for stories about modern-day Jewish life around the world. So far four Pen Pals columns have been published. For the next two weeks, they tell of their lives in the UK and New York, respectively.

Hello, Shalom, I am Katie from Borehamwood, which is a town north of London in the UK. It takes 25 minutes by train to get to London from where I live, so really not very far at all.

Borehamwood is most known for its film and TV studios, commonly known as Elstree Film Studios. Many famous titles were made at the Borehamwood studios to name a few, the first three Indiana Jones films and the first three Star Wars movies.

I have grown up surrounded by a very large thriving Jewish community which has contributed towards my Jewish identity. Borehamwood is a very young vibrant community and is the largest Jewish community in the UK. Within the surrounding ten miles we have 4 large Jewish secondary schools, many Jewish primary schools and nurseries (too many to count).

Due to living in such a big Jewish community, I attended a Jewish Nursery, Jewish Primary School and Jewish Secondary School. We have several Kosher restaurants, grocery stores, bakers, butchers and synagogues supporting the very diverse Jewish community. In fact our town Mayor is a local Rabbi, Rabbi Plancey.

We have many synagogues catering for all Jewish observances. My family and I belong to a Masorti synagogue in my area, where I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah by reading from the Torah at age 13, this being one of my proudest moments. Since then as a family we have also celebrated my two younger brothers Bar Mitzvahs. What is nice about belonging to this particular synagogue is that we attend with my Aunt, Uncle and cousins. It’s a family affair to say the least!

I hope one day to meet “a nice Jewish boy” and start a Jewish family of my own. I would like to bring my future children up in a Jewish setting, attending Jewish schools, going to Synagogue and following Jewish traditions. The only thing is, I haven’t met my “Mr Right”.

In the past couple of years I have become heavily involved in the local Chabad (Jewish Life Centre, Borehamwood and Elstree) even though my religious observance may be slightly different. At the Borehamwood and Elstree Chabad (Jewish Life Centre) every person is welcomed with unconditional love and respect.

The Jewish Life Centre provides programmes, events, Shabbat meals and educational classes together with social experiences for Jewish people of all ages. The success of this is empowered by the well known attitude of the Chabad to be warm, welcoming and accepting of all Jews regardless of background, affiliation or knowledge. This has definitely been the welcome I received from my Chabad who welcomed me with open arms and considered me family even though my level of observance is different to theirs.

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During the pandemic, I volunteered to run the local Chabad’s Chanukah event which turned out to be the largest Chanukah event held in the UK last year. Our local shopping park was transformed into scenes never seen before as around 1,000 people came together to celebrate. The Chabad was determined not to see this festival pass by without recognition and managed to create a Covid-secure drive-in menorah lighting ‘Chanu-kar’ at the local shopping park. In the past few weeks I have joined forces with the Rabbi’s daughter to run some virtual baking classes for kids where we have made chocolate bombs and hamantaschen.

I have also been fortunate to participate in Birthright. Birthright is a not-for-profit organization providing the gift of a 10 day adventure and educational trip to Israel for Jewish young adults between the ages of 18-32. The trip had such amazing opportunities such as climbing Mount Masada, praying at the Western Wall and celebrating Shabbat in the holy land. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn about my heritage and experience life in Israel.

Another memorable trip I took part in was March of the Living UK. March of the Living UK is a 5 day educational journey in Poland culminating with the unforgettable March of the Living International event that brings together people from all over the world on Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest holocaust camp complex.

A Keizner family simcha is celebrated as Katie and her brother Zak flank the bar mitzvah boy, Dylan (Photo: supplied)

It is always brilliant to connect with other Jewish communities and learn about their Jewish traditions. The Global Jewish Pen Pal Programme is a fantastic opportunity to connect with others around the world and to learn about their Jewish traditions especially during the pandemic where many do not feel connected with the community. The Global Jewish Pen Pal Programme helps to build global friendships with other Jewish people across the world of all ages. All participants who sign up will be matched with someone of a similar age from a different country. It is then up to you and your Pen-pal to mutually decide whether you communicate via email, video calls or hand written letters.

There are lots of opportunities to get involved with the programme such as being the highlighted pen pal pair of the month, sharing Jewish recipes and fun facts, as well as attending virtual events. The programme is currently free and open to Jewish individuals of any age who can read and write in English. To sign up to be matched with your pen-pal, fill out the form at this google doc link (click here).

I was fortunate enough to be matched with my American pen pal Sarah. We found that we have so much in common and are constantly texting each other. It has been so nice to make a friend through this programme and we have now even celebrated Chanukah by sending each other gifts. Hopefully when the world is ‘Covid-free’ and life has returned back to normal, I will be able to meet up with Sarah in the US. (Next week in TheJ.ca, Sarah tells about her Jewish life in America.)

Katie Rebecca Keizner lives in the UK on the outskirts of London with her family. She was a Hotel Manager until Covid came along, and is currently working in the family business whilst searching for a new position in the Hospitality industry.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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