Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.
“We get flowers from the Christian community on nearly every Jewish holiday“
It was thirty years ago. A Dutch teacher became so enthralled by Judaism that she arranged a trip to Israel. Little did she know that the tour guide who showed her around a kibbutz, himself a born and bred Jew from Canada, would later become the father of her six children.
Miriam (20) is one of these children. Until eighteen months ago, she lived with her mother in a village near Ottawa, a hamlet she didn’t bother to name because nobody’s ever heard of it anyway. “Having said that, Almonte does have one claim to fame: it’s where the inventor of basketball came from. To be fair, he just happened to be staying in the US when he came up with the idea.”
After finishing high school, Miriam decided to go to her mother’s native country to study, like one of her sisters. “I wasn’t copying her, she just gave me the idea.” Her plan was to become an English teacher for Dutch people with English as a second language. The course in Enschede didn’t live up to her expectations, so a year later, she switched to HU University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. She loved both the course and the city.
“It was easy to find a room; someone told me about a Jewish student house on Springweg. There aren´t that many young Jewish people so I didn’t even have to wait.”
The residents in this house are all like-minded, all eat kosher. They get each other. “I’m really happy with my housemates. We’re one big family.” This is also true of the whole, small Jewish community in Utrecht. Everyone knows each other. On Saturday mornings, Miriam goes to the synagogue in her street. It’s never a chore because the art deco building itself is beautiful, and it’s always great to see the other young people who attend. The Shabbat service begins just before 10 o’clock and lasts two hours. “Unfortunately, it´s all in Hebrew and Dutch so I don’t understand much.” The service is followed by the Kiddush (blessing) and lunch. Miriam doesn’t stay for the afternoon prayers.
The synagogue she attends is really an ex-synagogue. It’s a long story, but the building (called the Broodhuis) is home to the Christian Ruth community. The Jews have their own separate entrance and a small room. Two faith communities under one roof, says the Canadian. “We’re very close. The people from the church bring us flowers on nearly every Jewish holiday. Perhaps it’s to make up for the singing!” They can hear the choir even from their home. “It’s very calming. And sometimes quite funny; they sang YMCA a few Sundays ago.”
Miriam thinks there’s a small chance that her mother may soon move to the Netherlands. “She’s certainly implied as much.” Her mother’s tour guide, Miriam’s father, died in 2010. The children have all left home and four of them now live abroad. Supposing she does come to Utrecht, what’s the first thing Miriam and her mother would do? Not surprisingly, the answer is something you don’t see much in Canada. “Go for a bike ride around the city together.”
Name: Miriam van Meijeren Karp
Place of birth: Almonte, Canada
Year of birth: 24 June 1997
Motto: ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it‘
Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.