Hannah Neudecker (1964):
“When I was in my final year at the gymnasium and I had to figure out what I was going to study, at first I didn’t know. Because there were no jobs anyway, my parents advised me to choose a subject that really interested me, but what? Only at the last moment I chose Hebrew. I had been reading a lot about Judaism and was intrigued by it, but knew nothing about it really. There was an air of mystery and suffering around it. I told my grandmother about my plans and I still remember how enthusiastic she was. She was always full of stories about her early years in Vienna, and then invariably ended with the words , “ They are all gone, all gone."
So, in order to find out about ‘what had been’, I started Hebrew. I ended up at Leiden University, where the focus was very much on linguistics and philology, and less on culture. I didn’t miss that, however, and as language and text study suited me, I made the most of it, engaging in Arabic and Turkish as well. An academic career seemed to be the obvious thing, and so I found myself doing doctoral research on a seventeenth-century Turkish Bible. In that capacity I was also expected to do some teaching and because I had studied in Jerusalem for a year, I started teaching Modern Hebrew. I have never stopped doing that and I still greatly enjoy it. But, meanwhile, my interests had shifted. Apart from the field itself, the interaction with my students and explaining Judaism was fascinating to me. I started inviting students at home and in shul for the Holidays, in order to show them Jewish practice.
In 2004 I became a member of the Liberal Jewish Community in The Hague and soon I took part in the Torah reading. But in the absence of chazzanim and (for some time) a rabbi, I was also asked, eventually, for Friday night services. Friends there began to suggest the Rabbinate and so I ended up with Rabbi David Lilienthal, who gave me all the encouragement I needed. The first few months of my studies have really been very inspiring!”
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