About Oy Vey – Mission and Vision
Oy Vey is a grassroots Jewish organization active in the Netherlands. We come together for holidays and Shabbat, Havdalah and Pride, learning and discussion.
The Oy Vey Origin Story
Once upon a time, a brother and sister dreamed of creating an actual space for Jews and others to come together, share a cake or a coffee, and take home babka or a challah or both. It would be an actual place, in Amsterdam’s once thriving Jewish neighborhood. They dreamt of a space where people with Jewish roots and interested in Jewish culture could chat and connect while the smell of cinnamon wafted around them.
Then along came COVID, and plans changed. Oy Vey changed. We started finding ways to connect safely, online. Outside. In facemasks. The nature of Oy Vey changed. It became a conversation, a group of people who shared a desire to address racism, who couldn’t sit by as conspiracy theories became more and more prevalent in Dutch society, and who were passionate about climate change.
We met each other via social media posts, online, at shul, and at demonstrations. In a way, we were pulled towards each other, drawn by a desire for connection.
For Pesach, we created seder plates together and celebrated the Seder and Channukah with each other. Soon we were hosting monthly Havdalah meditations and Shabbat gatherings. Oy Vey began reaching out to other Jews in the Netherlands for discussions on Jewish life for The Jewish Manifesto and Mokum Deelt Dapper and became members of an anti-racism alliance. With time, Oy Vey started gathering a community and continues to do so. It turns out that many people with Jewish backgrounds in the Netherlands share our desire for connection and for creating opportunities for connection, activism, and joy.
Oy Vey has been exploring what being Jewish means to us individually and as a community. The answers are many, the questions even more. What we do know is that we imagine a fluid and dynamic Jewish community in the Netherlands that generates connection through action and solidarity, ritual, and joy. We want to be braver in our expression and more radically inclusive of the diversity inside our community.
The Oy Vey Mission
Oy Vey’s mission is to create a radically inclusive, fluid and dynamic Jewish movement that celebrates our differences, including the intersectionality of our identities, sexuality, gender expression, backgrounds, and our varied traditions and approach to Jewishness. We want to be part of a larger movement to re-vitalize Jewish life across Europe and to develop a community that is joyful, active, and meaningful. We do this through conversation, creative expression, ritual, education, and activism.
We are well aware of the brokenness of being Jewish in the Netherlands and how hard it’s been to heal after the devastation of the war. Our challenge as Jews in the Netherlands is to (re)connect to each other and our diversity of Jewish identities after being forcibly driven apart, disrupted, and destroyed. Oy Vey offers a way to connect by creating opportunities for Jewish people, their friends and partners to gather and build an inclusive community together.
The time for doing this is always now.
If I am not for myself, who is for me? When I am for myself, what am I? If not now, when?
אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי
Planting our roots deeper into our own culture, history, and tradition, can help form a stronger base for meaningful community building and activism. In the process, we can connect with other groups who are on a similar journey in solidarity and celebration, as well as to bring about change and justice.
We want to organize around joy, to find ways to embody Jewishness and Jewish activism in the face of a resurgence of conspiracy theories and other forms of anti-semitism.
Building a movement of Jewish life has been…interesting and challenging, especially since Oy Vey began just before the COVID pandemic. A lot of the activities and events we had planned were disrupted, and we had to learn new ways of connecting. We shared flurries of chats, zoomed, took walks, and commented on documents. In the meantime, we read, listened to podcasts, and wrote: all with the idea that these things would inform our activism, help us build community, and contribute to developing plans and principles.
Here we tip our proverbial hat to Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. Their document on antisemitism is a must read and has been enormously helpful to us. And the way they describe their core values is inspiring. We have used their language as a springboard for our own.
All Jews are Jewish! Queer, straight, questioning, patrilineal, matrilineal, Jews by choice… all Jewish. Kosher keeping, bacon eating, argumentative or conflict averse…all Jewish. Beta Israel, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Mizrachi…all Jewish. Even that guy with the opinions you hate who makes your head explode…Jewish.
Oy Vey is a base for Jews in the Netherlands to come together, share ideas, and to connect and organize with allies for a Netherlands where everyone has the freedom and opportunity to thrive.
We show up for others and for ourselves. Solidarity is survival. We are committed to human rights as the basis for social justice. We know that all forms of oppression are intertwined. Organizing against antisemitism means organizing against racism and other forms of oppression.
We take care of ourselves and each other. We nourish ourselves through the rhythms, traditions, and rituals of our ancestors. We take care to rest (Shabbat), make time for redemption and grief (Yom Kippur), time to mark opposition to slavery past and present (Pesach) and engage with climate justice (Sukkot, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, and Tu’Bishevat).
No space can be 100% safe, but we do our best. We try to make spaces that are inclusive and safe, while acknowledging the difficulties.
Consent is a mitzvah. We check in on each other to make sure that we consent to all aspects of our activism together. When harm is done, we reach out to those harmed. We engage in teshuvah, individually and as a community.
We commit to deep dialogue and patience. Even when it’s difficult. We embrace the idea that we can be different, disagree, and be imperfect, even as we come together in challenging discrimination and oppression.
Oy Vey is a community of people willing to learn and change and communicate in good faith.
We have boundaries. We know that inclusion requires boundaries. We do not tolerate actions or speech that dehumanize others or ourselves.