Gutentag! Shabbat Shalom from sunny Berlin! We actually looked today and saw that the weather in NYC is twenty-five degrees cooler than it was here in Berlin. With a high of 60 degrees, our day in this beautiful city was nothing short of spectacular.
As we left our hotel this morning, we headed out towards the Jewish quarter. Stopping on the Judenstrasse, we heard the story of the start of Berlin’s Jewish history. It’s a long and challenging history that dates back thousands of years. And yet, it is a beautiful and complex narrative – one that is worth learning about and struggling with. Specifically the story of Moses Mendelssohn who left his impression not only on the Jewish community of Berlin, but also the academic and cultural institutions of Berlin. We saw the site of his former house and realized that to be in Berlin exploring its Jewish history, one needs to dig deep under the layers.
We heard heroic stories of bravery while standing outside of the remains of the Alteschule – the oldest synagogue in Berlin and we heard stories of Abraham Geiger and the start of liberal Judaism in Berlin. And we heard the stories of the stolpersteine, one artist’s mission to keep the memory of those lost in the Holocaust alive. Our very own Dan Strauss told us the story of how he went with his family this past summer to Tubingen to place their own stolpersteine where they belong.
A short stop to see some graffiti and we were able to have some time to enjoy lunch and shopping in the beautiful and vibrant Hackersher Market. We then continued our walking tour of Jewish Berlin, stopping at the Oranienberger Strasse synagogue, where we marveled at the mastery and artistry of this beautiful building where our own Rabbi Hirschbergbecame a Bar Mitzvah.
The afternoon was spent touring the Jewish Museum. We were very impressed by what Daniel Liebeskind, the architect, tried to accomplish with this building. It’s cold interior, corners that lead to nowhere, and bold lines left us feeling prepared for tomorrow where we are going to face and confront the atrocity of the Holocaust.
Our evening wound down with a Havdalah ceremony outside, and a walking food tour. A highlight was dessert for an appetizer and vegan curry wurst – to be honest, it was the wurst wurst we had.
It was a full day, but a fun day – and tomorrow is Sunday.
Auf Wiedersehen or something like that…
Rabbi Greg, Jessica, and Dan