Listening to an authentic Berlin Klezmer Group perform songs in Yiddish at an Israeli street festival today was my first exposure to the Jewish cultural life of Berlin. The street festival, called Shuk Ha’ Carmel after Tel Aviv’s largest market, was part of the Jewish Culture Days celebration being held in Berlin from Aug. 26th to Sept. 5th. Amidst the rich aromas of fish and falafel, the wide variety of produce and spices, the colorful crafts and Judaica, and of course all those happy Jews, my greatest pleasure was watching my daughter join in the Israeli dancing. As she matched her steps to those in her circle of dancers I was glad for all those dancing lessons she received at Hebrew School back in Bozeman!
I came to Berlin as a German American Jew with so many questions and desires. I hope to fill in some of the gaps from the past that I’ve wondered about and to research, experience, and possibly connect with a part of the Jewish life of modern-day Germany. Our family has attended our first service with Ohel Hachidusch, a multi-denominational Jewish Renewal congregation, where we received a warm welcome. There are 10 other synagogues in Berlin, and as long as you don’t mind the inconvenience of having your purse searched and your body scanned, you can visit any of them.
At the same time, I am awaiting news on my application for German citizenship which I am eligible for because my parents were displaced by the Holocaust. My mother is about to receive her second payment as a result of the Holocaust Victim Assets Litigation that has led to the distribution of funds from Swiss bank accounts that were seized by the Nazis. My amazing dad pursued every possible avenue of restitution that was available to German Jews who survived the Holocaust and I know he would be pleased that some of his painstaking efforts have come to fruition.
So there is much to explore, but also much to enjoy. With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner, I think some research into the Jewish bakeries and delis of Berlin is next on the agenda……