What brings the descendant of someone who fled or survived the Holocaust back to the land on which it took place? What do those of us who have made this journey expect to find once we are here? The fabric of any individual’s identity is made up of so many threads that any one can be easily overlooked in crafting a life. To go back and pick up a lost or errant thread may be what those of us on this journey have in common. To discover something about ourselves that has always been there but that we could not see.
Sitting in a cafe yesterday with two new friends who come from German Jewish families and have reclaimed their German citizenship gave me the beginnings of a new sense of community. Our personal stories were different, but we all shared a common background and an eagerness to somehow link our lives with our heritage. Most Americans at some point in their lives want to explore their roots. For me it is not just about understanding the past, but also understanding myself. Regardless of how long our family resides in Germany, the time we spend here helps me to feel whole.
While the past beckons and I pursue various efforts to delve into family history, I am still most interested in Jewish life in Germany today. Although a trip to almost any of Berlin’s synagogues (or even a Jewish book store or community center), means passing through the watchful eyes and security measures of the Polizei, there is a thriving Jewish community in Berlin. We have taken our first steps into this community by attending services at Ohel Hachidusch, a Jewish Renewal congregation that has welcomed us with open arms and where services are conducted in a mixture of Hebrew, German, and English. We plan to also visit a few of Berlin’s other non-Orthodox synagogues and I hope to share our experiences on this blog.