Our quest to visit the synagogues of Berlin brought us to the Oranienburger Synagogue this past Friday evening where we were surprised to discover that there was a visiting rabbi from New York. She even gave a sermon in English about how our attire reflects our closeness to God that was meant for the ears of my ultra earthy daughter!
Attending the Oranienburger Synagogue had special meaning for us because of the building’s historical significance. Also known as the Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue), the temple dates back to 1866 and was one Germany’s most famous houses of worship. Saved from major harm during Kristallnacht only to be severely damaged by bombs during the Second World War, most of the temple had to be demolished after the war and the building was not reopened until 1995.
The Oranienburger service was filled with more than the usual number of Americans that we encounter at events in Berlin. It turned out that they were participating in a program called Germany Close Up: American Jews Meet Modern Germany which “provides Jewish American students and young professionals in their twenties and early thirties with an opportunity to experience modern Germany up close and personally.” The organization also brings groups of rabbis and journalists to Germany. Before learning about Germany Close Up, I had been thinking about encouraging our rabbi back in Bozeman to organize a trip of Rocky Mountain Jews to Berlin. Seeing the warmth between the American visitors and the Oranienburger congregants last Friday convinced me that this would be an enriching experience.
I wrote an earlier post about the need for American Jews to update their image of Germany. What better way to do this than through a trip that would yield a higher educational value than anything one might read on a blog. Others have taken the leap and I hope many more will do so in the future. You might even get to have German pastries after Shabbat services!