I have just returned from a month of teaching (they call it “lecturing”) at the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Berlin. I accepted the invitation to teach “outreach” to a group of rabbinical students because I fervently believe that the methods we have developed at Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute can be successfully adapted to the German Jewish community as it rebuilds itself, a direct result of an influx of Jews from Russia, Israeli immigrants, and a large number of Jews-by-Choice—all of whom have both bolstered and eclipsed the tiny post-World War II Jewish community.
While it was probably one of the most interesting months of my life, I can best describe Berlin (and for that matter, most of Germany) as a place of contradictions. As much as I tried to focus on the future, I felt the tug of being constantly dragged into the past. Even things that appear simple, such as exiting a subway (U) station, force me back into it when I encounter a sign telling people (those who pay attention) the various destinations of those local Jews taken from their homes and transported through that particular station. Or looking for an address, only to find a “stumble stone” in front of it, indicating the former owners and where they had been deported and killed. Even taking a different route home from the grocery store, I stumbled across a plaque which suggested where the local synagogue (now an apartment building) once had been. Memorials abound if you look for them.