I have learned and relearned many things while I spent the month of June teaching at the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Berlin. I had never been to Germany before, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t come as a tourist. So I accepted the invitation as a visiting professor so that I could explore Germany’s Jewish past and present—and help the community and its rabbinical students to shape a bright future.
One of the stories that was driven home for me once again was the story of the demonstration against the Nazis (the so-called Rosenstrasse protest) by spouses of other religious backgrounds of Jewish men who were imprisoned during the Fabrikaktion (Factory Action). It was the last round-up of men working in factories in February 1943. The action of these spouses led to the release of these men, almost all of whom survived the war and became the seeds of the Berlin Jewish community.
While I don’t like to mix the issues of Holocaust and intermarriage, for obvious reasons, in this case, it is necessary to do so. This is another example in which spouses of other religious backgrounds secured the future of the Jewish community—much in the same way as do the mothers in JOI’s own Mothers Circle program. Moreover, when these women of the Rosenstrasse protest died, there was a section reserved for them and for their spouses in the Berlin Jewish Community’s Weissensee Cemetery. No questions asked. No debate needed.
There are many lessons from history yet for us to learn.