Sprechen sie Shabbat?

After a ridiculously affordable–and hearty!–veggie meal, I walked to the Daniel Liebskind designed Judisches Museum. Considering I’m Jewish, in Berlin, and Shabbat would start later on in the evening a visit seemed mandatory.

Being the contrarian/jerk that I am, I wasn’t totally smitten with the building. I’m also not an architecture critic, and likely it is the aim of the building, but I found it confusing to get around. When I stepped into the Holocaust Tower within the museum, however, tears instantly welled up and I had to fight a bit from embarrassing myself amongst strangers.

The museum is not a Holocaust museum but a collection of Jewish history that occured in the region for the past 2,000 years or so. It is undeniably overwhelming and became, to me, a bit boring. “A biography of a Jewish German politician from the 19th Century. Great.” The 1904 photo album of a random family. Also great…

Towards the end of the visit I saw a mounted quote saying that the atrocities of Nazism were so great that Jews will never return to the area. After I left I realized that this museum–while clearly a political gesture–is for the Germans themselves: These people were our neighbors, our shop owners, our scientists, our writers, our artists, our poets, our soldiers, our countrymen. Look at what we have done.

Directly after leaving I made my way to the synagogue, which was huge and beautiful with a gold dome atop its structure. Of course, most of it is now a museum and not a shul. Guards watch over it 24 hours a day and after I passed through them and the X-ray machine I headed up to the temple.

By the time services started the room was completely full with what I’d guess to be 200 people.

“It is very full tonight because of Pesach,” said an ex-pat woman sitting next to me while people continues filing in. “Why’d you pick this one to come to?”

“Well, I looked on the Internet and there were’t too many to choose from–”
“There are 9.”

Nine? My Googling-on-the-go is really faulty when it comes to looking for synagogues, apparently.

“But don’t worry, you’ve come to the best. Honestly.”

Ah! I do have a knack for something!

“What happened to this during the war?”
“It was set on fire, but one fireman saved it. I’m sure you know the story.

I did not, but also didn’t wan’t to reveal my ignorance. Services started, anyhow.

The cantor, a woman, began singing in one of the prettiest voices I’ve heard in a synagogue. The rabbi proceeded after the first song to the bimah; also a woman.

Services came and went like any other modern Shabbat service: There no mentions of the Holocaust, I fell asleep during the sermon, and we concluded with Adon Olam. For the 20,000 Jews of Berlin, the quote in the museum is incorrect and life is becoming normal once more.


[A post on the personal politics of Berlin is coming, so hold off on comments related to facism and all that for now, please.]


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