Toronto's Beth Sholom Congregation visits Berlin
Members of Toronto's Beth Sholom congregation visit the Foreign Office in Berlin, © Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich
The experience of Jews going to visit Germany can be a difficult one. We are especially grateful to the delegation from Toronto's Jewish Beth Sholom Congregation for their openness to visit Munich and Berlin last month as part of the Visiting Programme of the Federal Republic of Germany.
COVID-19 had brought an abrupt halt to the planning of a trip to Munich and Berlin in 2020: Toronto's Jewish Beth Sholom Congregation, on initiative of Senior Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, had visited Germany already in 2018 to experience “Jewish Life in Germany today” and had planned another trip for 2020. Now, two years later, the group of 20, some of them children of people who survived the Shoah, visited Munich and Berlin to meet with Jewish organisations like the American Jewish Committee (AJC), representatives of the Federal Office, German Jews and clerics, as well as Felix Klein, Germany's commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against Antisemitism. Rabbi Flanzraich summarizes his Germany experience here:
The experience of Jews going to visit Germany can be a difficult one. After all, it is the historical centre of one of the Jewish people’s greatest tragedies. More so for the children of people who survived the Shoah. Despite this my community undertook a visit with Germany with the assistance of the German Consulate of Toronto and like many things what we expected and what we found were two very different things.
In the place of those horrors were not indifference but honest determination to confront the past. As well as to make it better for the future. In the place of uprooted and destroyed Jewish communities we discovered a rich Jewish life informed with Jewish schools, synagogues, community centres and rabbinical seminaries. Today in Germany we can see Jews who are determined to build on what was destroyed, which in fact had been amongst the greatest of Jewish diaspora communities.
Personally, I have been to Germany many times. I even teach there now. Yet I had a chance to see through others what I have come to know: to remember the world is not what was but only built on what was.
Rabbi Aaron Flanzraich, Senior Rabbi, Beth Sholom Congregation Toronto