Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
I am writing this Shabbat message to you after a long day of travel from Berlin to Budapest and a great deal of information overload. It has been a very emotional few days since I left Phoenix; it honestly feels more like two weeks.
Berlin was especially meaningful for me as it was my family’s home before the Holocaust. I am the first in my family to travel back to Germany. To eat a meal, brush my teeth and sleep in a bed there was overwhelming. I could feel the spirits of my deceased ancestors all around me. It is an honor to represent them in a place that had been home for generations before they were uprooted, humiliated and robbed of everything, including their dignity.
Some were beaten. Some were imprisoned. Some were killed. Ultimately, my grandparents on both sides made the brave decision to leave and start anew in America. I now truly understand the definition of ambivalence. The whole time in Berlin, I felt both sad at the almost unfathomable hatred and brutality unleashed on my family and my Jewish brethren, and yet I was comforted to see Germans and Germany accepting responsibility for their past and how they are living with that history. With a population of 175,000 Jews, many refugees from the Former Soviet Union, Germany is now one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in the world—an outcome I suspect Hitler did not anticipate.
This week’s Torah portion is Devarim (The Words) in the final book of the Pentateuch. In it, Moses recounts the journey from Sinai through the great and fearsome desert. I draw a parallel to the perilous journey my grandparents, like so many other Jewish families at the time, made when they left Germany in December 1937 for a new life in America. And while there is still much to be done, I am glad to see how far things have come—our final evening in Germany, we were watching Berlin’s version of Fiddler on the Roof…in German! Who would have thought such a thing would happen just a few short decades ago?! You’ve heard the expression “seeing is believing”…well, maybe it really should be “believing is seeing”…
Chief Executive Officer
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