Berlin / Prague 2014
Stay tuned to this blog to follow the upcoming historic journey to Berlin, Terezín, and Prague that JWA is co-sponsoring with the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. Among trip participants, honoring the life and memory of Rabbi Regina Jonas, the first woman rabbi in modern times, will be the four American women rabbis who were the first ordinees of their denominations, historians Dr. Karla Goldman and Dr. Deborah Dash Moore, Dr. Gary Zola, Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives and Dr. Gail Reimer, Founding Director of JWA.
A major theme of our shared JWA/AJA journey is the recovery of the lost narrative of Regina Jonas. We are here in the company of America’s pioneering women rabbis to bring Fraulein Rabbiner Jonas back into the story we tell of them and those who followed.
I have never been to Germany before, and this is no accident. My mother, who lost extended family members in the Holocaust, raised me not to buy German products. I do not walk on the site of the Temple in Jerusalem, for it is sacred. I did not go to Germany, because it was the very opposite of sanctity. The sound of the German language made me cringe; it was the sound of the Nazis. But over the decades, I had come to be in relationship with young Germans who were profoundly remorseful about the Holocaust. I was ready to explore a new personal relationship with the German people, and to travel there when the right opportunity presented itself. This trip is that opportunity.
At Temple Beth Or’s Erev Shabbat service last Friday my associate Rabbi Ari Margolis offered a blessing for me as I embark on this journey to honor the memory of Rabbi Regina Jonas. Just a few weeks ago, I offered a prayer for Rabbi Margolis and those from the temple traveling to Israel in hopes of spiritual enlightenment and deepening connection to land and heritage. In contrast, Rabbi Margolis’ prayer Friday night had a more urgent feel to it. In those few weeks between these travelers’ prayers, Israel has gone from a period of relative calm to a country searching for the “Protective Edge.” And this past week Malaysian flight MH17, shot down mid-air by rocket missiles designed for warfare, shattered any illusion that one might cling to that the weapons of terror are just another distant chapter in that story of the world’s horrors.
Our knowledge about Rabbi Regina Jonas has been limited. I had heard that she was ordained in Berlin, her thesis was on whether women could be rabbis, and that she had died during the Holocaust. I was intrigued, but there was not much more information to fill in the blank spaces. This trip has opened up a wealth of material about her life, her vision and her contributions.
For many years, I resisted going to Germany or Eastern Europe, but when I learned about this trip to Berlin and Prague, I spoke without thinking: “I’d really like to go on that journey.”
Reflecting now on that immediate response (and the fact that I didn’t have second thoughts afterward), I’ve learned a few things about what has changed and what has crystallized for me, individually and, I think, as a member of my generation.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Berlin / Prague 2014." (Viewed on July 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/berlin-prague-2014>.