Un-expectations: Germany Mission Preamble
My journey to Germany begins with a pitstop in Newark, NJ.
The city comes to mind with a recent posting that I read on CNN.com. The opening title, “A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor into a room..” assumes either a comedy routine or that this is somehow the most unexpected of partnerships (ironically espn.com, my other frequent source for news, posted an article on their website “Punch line: A priest, an architect and a dentist walk into a meeting…and decide the future of college football?”) The moral of both stories is simple- expect the unexpected. As I spoke with many congregants over the past few months about joining me on this mission, many concerns came to mind, and in the end there were those who may have felt uneasy about coming along for the journey. Germany has made significant strides to repair its relationships around the globe- one could argue that Germany is one of Israel’s top allies and one of the more liberal countries in the world (editors note- roughly 500,000 people will have visited Germany in the past week for their LGBT festivities). Who knows what kinds of partnerships we will form over the next week- expect the unexpected.
Having visited Eastern and Central Europe numerous times (and Munich for a day- that’s for a later posting), I’ve often felt moved by what I experienced there. These places hold so much history for Ashkenazi Jewry as well as a deep rooted spirituality as the centers of Ashkenazi Jewry for hundreds of years. What was it about these places, these communities, that made people stick around for so long? In searching for this spiritual moment, I have to be careful to lose any sense of expectations and become a sponge of information and emotion. “Take it all in” and later, have a chance to reflect on what has just taken place. We’ll be performing important work- not just musically but socially, with members of the interfaith community as well as the local, now vibrant German Jewish community.
While we will only be there for week, its important to experience Germany through many lenses: through the lens of the past- Germany Jewish history and its peak, as well as the atrocities of the Shoah; and through the lens of the present and soon to be future- of a Jewish community craving knowledge of its heritage and a German community that does not want to forgot, but learn from its actions.
Flying over Newark, I was privy to a wonderful view: sitting next to the left wing, we flew below the clouds as we descended towards the runway. The clouds appear all in one straight line above us, the cars and buildings become more and more recognizable as we get lower and lower. The words “DO NOT STEP OUT OF THIS” appear on the wing itself. What great advice! This is an opportunity to look at this Germany mission from the middle- at times it’s important to look up at the heavens- the lost souls of the Holocaust, of a rich Germany history; and at times to look below at the important work being done to help a new community grow. What a gift- to not step out of this experience but to step right into it. I look forward to sharing my thoughts upon my arrival tomorrow in Berlin!