Cantors Mission to Germany: Day 8

Our final day in Germany begins with a 2 hr drive to Salzburg, Austria, home to Mozart and the Sound of Music.  After visiting some of the locations of major events in the movie, we start our Mozart tour, viewing his hang out spots, his home, and his birthplace.  Amid the windy streets and open markets, it really feels like a quaint European city.  I really feel like I’m in Austria (whatever that means- guess you have to visit to find out!).

One of the cool, unexpected highlights of the excursion is finding our way into the Cathedral for a 1pm concert delivered by two teen choirs from Australia/New Zealand.  As a side note, while in Germany, I have seen a lot of teenage choirs traveling throughout Europe. What an experience that must be!

Prior to our last concert held at the gorgeous Hercules Hall (entitled “From Mahler to Mack the knife”), we are treated to a concluding message from Professor.  This is a unique opportunity to see how Professor Berke’s reflections align with my own over these past few days.  Before we get to that, I was thinking of some of the highlights of our trip:

  • A whirlwind musical journey to 45 synagogues (through 45 cantors) during our “Shabbos at the Ritz” Saturday morning service
  • Having congregants exposed to the inner workings of the Cantors Assembly, the fun we have, and the music we create.  On Tuesday night, for example, we had a late night promenade concert (normally we have 3 or 4 during a convention, following a regularly scheduled evening concert..these normally don’t START until midnight).  While we normally have a separate space for this, we were situated in the lobby of the hotel.  I must make note that there was a large Arab contingent here at the Sofitel (the menus/info in each room were translated first into Arabic, then French, then English).  It was awesome to have for us to lead Israeli dancing and to get the whole lobby clapping. It was amazing to see 4 or 5 Arabic women dressed in traditional clothing clapping their hands to Bashana habaa!
  • Those “you had to be there” moments- Munich Memorial & Tzaddik Katamar at the Neue Synagogue.  It’s interesting that we sang Lewandowski’s Tzaddik Katamar 4 times on our trip: Friday Night at the Concert Hall, Sunday at the Neue Synagogue, Tuesday at the Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich, and at our closing concert at the Hercules Hall. Nothing compared to the energy and reverberation of our experience at the Neue synagogue, in the face of where the sanctuary once stood.  It was also the most impromptu of them all.  The music of Lewandowski is important, but the words are just as important to this mission (see final post).

Now on to Berke’s lecture.  Again we begin with a discussion of why didn’t people do more to stop these atrocities: the role of the Vatican, as the Pope never uttered  a word to oppose the Nazi state; the role of FDR, or lack thereof.

Berke suggests four lessons we can learn about/from the Holocaust:

  1. Beware of racism (in any form)
  2. Evil triumphs when good men and women say nothing; it must be stopped wherever it is, even when there’s a price to pay
  3. Today we cheapen words like “hero” and “heroism”. An athlete may do something extraordinary, but they aren’t a hero.  We know what heroes are from World War II- righteous gentiles; survivors who saw things that no one should see, lost families, spit in the face of history and created new lives.
  4. History is not stagnant. It is fluid, always changing. Do not fight old battles- we are not at war with Germany or with Christianity.

I nod my head as Berke reminds us that it would be a serious mistake to think that this trip would be about the Holocaust.  This again goes back to my original “between the clouds and the earth” comment in my opening blog.  It’s important to appreciate German Jewry before the Holocaust because it reminds us of all the history that was lost, and all the potential history that could have been made- future doctors, politicians, thinkers; future mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.  On the other end of the spectrum, I had hoped to get a sense of what’s going on in Germany today. I had hoped for more dialogue and interaction with the local Jewish communities (a la Musical Outreach Initiative), but nonetheless, I feel strongly that a) Jewish life has returned and b) Germany is fully recognizing the horrors that were committed here, and feels a sense of shame and remorse.

As we reflect on July 4th, it’s crazy to think of all of the changes here in Europe.  Europe has turned a corner- no passport checks, as people begin to think of themselves as European, not just German.  As Germany quickly re-established itself as a world leader, they realized that national power and prosperity are based on history, enlightenment and the sciences, areas that were decimated and neglected during the war.  The “east Jews” who were frowned upon in the early 20th century are now the ones rebuilding Germany, as 150,000 Russian Jews have made their way to Germany.

Note- I’ll be posting my pictures to facebook and most of the videos on YouTube and/or Facebook

Posted on July 6, 2012, in Cantors Mission. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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