The New Synagogue in Berlin

I’ve barely been back in Berlin for a week, but I’ve already noticed how much more free time I have since being demoted to 8 hours a week. Granted, it means I have less money and am on the brink of an exist-ential crisis, and I should be using my extra time to work on my dissertation, but I’m also using it to fall back in love with Berlin in Spring.

While on my way to revisit the Dorotheenfriedhof with a friend who had come into town, we passed by the Jewish Synagogue, which is about 1 km from Friedrichstrasse S-Bahnhof (Cold War buffs will know this was the crossing point from East to West for civilians). While I was excited to show my friend the graves of Brecht, Fichte, et al., I did suggest we visit the Synagogue.

New_Synagogue

©1999 Valerie Kreutzer

My friend, who had been to Berlin several times but never made it inside, since the last time the opportunity presented itself, a series of bomb threats closed the place down for a few weeks (months?).  Even if the Synagogue and museum were now open, there were police guarding it, as they do every Jewish or Turkish building of significance in Berlin. It’s, as one person in Google Reviews posted, sobering. Germans are in a constant battle against their history and themselves in the form of blatant or covert neo-nazism.

Still, while the same Google Review comments largely suggested that going inside the museum was a waste of time and money, I think I already mentioned that I had the time, and the 5 Euro on museum entrance and visit to the dome weren’t terrible. Granted, I thought I would be able to go into the main hall of the Synagogue, since I’d been able to visit the Old New Synagogue in Prague once upon a time, which impressed heavily on my faith questioning as a teenager, but I understand why that area would be closed to the public.

At any rate, I paid my five euros and spent about thirty minutes going through the exhibition. First of all, the Synagogue isn’t new, but it was the new one when it opened in 1866.  A lot of the information in the exhibit was about the destruction of the building in the 1938 Pogrom-Kristallnacht and World War II, as well as the rebuilding. But what I liked about the exhibit was how much information was given about how the Berlin Jewish population was living in Berlin in the 1930s and 40s. One got insight into the Jewish Schools for Boys and Girls in the surrounding area, famous artists like Maz Liebermann who were part of the congregation, and the way members of the congregation would worship, celebrate and learn in the building. After seeing how the large orthodox Jewish population in south Florida observed Passover the past week, I was personally moved by the way this building afforded a place of security and community for more than fifty years and hundreds of thousands of people before Hitler and the Nazis came to power.

I was also surprised to learn that of the 14 synagogues attacked in the night of November 9, 1938, the New Synagogue was largely able to escape most of the destruction due to the intervention of the chief of police of the precinct, Wilhelm Kruetzfel. While most of the fire brigade and police on that night stood by and watched, Kruetzfel and those under his command forced the SA troops to leave and then called the fire brigade. Of course, he had to answer for it and managed to get by on the point that the building was a “historic cite” and deserved protection, but I believe it was more than that and I’m glad to know that somehow, in the face of a majority who go along with what is morally and ethically wrong, there are those who resist- or those who at least stand by what they know to be right.

Anyway, after the exhibit, my friend and I spent a while trying to find the way to the dome. When we found it, we did indeed find a smallish room with a not terribly spectacular view of surrounding Berlin, but I appreciated it. One got an idea of how “mitten drin” the Synogogue was in the center and I had a chance to reflect on the purpose for the dome as bringing closer to God and as a symbol.

My friend and I talked a little more about the symbolism of the building and the police guarding it after leaving. We both agreed that of all place to attack, a synagogue would not present a lot of victims and really just is a pile of fancy looking bricks. Still, I commented on the symbol of the place, and the way it has regrown into a center for learning and worship for the Jewish community, and that the message an attack would send, even if the destruction were not too terrible, would be enough to cause a good amount of damage to the feelings of community, security and tolerance the place provide. So, yeah.Good reasons to guard it.

We ran out of time (I guess I still do have some limits) to see the Friedhof, but I’m glad I went inside the Synagogue for a bit of history and reflection. I’m also always amazed at how well Berlin derails me from plans and often offers me better ones instead.

100 posts and there are green leaves against blue sky outside my window

Well, it certainly feels like it’s been at least a year since I last posted, but it’s just been a month and a few weeks. Time is a funny thing.

IMG_2191

In this time, I turned 26, flew more than 10,000 miles, was invited for a scholarship interview and had that interview. Went from part-time to part-part time work (i.e. 8 hours versus 20). Celebrated Easter with my family. Celebrated my birthday, a friend’s birthday, and my cousin’s birthday. April babies= best babies; no bias there. Basically I lived and celebrated living.

In the meantime, I wanted to write a kind of special post. Seeing as this marks the centennial edition of my humble beginning in July 2014, I decided to reflect on blogging and what it means to me, and why I find it worthwhile to continue. Basically, I’m here to say “I’m back! And even if I take breaks, I will likely always come back.”

First of all, I thought long and hard about why I write. There are a lot of reasons, but in the end, I noticed blog writing is about celebrating ourselves and our productivity as writers. I see a level of egoism in this and a kind of consumerism, but on the other hand, I value the positive things blogging can bring, so I will focus on that.

I write to:

  1. motivate myself to get something done by asking for some implicit accountability
  2. share experiences I’ve had and things I’ve seen or thought, partially as checkpoint for others taking the same or similar journey, partly to record these things for myself. I do occasionally go back and read posts and am often surprised by the person I was then, and how I still understand this person like it was me, but see her as separate from me. I can always learn something from this person
  3. inform the few family and real life friends who do check up on me with this blog what I’m up to and that I’m still alive. I’m not as bad in staying in contact as I tend to make myself seem, though. Most of my family and friends don’t rely on my blog to know what I’m doing or how I am. That’s what coffee dates, Skyping, and lengthy personal emails are for, still these kinds of readers are at the back of my mind when I write
  4. find affirmation for the choices I’ve made and the person I present myself to be
  5. for therapy, I can work through certain fears and challenges by writing them out, but also benefit from the comments made at the same time… because otherwise, honestly I could just focus on my hard-copy journal
  6. gain practice in writing. 10000 hours, after all

Of these six reasons (too bad it’s six, but I didn’t want to fake a 7th for the sake of a nicer, for me, number), the one thing I learned over the past month(s) is that I don’t need to write for number 4 anymore. I mean, I still have my insecurities and brand of ego to share and fuel, but I don’t really think I have to anymore.

Of these six reasons, I plan to whittle the list down the reasons to 2, 5 and 6.

In other news, a three month construction project started in my apartment building, which has meant power-drilling at 7 AM and maybe is helping me wake up earlier even if I still have jet lag and need to work on getting to bed earlier as well. My mother broke her second bone in 5 months, got operated on, but is on her way to full recovery, I may finally have financial security to stay in Berlin for at least three years as of the Fall, I am moving forward with my dissertation, barely run more than 10 miles a week and have found my peace with that, and a lot of other things that will slowly become relevant as I post regularly (for me, it’s meant about 2 posts a month) again.

I still read a lot of WordPress even if I don’t post myself, but I don’t mind if you tell me one (or three) significant things that has happened since I last posted. How do you deal with in-house construction at what feels like o’dark thirty on a hangover? Do you do mental checks with yourselves to refigure out why you’re doing something?

Cheers,

Dorothea

Happy International Women’s Day

I came in for an uncharacteristic mid-week post to wish everyone a happy Women’s Day.

I guess some people need to be reminded that this day does not mean women think they deserve more attention than men. This day is a gesture to acknowledge the achievements of women in the millennia past that have been overlooked by establishments and communities.

That being said, this means that men can celebrate this day as well. That is, men can celebrate unless they don’t think women had any achievements, in which case I’d invite them to imagine a world in which they are required to both work full time and be 90-100% responsible for the care and upbringing of their children, held morally and ethically responsible for every accidental pregnancy that occurs, be witty, entertaining and fit while also kept out of schools, places of discussion and worship, and physical sport, and a world in which the structure of DNA hadn’t been discovered, we didn’t know how to program computers, we didn’t have hypertext fiction, nuclear fission (though that one, given the atomic bomb, may be worth imagining a world without), pain and Alzheimer’s treatment, signal flares, polonium and radium, HIV and AIDs treatments, IVF treatments, or radio pulsars…all things trail-blazed by women  that I think we can all be grateful for and (those are just a selection from the things that we know about).

I think most everyone gets this. However, I still struggle against those who say that they are willing to let women do anything and that they respect women when these same people hold women to standards of behavior and expectations that limit the opportunities women have to reach their full-potential… and it’s not just men who are at fault here. Women often limit other women in their expectations and standards, and I find this whole cycle frustrating and worth talking about.

I celebrate this day inspired by all achievements of all people, curious about those I don’t know about- because I know there are a lo we haven’t/don’t hear or read about-and imagining my future based on my potential that is unbridled and wholly me. I just want to know that whatever I want to do will be allowed and supported by the government, laws, and people around me, and that whatever achievements I make won’t be overlooked or stolen from me. That’s not a lot to ask, and it’s something I ask for both men and women and anyone in-between/ or without.

James Turrell and the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

Of course, given all the talk about my name in the past week, I had to visit the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof yesterday.

img_2176

The Dorotheenstadt cemetery, officially the “Cemetery of the Dorotheenstadt and Friedrichswerder Parishes,”  is a ‘landmarked Protestant burial ground located in the Berlin district of Mitte’ (Wikipedia) which dates to 1762 and in which many, many famous Germans are buried: Bertoldt Brecht and his wife Helene Weigel, who also happened to live next door to the cemetery, Hegel, Fichte, Heinrich Mann, Arnold Zweig, Anna Seghers, Regisseur Heiner Müller and the Prussian architects Friedrich August Stüler and Karl Friedrich Schinkel, among others. It’s called the “Prominenten [basically VIP’s] cemetery” of Berlin and is located in Stadtmitte (a city district in the center of Berlin) near Oranienburger Tor, which used to be the north entry to a much smaller Berlin. It’s also near the Jewish Synagogue of Berlin and the Bertoldt Brecht Haus. A lot of the cemetery and the chapel were affected by WWII, but the chapel was reconstructed in the 1960s and a dedicated space for James Turrell’s (a US American artist and architect) concepts of space and light since then. It is this chapel my brother and I visited yesterday, having been to the cemetery in the past to appreciate the space and resting grounds of many important German thinkers.

Since being in Berlin 2017, I’ve tried to do something unique to Berlin at least twice a month. Lately, it’s been something at least once each weekend. The past two weekends were taken care of by the Berlinale- Berlin’s international film festival, which featured some really great movies (better, dare I say, than some of the movies up for Oscars tonight).

To just return to those viewings for a second: The really neat thing about the Berlinale was that the directors, producers, and/or actors as well as others involved would be available for Q & A after the movies. The awards ceremony for the Generation group (movies with kids as a main focus) was especially fun to watch.

img_2170

The Glass Bears

However, this weekend, I spent a leisurely Saturday morning while preparing for my long run, came back from my long run and felt like a zombie, and decided it was a good reason as any to get some blood pouring through my legs again. I had looked for things to do in the morning, but didn’t really find much except for a play and a few random destinations. So I went for my run.

After refueling with pancakes, I looked again and stumbled upon the “tips for the day” put out by the Berlin event planner thingie (don’t know who’s job it is to arrange these things, but I’m glad they’re there!) and found an event that met my expectations: interesting, I knew where it was located, and it was inepensive- cost 5 Euro reduced entry free.

The event started at 5 pm, which I later found out was so that one could see the chapel during the day and then experience sunset and the effect of the light changes from inside the chapel. Being there a bit early gave me the chance to catch a few shots from outside and surrounding gardens:

After getting seated in the chapel, which was arranged like any other chapel- benches, alter in the front, space in the back for the organ, but otherwise rather spartan, I tried to wrap my head around the unusual lighting. There was a bright blue light coming from the walls, and bright green coming from the alter that while pleasant enough, just seemed artificial. I didn’t feel like I was properly in God’s space. It didn’t help that people were chatting and laughing and on their phones.

But then a member of the parish came up and introduced the space before introducing the curator of the art installation. The young curator told us about James Turrell and his work, as well as his ideas for the chapel. It is an interesting coincidence that the one event I chose this weekend in Berlin had to do with a US American, but it’s also a refection of how globalized we are.

untitled

At any rate, I was thrown back to my art studies and how complementary colors work and how lights affect ability to gauge dimensions, and so I was really into the design aspect of the space. Then, the parish member lit the candles of the alter, and I was surprised at how the natural light balanced the artificial light that no longer was unappealing to me anyway.

There were some great violets and oranges that I didn’t photograph. Once the prayer was said and the candles lit, the space was mostly quiet and it was a great chance to reflect and let the lights do their magic… and it really was magic.

Leaving the chapel, my brother remarked that what we did was low-keyed for a weekend outing, but it was really nice. It got us a chance to see something unique and participate in a little event that not many knew of or were there for. I know many people who come to Berlin are more interested in the big monuments and events of the city, but one shouldn’t forget the small ones. I guess getting to know them is part of the perks of living in that space, and not just visiting.

For those interested, the event happens every Wednesday and Saturday half an hour before sunset, and costs 10 Euro, 5 Euro reduced for students, veterans, seniors, and those on benefits.

My name and the number 69

Of course I can’t mention that English speakers tend to mispronounce my name without actually saying how to pronounce it. Sorry about that!

Dorothea

The two biggest issues are that English speakers like to pronounce their “th”s and don’t do well with hard “r”s. My name has both, plus four syllables, so I get why it’s an issue. Also, when you look it up on Youtube, you’ll get this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE2H-ldObAI. It’s not how to pronounce my name, though.

Here’s a sort of guide to how the name is pronounced, give or take a few stresses, nearly everywhere except by a mono-lingual English speaker:

doe (a deer, a female deer)-roe-tay-ah!

The exclamation mark afterwards is optional. So, it’s more like this: https://forvo.com/_ext/ext-prons.js?id=824150

Hope that satisfied some of your curiosity! Thanks for the interest.

In other news, this morning, I accidentally stumbled upon the stats for my wanderwolf blog and noticed I had a new “views” record for the blog. I had been staring at the previous record of 56 (or 57?/can’t remember) for about two years and wondered if it would ever be broken.

Turns out, it was broken by a number that I’m not too fond of: 69. It may seem immature, but I learned about what the number could reference late in my high school years and found it an awkward number ever since. I skip it on the treadmill in the gym (so no 6.69 paces for me) and I try not to include the use of the number in writing or speech. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep it away from me. It was part of my student ID for high school, studying abroad in Hamburg, and my pre-determined pin for several debit cards. Good thing I could change most of those (and the ones I couldn’t change I no longer have, so there).

So, while I think it’s really neat my site was viewed so often within a 24 hour period, I hope I don’t have to wait two years to change it again. Also, I’m aware of the irony that I decided to write about my disdain of the number 69, prompting the most I’ve ever used it in my life.

Thus concludes personal random facts day two for me. I hope to return to my regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

Random Q & A

Blair from “The Shameful Sheep” writes some pretty funny stories about her daily thoughts and life… and so it figures that a Q & A by her will be funny too. It helps that the questions are a bit unusual and not something you would expect to find out about someone.

Since I feel like sharing some unsolicited facts about myself, here you go:

1. Who are you named after? 

My mother named me after the second wife of a famous German poet. This means that not only was I kind of cursed to hear my name mispronounced by English-speakers my entire life, I was also destined to dedicate my life to poetry, or marry a poet… something like that. Also, “Dorothea” comes from the Ancient Greek for gift of god, which is how I think of myself in relation to the world. You’re welcome. 

2. Do you like your handwriting?

I used to have the kind of cursive handwriting that was so unique (and intricately cursive, yet too intricate to be called “awful”) that only a few select people in my classes were handed my papers for peer-checking, because they were the only ones who could decipher it. These people were also my best friends. Now, my handwriting, like my demeanor, have settled down a bit. I still like my cursive more than my print.

5. Do you still have your tonsils?

Yep. Isn’t that such a great fact to know about me?!

6. Would you bungee jump? 

Probably yes, but only after freaking out about it the hours before hand. I’m scared of heights, but also super-competitive and like to take on a challenge. I also like adrenaline rushes, hence running.

9. What is the first thing you notice about people?

Whether they are the kind of people who look you in the eye. I’m a huge “look you in the eye” kind of person, so it’s obvious when the other person isn’t. I try not to be creepy about it, though, and sometimes, if doing it for too long, get cross-eyed.

11. What color pants are you wearing? 

I got some mint green pj pants for Christmas with sledding cats and “meowy Christmas” on them. It’s near the end of  February. They make me happy. 

13. If you were a crayon what color would you be?

Blair’s answer to this was poop brown. I don’t think I’d want to be a bodily excrement color! My color would be “Maximum Blue Green.” Best of both worlds and top of its game.

19. Scary movies or happy endings? 

I can’t watch scary movies, because I then believe in things that I previously hadn’t heard of and can’t sleep alone. So happy endings. But I actually like the movies where the ending is not cliched happy the best. It’s okay to leave the viewer with a mellow ending that prompts thinking about life.

20. Last movie you watched? 

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. My brother and I are rewatching all the Peter Jackson Tolkien tributes. We’re currently 2/3s of the way through the extended edition of Battle of the Five Armies and it makes me so happy to have this to look forward to this evening!

23. Night owl or early bird? 

Early bird. One hundred pro. Even if I take about an hour to meander from bedroom to kitchen to my writing table, I love the feeling of waking up in the morning and starting a new day. I’m usually too tired by 2300 to notice it’s also a part of the day.

24. Favorite day of the week? 

I love Saturdays. It’s the weekend and buffered by one other day before the new week starts. I can do ANYTHING on a Saturday, planned or unplanned, and still have Sunday to recover.

25: Which three of your favorite bloggers do you want to know more about? 

Like Blair, I just “want to know more about a lot of people – so I’m not going to nominate. I’d love to read everyone’s response. So, if you want to fill out the questions and post them, make sure you let me know in the comments so I can go read them.”

Thanks for saving me some typing, Blair.

 

 

Update on Life in Berlin in Winter

A week ago I wrote on my running site that I was going to post to my “other” (this) blog soon. A week is still “soon,” right? So much for posting about life in general. I guess  I’m too busy living it to write about it much. But let it be said, things are mostly good and Berlin is cold and gray, but still a lot of fun.

img_2127

Things I did recently worth writing about:

  • I visited a national Turnkunst exhibition. Turnen is a sport similar to gymnastics, but while we associate gymnastics in the US with girls, it used to be a “bro” sport in Europe and involved the typical bro culture. In Germany especially, Turnen fraternities were largely responsible for the mobilization that lead the to the (failed) 1848 revolution to get Germany to unite from all its little kingdoms and townships. Going there introduced me to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
  • I also visited the International Grune Woche: basically a convention for world produce, agriculture, bee culture, farm culture, rock gardens, nutrition…, I think you get the idea. I was impressed by a device exhibited that’s supposed to determine the sex of the chicken in an egg while it’s still an eg. This device would help prevent waiting for the egg to hatch before killing the chicken if it’s a male. I was also excited about all kinds of free samples and thought it was neat to be in Berlin’s convention center for the first time. It was pretty cool!
  • Finally, I most recently  (as mentioned in my running log) traveled with my brother to Lower-Saxony and had a skiing vacation in mountains of the Harz national park. It’s so beautiful there… and has a reputation for its deli specialties and witch motif. Apparently, witches celebrate Walpurgis Night (featured in Goethe’s Faust as well as re-imagined in Joyce’s Ulysses) on the Brocken, the highest mountain in the Harz, and the theme is carried out in all the shops, restaurants and hotels- partially for the sake of tourists, but also an homage to this history and it’s suitable for the region. Wandering around the quaint German town (I had forgotten about the German architectural stereotypes living in Berlin now) after dark was a bit exhilarating.

Looking forward, the Berlinale, Berlin’s International Film Fest is currently in its 67th rendtion, and I am actually willingly leaving my flat on weekends to participate. I’ve opted for only one day of the weekends, not both, and I’ve limited myself to watching 5 of the many, many options. I’ve never participated in a media event of this magnitude before. I guess living in Berlin does have it’s perks!

And it’s not all gray.

img_2162

p.s. I continue to follow the news in the US with great interest.