Month: April 2017

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