From January 5 through January 13, 2009, while some are relaxing during their winter vacation, fifteen students from The Jewish Theological Seminary will take a unique educational and spiritual journey to Berlin, Germany.
Subsidized by Germany Close Up, this special program from the German foreign ministry began in January 2008 and is designed to allow participants to gain their own perspective on Germany through individual experience. With one of the largest Jewish population in Europe, there are many opportunities to discover both the history and the future of Jewish culture within the context of Germany and Europe as a whole.
Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School, worked with Dr. Dagmar Pruin, Bible scholar and director of Germany Close Up, to design an agenda packed with events, walking tours, meetings, and discussions. “The trip will provide a better understanding between American and European communities. It’s a wonderful opportunity for JTS students to expand their sense of history and culture,” says Rabbi Nevins.
Each day of the trip is organized by theme, with activities and programming to match. The first full day of the journey spotlights “Space and Time” in Berlin and includes a visit to the Centrum Judaicum, a Berlin city bus tour and a walking tour with Dr. Pruin. A day called, “Remembrance and Beyond” takes participants out of Berlin on a day trip to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.
The fifteen students represent a cross-section of JTS, including people from the H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music, the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education, and The Rabbinical School. “I am very excited about the trip, and hope to get a fuller sense of Jewish identity,” says Davidson School student Wilhelmina Roepke.
For Gideon Estes, a fifth-year rabbinical school student, the trip “is an excellent opportunity to confront my own biases against the old Germany and form a picture of the modern state. Furthermore, this trip does not only focus on the Jewish community but also makes connections with the growing Muslim community.”
A highlight of the itinerary is a weekend Shabbaton to connect with and support European Jewry with JTS students leading and teaching sessions on selected topics to educate members of the local Jewish community. Rabbi Gesa Ederberg, who is leading the Shabbaton, studied at JTS and is currently the rabbi at Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue, one of Berlin’s most prominent synagogues.
For all those involved, the trip promises to be an eye-opening experience that they will remember for many years to come, long after the ink in their passports begins to fade.