“I have heard of Jews leaving Germany to study abroad, but this is the first I have heard of Jews leaving Israel and the States to further their Jewish education in Germany,” said Berlin’s Governor Klaus Woworeit, who visited the city’s Chabad center yesterday.
It’s one of many happy firsts in a capital city once a breeding ground for anti-Jewish ideology. Originally sparked by his participation at Chabad’s Menorah lighting ceremony last Chanukah, the governor’s visit marked a turning point for Chabad of Berlin, says its director, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, and is the first such visit to take place since Chabad came to Berlin in 1996.
Among the 100 people attending the event which was widely covered by the local and national news media, were ten rabbinical students pursuing their ordination here in Berlin. The students were to be awarded certificates marking the completion of a section of their studies.
Following a brief introductory address by Rabbi Teichtal, the president of the Jewish community, Dr. Alexander Brenner, spoke about Chabad’s remarkable impact on Berlin Jewry, inspiring new interest and enthusiasm at a time when there was little Jewish involvement. The ten rabbinical students then introduced themselves and their respective areas of fieldwork—as varied as jail and hospital visitations, children’s programs and the dissemination of Chabad’s multi-lingual weekly publications. A tour of the center gave the governor the opportunity to observe a number of Chabad’s community programs at work. Moved by their devotion and their selflessness, the governor himself presented the young men with their awards at the end of the ceremony, followed by a lavish reception.
In his own talk, the governor underscored Chabad’s unique approach to Jewish life in Germany. Jewish events here typically focus on the past through programs that commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. But, observed the governor, Chabad, remembers the past with an eye to the future, as it focuses all of its energies and activities on laying the groundwork that will make it possible for new generations of Jewish children here to grow up as involved and Torah-observant Jews.
“It is an honor to be here and watch Judaism come to life with a new generation of young people,” said the Governor, thanking Chabad for an afternoon of inspiration.