Freie Jüdische Umschau / International
Triumph of the Will:
Former Seat of Nazism
hosts Major Progressive Jewish Congress
Munich - 30 October - 2 November 1997
If the Shoah marked the end of Judaism in
Germany, Rabbi Leo Baeck might well have been amazed to witness Hitler's
Munich headquarters, which were the venue for an Erev Shabbat service,
chavurah meal and Israeli dancing during this year's WUPJ European Region
Conference. Temple Beth Shalom, the newly established Munich Progressive
community, were the hosts under their charismatic leader, Rabbi Walter
Delegates from 12 different countries - Poland, the
Czech Republic, Spain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Israel, UK,
Switzerland, Austria and the USA - were present when proceedings began
with a memorial service at Dachau concentration camp just outside
Munich. A day of workshops followed led by UK Jews including Rabbi
Professor Jonathan Magonet, principal of Leo Baeck College, Bebe Jacobs
of the Centre for Jewish Education, Barry Hyman and Judy Smith of RSGB,
Frances Sacker and Rabbi Andrew Goldstein of ULPS, Sara Kyte of
Norwood/Ravenswood as well as educators and youngsters from Holland and
The highlights however were the Shabbat services.
Ruth Cohen, European Region Chairman and WUPJ Senior Vice President
said, To stand and say the prayer for the State of Israel, to join with
a community act of workshop and to dance where the most evil fiend in
Jewish history once set out to destroy us, was the most overwhelming
sensation. My body shook with emotion. Many emerging communities were
present and as the well-established progressive communities of Europe
support them we shall challenge the fear of a 'vanishing Diaspora'.
One delegate said, Emotions ran from deepest grief
for the past to elation at doing what we did where we did. The title of
Leni Riefenstahl's film tribute to Nazism, "Triumph of the Will", kept
going through my mind, only this time it was our triumph. I also kept
thinking of the Chanukah phrase "A great miracle happened there" and
knew I was part of history in the making.
"History in the making" passed from platitude to
realism with the celebration of Shabbat services in the very room where
the Munich Agreement was signed in 1938; now the Hochschule für Musik.
And with the workshop venue in the Literatur Haus, another former Nazi
building. The Munich Agreement or Pact was signed by Germany, Great
Britain, France and Italy on 29 September 1938 to settle the crisis over
Czechoslovakia by which Sudetenland was ceded to Germany, after which
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared there would be "Peace in our
Rabbi Francois Garai, European Region President: We
in Europe have made choices like the Israelis have made choices - we
have decided to stay here. We may be right, we may be wrong. The Europe
of today is not what Europe was after the flood of fire and ashes.
Despite human hatred we will believe in our creator. As Noah did after
the flood, we have to re-build our Jewish communities.
Rabbi David Goldberg, European Region Vice-Chairman:
There are no eternal butchers and no eternal victims.
Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, Director Designate
ULPS: There is a tangible sense of being part of something historic and
symbolic, historic because of what this conference represents in fact,
symbolic because of the hope that it holds out for a revivified
Progressive community in this country, the nation that gave Reform
Judaism to the world.
As Jews we can never see the future or ponder where
we wish to go in it without acknowledging the past, and this we have
done. We are not just here to celebrate, enhance and contribute to the
New Progressive Judaism in the new Germany, we are here to remember a
thousand years of German Jewry.
This major international Progressive Jewish
gathering in Germany included the dedication of a new Progressive Jewish
cemetery in Munich and the publication of the first German-Hebrew Siddur
and Machzor since the war. Suggestions for next year's conference venue
included Sweden, Israel and Hungary.
UAHC BIENNIAL CONVENTION HELD IN DALLAS:
The Union of American Hebrew Congregations held its
biennial convention in Dallas, Texas, on October 29 through November 2.
Some 4,500 delegates from all over North America were in attendance, as
were delegates from Israel, the UK, Australia, South Africa, Central
America and Europe. (There would have been many more Europeans had the
World Union's European Region not been holding its own conference in
Munich at the same time.) Resolutions approved by the UAHC General
Assembly called for, among other things, religious freedom in
Israel, civil recognition of same-sex marriages
and socially responsible investing.