This April, I took part in the incredible opportunity to travel with a BBYO delegation to Germany. This trip was truly once in a lifetime, and for parts of it, there aren’t words that I can use to justify the significance that this trip had on me. I can, however, share what I learned and what I will do with the experiences I had during this eight-day journey.
As soon as I got back, my friends and family wanted to hear all about Germany. What I learned, where I went, who I met, what I ate, and everything in between. The first time I had trouble explaining everything, but now, after refining all the details, I have it down. Throughout the trip, we had two major concepts we always emphasized. First, how the Holocaust affected, and is still affecting, Jewish life in Germany and secondly how they have rebuilt a strong Jewish community.
A lof of the experiences we had learning about the Holocaust were powerful to say the least. In Frankfurt, one of the local guides, Ilja, took us to a Holocaust memorial. On a wall, we looked at small brick-like plaques with names on them in alphabetical order. At first, I thought it was just that side of the wall, but I soon realized that the wall went all around a cemetery. After walking around, Ilja told us that these names were the Jews that were killed from Frankfurt alone. Learning about the Holocaust through textbooks in religious school and high school didn’t allow me to comprehend the magnitude of it, but being in Germany, seeing these things first hand, showed me how important it is to look at everything through a smaller lens.
Another part of the trip that resonated with me was when we went on a Shabbos walk to a small rural town near Bad Sobernheim, which was in the outskirts of Frankfurt. We peeked through a window into a small room that used to be a synagogue, with empty dusty pews and a space in the wall that used to hold a Torah. We then walked to the Jewish cemetery in that town. It was locked, but from outside the gate, we could see the tombstones of the last two Jews living in that town. It gave me chills thinking that there were once enough Jews to fill those pews, and now there are none.
Our delegation had lots of discussions led by our BBYO Staff members, Ryan and Rabbi Meir, where we got to reflect upon what we learned that day. At one point we discussed that remembering is not just enough, we have to not only feel the pain that the Jews have felt, but feel the hope that we have for a better future.
The second idea we all regularly reflected upon was the rebuilding of the Jewish community and looking towards a brighter future. Our group got to stay with teens from ZWST, an organization that is partnered with BBYO, at one of their leadership seminars. We had an opportunity to learn all about how Judaism plays a role in their lives, which was extremely eye-opening. This group of teens specifically were training to become madrichim for younger kids. The enthusiasm and passion that they had was so gratifying and infectious. It was refreshing to feel this spirit after the more intense and emotionally difficult parts of the trip.
We also went to the only synagogue that survived the Night of Broken Glass, and seeing the beauty of the synagogue, as well as learning that the synagogue was still very active, was so inspiring.
One of my biggest takeaways from Ambassadors to Germany is that it is our job as a Global Jewish community to support each other, teach ourselves and each other about our past, and focus on our promising future.
I want to thank BBYO, ZWST, and Genesis Philanthropy Group for making this experience possible for me and my peers.
Emma Rosman is a BBG from Northern Region East: NoVA Council and is an expert IKEA Furniture builder.
All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.
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