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Reflections on the visit to the Jewish school

Wednesday, 22 March, 2017 - 7:18 pm


How fortunate we were to have such a profound experience this morning at a Jewish day school in Berlin. As Americans from educationally inclined communities, it is so easy to overlook the fact that many people in this world have to sacrifice for their educations. 15 minutes outside the city, a small group of Jewish-German students study in a school that was once used as a Hitler Youth facility. This was a building that was once laden with swastikas. It once housed a collective hatred for our people. Now, a group of students and teachers have made this once dark place a place of love and learning. The philosophy behind the school, as we learned from the school's Rabbi, is a balance between secular and religious studies. According to him, they work hand in hand. This became evident as we walked from classroom to classroom, meeting students of all ages--from pre-schoolers to 17 year-olds. Some of these students travel from as far as two hours away each day just to afford themselves a quality education. 

From Torah studies to trigonometry, these students were hard at work. They told us about their upcoming exams and what they like to do in their free time. It was clear that these students were intelligent and committed to their studies. It sheds away any notion that education is obligatory; these students sacrifice for their education. It does not simply fall in their lap. Some students spoke Hebrew and English in addition to their native German, but even for those who did not, language was no barrier. Where we lacked in the ability to communicate verbally, our emotional connection was palpable. We sang and danced in the same language. It should have come as no surprise. After all, we all share the Jewish connection and that alone is enough to sustain a connection that persists through any obstacle. 

During recess, some of us hopped into an impromptu soccer game. Just feet from the children's' playground was a weather-battered statue of an eagle. It is a symbol of Nazi tyranny. The children do not touch the statue. They do not approach it at all. Rather, it is there as a reminder of what this place once was. It is one of the only remnants from that darker time. But it's necessary to have, as a reminder that we have persisted. Where propaganda posters once hung, there are Hebrew letters and artwork from students. Posters proudly proclaim "Am Yisrael Chai." This is a place of love and acceptance now. 

There is much work left to do. The building is old and in need of updating. The physical space is small. It is restrictive. The school is forced to turn down some applicants because they are nearing full capacity. But despite all of this, there is no pity. There is only optimism. They are a family. And today, they welcomed us in as part of their family. It was extremely humbling, almost to the point where it brought tears to some of our eyes. After today, it is certain that the Jewish future is bright. There is only growth from here. 


Taylor Beauseigneur 

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