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Jewish Pride in the Country with Such a Dark History

Sunday, 26 March, 2017 - 3:40 pm


When I first proposed the idea of participating on the ASB Berlin trip to my family and friends, many people's instinctual responses were "Why would you want to go to Germany? Why doesn’t Chabad sponsor an outreach program to Israel?" Before the trip, I really wasn't sure why a Jewish individual would want to visit Germany, let alone live in the country that once tried to destroy us. When someone asked me why Berlin was the location chosen, I responded with the information that Rabbi had engrained in my head: “Berlin has one of the fastest growing Jewish populations in the world and is home to a flourishing Jewish community.” Although I had that fact down, I still didn't truly understand people’s gut wrenching negative reactions in regards to my upcoming trip and in regards to fellow Jews choosing Berlin as a place to live. I also was unsure how people in Germany would react to a group of 18 American Jewish college students standing tall, walking together through the Berlin streets. 


When we got off of the plane in Berlin, Rabbi immediately led the group in song, singing "Am Yisrael Chai," and dancing in the Berlin airport. Some of the students joined in on the excitement, but many of us were passive observers, contemplating the reactions of the German community to our outright demonstration of Judaism in the airport and uncomfortable speaking Hebrew in Germany. But, by the end of the week, we were a group of 20 proud Jewish Americans chanting "Am Yirael Chai" and publicly demonstrating immense Jewish pride in the country with such a dark history. 


We sang "Am Yisrael Chai" at the Wannsee Conference  where Hitler made plans on how to implement the Final Solution. We sang "Am Yirael Chai" and danced at a Jewish day school with young Jewish German students, a school that was once a center for the Hitler Youth Training. We sang "Am Yisrael Chai" at Hitler's death bunker. 


ASB Berlin taught me what it means to be resilient...what it means to “fight” for life….and the importance of carrying my Jewish heritage forward. Hitler's Final Solution was to exterminate the Jews and have a museum glorifying the extinction of the Jewish people. The Nazi's told the world that the Jewish people did not deserve to live. So, this week, we stood together as proud Jewish Americans, brought Jewish pride across the world, and were part of the revival of Judaism in Germany. As I sit on the plane back to Chicago right now, I am feeling so many emotions because this trip has so deeply impacted me on many levels. And now, I DO have an answer to the “why Berlin” question. Judaism must thrive in Germany because it is a place where the Nazis tried to exterminate an entire religion there, OUR religion, 75 years ago. THEY are not there any more;  but WE survived and live. I went to Berlin to further connect to my Jewish heritage and to stand with pride in the country that once said that I do not deserve to be alive. 


Am Yisrael Chai!

Mikayla Pollard 

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