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Walking the streets of Berlin

Tuesday, 21 March, 2017 - 7:11 pm

 Touring around the main streets of Berlin has changed the way as I see myself as a Jew. Walking through the main squares, Pariser Platz, Checkpoint Charlie and many more, I wore my chi necklace, along with my Illini Chabad keepah (something of which I rarely do in the States) head up and smiling.

Today I feel that pride of being a Jew. I reflected both upon not just the past, but the present and the future of the Jewish people.

This afternoon we visited the U.S embassy, neighboring Brandenburg Gate . We met with the US Ambassador, and he was very open to talking to us. I asked him about how he handles Jewish culture and antisemtism in both the U.S. and Germany. He gave a great response, as far as listing statistics of the decrease of antisemetic acts in Berlin, and how they are counteracting them and finding new ways to educate the younger generation of not only the past, but the future. I felt proud to be an American sitting in that room.

Following our meeting with the U.S. Ambassador, we had a tour guide lead us through the center of Berlin. Some highlights included Reichstag, the gypsy memorial from the Holocaust, and the Berlin Wall. But what really stuck out to me was the Jewish Memorial in the center of Berlin. Known as the biggest plaza in Berlin, we walked through the Jewish memorial, a memorial that is up for interpretation as there isn't a definition of Holocaust throughout the plaza, just different lengths of stone.
Walking through the streets of Berlin, our tour guide stopped us in the middle of a parking lot, and began to discuss at that very spot, Hitler was hiding under a bunker near the end of World War II and committed suicide. We stopped there, reflected about what happened, and then began to wrap tephillin and dance, an act unimaginable 75 years ago. It really was a sign of victory for the Jewish people.
Being in the place where it all happened, learning about the history of the country, and looking to see how far we've come has come full circle for me as a Jew. I learned that we must not only reflect about the past, but to also look forward and celebrate the way society has changed in the past century. It is an unbelievable feeling being a Jew in this city, and I'm very fortunate that Rabbi Dovid has given me this experience.

 Matt Sherman 

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