Home > Uncategorized > A Beautiful Rededication (by Cantor Hinda Labovitz)

A Beautiful Rededication (by Cantor Hinda Labovitz)

pestalozziFriday night at the Pestalozzistraße Synagogue in Berlin.  Last time we were in Berlin, the Pestalozzistraße synagogue was not run down but it was a seemingly tired building, mostly white walls with hunter green accents. The synagogue had been destroyed on Kristallnacht, 9 November 1938, and had been re-opened in 1949. We had been told that since 2011 when we were last there, the building had been closed for renovations and that this Friday ninght would be the rededication.

What an unexpectedly amazing, powerful, emotional experience that was!

The organ began to play, cutting without warning gently through the crowd’s chatter. Josh, our two Australian guests Mark and Judy, and I were sitting in the balcony. When the whole crowd stood up below, we thought an honored guest had arrived — but as the organ played we suddenly saw the first sign of eight sifré Torah (Torah scrolls) process down the center aisle, the rabbi of the congregation bearing the first of these. I fought back tears as I realized the grave and honored moment we were witnessing — a synagogue restored to its former glory and wholeness. And not just a synagogue, a community restored. I was aware in that moment of the new colors, new quality of that sanctuary: the vibrant yellows, blues, pinks. The stars in the blue ceiling, the restored moldings, the beautiful red curtain adorning the ark, the words gilded in gold paint: ״אבינו מלכנו חננו ועננו, עשה עמנו צדקה וחסד והושיענו״

The cantors of that synagogue led a Torah service, Louis Lewandowski’s own pieces, to welcome these s’farim to their new home. The rabbi spoke of new beginnings, comparing this dedication to the חנוכת הבית, the dedications of the Temple in Jerusalem in the time of the Maccabees and in the era of King Solomon who first built the Great Temple. The rabbi noted that “there has never been a Chanukkah” (referring to the celebration of the holiday and of the dedication) “as grand as this one. Theirs did not have eight choirs from seven different countries present.”

It was powerful. The feeling of wholeness was palpable. A homecoming, a healing of wounds. Perhaps not without a scar, but not cowering in shame by any means.

May God bless this place, this community, to continue to heal and to continue to serve the Jewish community. May they be blessed with growth, with vibrant Jewish life, with more and more opportunities to celebrate joyous occasions and to find with themselves and offer forgiveness.

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