Below: Participants in Breklum Convention
Here I am at the Christian Jensen Kolleg in Breklum, Germany.
What am I doing here?
I am invited to address a regional convention for Lutheran Pastors on the concept of “Memory” in Jewish thought and to connect those ideas to aJewish Theology after Auschwitz.
Wow! Am I nervous?
All the anxieties and fears and nervous feelings that well up in me any time I speak to any group anywhere are multiplied to the fourth power.
To make me even more nervous, the Propst (Area wide Supervisong Pastor) Stefan Block, who invited me, let me know that as far as the conference attendees are concerned, “You are a surprise visitor.” That means these Pastors are unaware that a Rabbi will address them tonight.
- What if they do not want to hear a Rabbi?
- What if my talk stinks?
- What if they laugh at me?
Now a good part of me knows I am overplaying my fears. But the fear is real nonetheless.
My room at the College is lovely — spacious and airy with lots of green trees in full bloom right outside my window.
Now I have just returned from lunch.
It was a welcome relief to be greeted so warmly by two wonderful Pastors at whose churches have spoken in past years: Martina Dittkrist from Kaltenkirchen and Anke Wolf-Steger from Schulensee. I have such wonderful memories of how each of these Pastors welcomed Vickie and me to their communities and hosted us after the service for a delicious lunch in their homes.
Seeing them and feeling the genuine warmth of their smiles has made me feel more comfortable. I am still nervous, but I feel a bit more at ease now.
The Next Morning
i am feeling gratified. The presentation went very well in large measure because I spent the afternoon listening, listening and listening to their own struggles and the struggles of their families and parishioners with the memories of what they were doing during the Hitler years.
Hearing their struggles somehow took the jumble of material swirling around in my head and helped it come out in a coherent one-hour presentation that I offered without notes of any kind.
After a fifteen-minute break there were probing questions and, I pray, helpful answers. I left them with the thought that their questions were more important than my answers. I stressed the importance of memory as a lesson from which to learn. And I emphasized as I do before almost every German audience I address:
Wir können die Vergangenheit nicht ungeschehen machen, aber wir können gemeinsam an einer besseren Zukunft arbeiten!
We cannot undo the past, but we can work together to shape a better future …
for our children, grandchildren and all the generations that will follow