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Busy and Fulfilling Five Days

Sunrise over Husum

Road Trip

If Vickie and I were a baseball team, we have just completed our longest “Road Trip” of the season.

At noon on Friday we began our two and a half hour train trip to Husum. There we were the guests for four nights in the charming “Holiday Apartment” of our wonderful friends, Rita and Horst Blunk. (See Blog post: “Rita and Horst.”)

This past Shabbat eve it was my privilege once again to conduct Kabbalat services at the Jewish synagogue in Friedrichstadt. The synagogue was not totally razed by the Nazis on Kristallnacht (as so many others were). The Nazis threw hand grenades inside and destroyed all Jewish artifacts.  Then they commandeered it as an Officers’ Headquarters. 

After the war it was returned to the Jewish community. There is a large photograph on glass where the ark once stood that shows the destruction of that spot.

Since there was no longer a Jewish community in Friedrichsstadt, the synagogue became a cultural center and Jewish museum. In 2015 I had the privilege of conducting the first Jewish service in that city since the Nazi takeover.

What an occasion that was. 70 people jammed the small sanctuary, at least 50 of whom were representatives of the Christian community who had come to pay their respects.

This Shabbat’s service was a much smaller affair, and I guess that is a good thing. I am glad that a Jewish service in Friedrichstadt is no longer a novelty.

On Shabbat, Rita and Horst had planned to take us on an excursion to the North Sea Island of Sylt. The weather, though, was too cold, so instead we toured other charming areas in the North Sea Region. It was a wonderful day.

We see more sheep, cows and horses than people (almost) in Germany’s beautiful North Sea coastal region.

Sunday was a long, busy and very fulfilling day. In the morning, I delivered the sermon at the St. Marien Lutheran Church in Husum at the invitation of Pastor Friedemann Magaard. Pastor Magaard has an admirable history of activity aimed at interfaith understanding and affirmation. To acknowledge and protest the uptick in anti-Semitic activity in Germany (see my essay on this subject in ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/blog/2019/06/03/rising-anti-semitism-germany-ground-assessment?utm_source=Share&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=BlogPost&utm_content=Fuchs). Dr. Magaard wore a kipah during the service.

It was a privilege to return to his church. 

Speaking in the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church) in Husum

During the service, Dr. Magaard invited any interested worshippers to join me for a study session in their new community building next door. I wondered if anyone would come, but to my joy thirty people crowded into the small room to study the coming week’s Haftarah portion from Hosea. I was moved by the depth of the questions the participants asked and by the observations they shared.

Torah study at Marienkirche, Husum. To my left is Dr. Uwe Ehrich, who translates for me in Friedrichstadt and Husum.

Afterwards, Rita, Horst, Vickie and I enjoyed a scrumptious lunch prepared by Friedemann’s wife, Andrea, an Urgent Care physician, in the charming garden of their lovely home.

In the evening at the invitation of Dr. Marcus Friedrich, I delivered the sermon at services in the magnificent St. Nickolai-kirche, the largest cathedral in Flensburg. 

Dr. Marcus Friedrich and I at the conclusion of the service in the Nikolai-kirche in Flensburg

After the service a young couple, the woman from Ireland and the man from Israel asked if I would say a blessing for their infant son. I was deeply moved by their request and was happy to do so.

Offering a blessing for this couples infant son

On Monday, I presented a program run at the Catholic Church in Flensburg. The organizer of the program, Claudia Linker, who wrote a generous endorsement on the back cover of And Often the First Jew, skillfully translated my remarks into German.

Tuesday during the day Vickie and I taught a wonderful group of HS students at the Tast Gymnasium in Flensburg. Then in the evening Rita and Horst drove us to Kiel for the fourth of seminar sessions I am conducting on “Revelation in Jewish Thought.” After the seminar Pastor Martin Pommerening drove us back to Bad Segeberg where we tumbled into bed with wonderful memories of a fulfilling trip and in eager anticipation of a “day off” Wednesday. 

Nightfall in Husum

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