Ramah Maslul Fellows Learn About Inclusion and Acceptance in Berlin

Maslul is a new Ramah Leadership Fellowship for veteran Ramah counselors.  This group, which consists of a cohort of spectacular madrichim (counselors) from across the Ramah camps, recently returned from a week in Berlin.

They spent every morning volunteering at the new Masorti elementary school, where kids speak German, Hebrew, English, French and Russian.  On Friday, our Maslul Fellows ran the school’s oneg shabbat, including rikud and skits they planned with the kids.  Afternoons were spent learning about Berlin’s history.  The group spent time in Parliament, exploring the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, visiting Shoah memorials (and discussing how we memorialize and create space for memorials), studying text with peers at Base Berlin, and getting to know Marom leaders. Their shabbat community at Rabbi Gesa Ederberg’s Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue included students from the Frankel Seminary, Geiger Seminary, Conservative Yeshiva, JTS and the new Budapest Seminary.  Our group met with Jewish students from Kiev, Budapest, Siberia, Moscow and Saint Petersburg.  Rabbi Mauricio Balter, Executive Director of Masorti Olami, was also in Berlin and spent time getting to know our group.  In between experiences, the group processed, shared programs, and discussed the leadership opportunities available at Ramah.

Here is a reflection on the experience from Shari Traiger, who will be returning to Ramah New England this summer for her fourth year on tzevet (staff):

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Berlin, Germany to represent Ramah Palmer as a Maslul fellow. The purpose of our visit was to learn about the history of Berlin and to see how its past connects to the present emerging Jewish population. It was amazing to see a bustling international city with subtle pieces of Jewish life and history interspersed.

One of the themes we explored and discussed in depth throughout the week was the topic of eradicating ignorance throughout the world. We visited a Masorti Jewish day school where the children were from multiple countries, speaking German, Hebrew, English, and Russian. Despite these differences and diverse backgrounds, they learn together every day through a common Jewish lens.  The principal of the school explained to us that her mission is to unite these children and to eliminate the fear that we have of people who are different from ourselves. Observing these children and teachers was truly inspiring. Their approach to inclusiveness and acceptance of others is something that I hope to share with my chanichim (campers) this kayitz (summer).

In addition to exploring the Masorti community, we dove deeper into understanding German life post-WWII. It was so interesting to learn that unlike many surrounding European countries, Germany wanted to remember the Holocaust. We visited numerous memorials, each giving a different perspective as to how the artist wanted the events and people to be remembered. By looking up at signs on light posts or down at brass plaques in the ground, the victims were remembered. This circles back to our theme of eradicating ignorance. Berlin is a city in which Jewish life is thriving. It is a place that seems determined to remember its past so as to not repeat itself in the future. This was probably one of the most surprising outcomes of my trip, to realize that I was not only walking, exploring and learning in a place that at one time was all but forbidden to Jews, but that I was proudly doing so.

We concluded our week with a ruach filled, Ramah style Shabbat, and I felt right at home even though I was thousands of miles away.  In addition to my Maslul fellows, it was exciting to meet people that had Ramah connections from all around the world. I look forward to implementing concepts and introducing new programming ideas to our Palmer community.