by Jonah Harris, Nivo 2009 1274433_10208399126956331_6600772971550059188_o

Last week I traveled to Berlin, Germany, on a trip sponsored by the Reshet Ramah alumni network and planned by Marom Olami, the young adult division of Masorti Olami, the world council of Conservative synagogues. While I was the only alumnus of Ramah Wisconsin on the trip, there were eight other Ramahniks from other camps across the country who participated. In Berlin we were joined by Marom representatives from 15 countries, spanning six continents. During the four-day conference, we heard about Masorti Jewish communities across the world. It was exciting to realize how Jews across the world are so closely connected – I even found mutual friends with participants from Brazil and Uganda.

On Friday night we came together with the older members of the Masorti Conference to pray in the Neue Synagogue in Berlin, which is over 150 years old. The synagogue was partially destroyed in the Holocaust, but recently reopened and is now home to an egalitarian congregation. Although the people in the room came from across the world, we all prayed as one community with shared liturgy and melodies.

Originally I didn’t quite understand why the conference was being held in Berlin. But I soon realized that other than being a fairly central location in Europe, it also has an important role in Jewish history. When touring the city with the other members of the conference, I realized that there was so much to be said about Jewish life in Berlin for centuries, although many only remember it for the more recent tragedies there during the Holocaust. We saw the birthplaces of the Reform and Modern Orthodox movement, and also spoke to Jews happily living there today.

After the conference I spent a few days touring Berlin with Ramahniks I met earlier on the trip. During those days I reflected on what a wonderful experience it was to connect to Jews across the country and the world and to be a part of a global community. These new connections I made and lessons I learned will help me build a stronger local community back home in Chicago.