Dr. Richard Sarason's "Roots of Reform" Visit to Germany

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In mid-July, Dr. Richard Sarason participated in a “Roots of Reform” visit to Germany.  The occasion was the bicentennial of the dedication of the first Reform place of worship in Germany: the Tempel founded by Israel Jacobson as the chapel for his progressive school for indigent boys in Seesen (dedicated on July 17, 1810; the synagogue building was destroyed, like too many others, by the Nazis on the night of November 8, 1938).

Sarason, along with Gary Zola, taught to the group, which was composed of about 25 North American Reform Jews (congregants and rabbis) and about 25 Reform and Liberal Jews from the United Kingdom.  On the US end, the trip was sponsored by the Society for Classical Reform Judaism.

Rabbis Howard Berman (US) and Andrew Goldstein (UK) were the group leaders.  They were joined there by Drs. Walter Homolka, the director of the Abraham Geiger Kolleg in Berlin (the Reform Jewish Seminary there) and vice-president of the European Union for Progressive Judaism, and Hartmut Bomhoff, also of Geiger Kolleg, who led the tours. 

On July 18, they attended a commemoration of the dedication of the Seesen Tempel, with the participation of the mayor of Seesen.  A video of the commemoration (26 mins.) may be viewed at the site:   http://www.hirschinc.com/RootsOfReform.htm .  They conducted what were likely the first Jewish religious services since 1939 in the last building of the Hamburg Tempelverein, which is now used as the broadcast studios for Norddeutches Rundfunk (North German Radio).  In addition to the hall that used to be the main sanctuary, they were allowed into the rooms that once served as the weekday prayer chapel and social hall---rooms to which the public is not admitted. 

Sarason and his group participated in Shabbat morning services at the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue in Berlin, which is served by HUC-JIR alumni Rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin (C'64), and Erev Shabbat services at the Huettenweg synagogue (which was part of the US army base there). 

They also spent time in Schwerin, where Samuel Holdheim and David Einhorn had served as rabbis, and where the synagogue and Jewish community have been rebuilt (now mostly Jews from the FSU), and in Halberstadt, where both Israel Jacobson and Azriel Hildesheimer (founder of the first modern Orthodox seminary and subject of David Ellenson's doctoral dissertation) were born.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu