Yom Kippur in Halle, Germany

Oct 16, 2019
by Avram / BRLN

By Ben Feldberg


Have you ever searched for the words “pile shoes Germany” in Google Images? Without doing so, what do you expect to find? As expected, I found a countless number of photographs of piles of an even harder to count number of shoes that belonged to concentration camps victims, victims of the Nazi regime, victims of hatred.


Why did I look for these words? Because I just returned from the first event hosted by the “Base Berlin” community after surviving the terrorist attack during Iom Kippur in Halle, Germany, and in the entrance I encountered a scene that gave me a bittersweet feeling: A pile of shoes. A pile of shoes left behind by men, women, children. A pile of shoes left behind mostly by Jewish people, but this time not in order to be led to their death and never wear them again. This time it was in order to enter the apartment and celebrate. To celebrate Havdalah, the end of Shabbat, but, in this case, especially to celebrate once again life. To celebrate with the peculiar feeling that everything could have so easily turned out so differently. To celebrate that a wooden door prevented 51 people from being killed. Being killed for the only reason of being Jewish. But luckily they weren’t, so we celebrate that Am Israel Chai, that the People of Israel live. And we do so in Berlin, with its so relevant history, after which a Jewish community has been built once again.


I remember the Bar Mitzvah I attended that same morning, where the terrorist attack in Halle was discussed. In Rav Ehrenberg’s reflections he attempts to find the cause for such hatred and concludes that it may be the education, or the lack thereof. Men hate what they don’t understand. How can we fight such ignorance? Rav Ehrenberg’s personal way of fighting Antisemitism is to receive classes from different non-Jewish schools in his synagogue with open doors, welcoming them to learn about the Jewish religion and customs; to learn about the people of whom they might have only heard through Holocaust stories. Such stories, he says, may give them an inaccurate view of us. He prefers to show moments of Jewish life, what we are and what we do, not only of Jewish death, of what was done to us.


And so, I wish to also contribute with my part. I wish to show this contrast of such a scene, a pile of shoes, which symbolizes how we were killed, and use it to show that we are alive. We are alive, we survived, but the hatred that drove us to our death also did and is still trying to do so in the same place as before. Not so long ago, 70 years, they said in the news reminding the viewers. But I remember.


So here we are, celebrating life, when Jeremy pauses everything to remind us that two people have died, victims of hatred; hatred that we should contradict with love. And so he calls us to love more and to conclude the evening with a prayer, so we all sing:

עושה שלום במרומיו
הוא יעשה שלום עלינו
ועל כל ישראל
ואמרו, אמרו אמן

יעשה שלום, יעשה שלום
שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל
יעשה שלום, יעשה שלום
שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל


May He bring peace, may He bring peace; Peace upon us and all of Israel. When the song is almost over, Jeremy raises his voice and sings one more round, this time changing the last word. May He bring peace, may He bring peace; Peace upon us and on the entire world.