Really, it must seem like I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but I am a procrastinator by nature, and what can I say — things just kept piling up. But now I’m back and I’m firmly resolved to update faithfully and frequently about all of my (interesting or relevant) goings-on in Berlin. Maybe I’ll even put together some pictures of all of the truly wonderful events and experiences I’ve missed out on writing about! But for the moment, something truly relevant and up-to-date:
Bambinim has been running a summer camp since last week and it’s been lots of fun. We’ve been singing and telling stories each morning and doing arts crafts activities in the afternoon, and there has been LOTS of playground time (which was fun except for the dead mouse we found in the sand…you can imagine how well that went over).
We’ve also had some press, which is great for Bambinim and was fun for the kids.
When the journalist from the Jewish newspaper the “Jüdische Allgemeine” joined us for morning circle on our first day of camp, the kids got to ask him questions about what he does and what writing for a newspaper is like! You can find his article, in German, (and the back of my head in the accompanying picture) here:
The following day, we had a journalist from Deutschlandradio Kultur (from the segment “Aus der Jüdischen Welt,” or “from the Jewish world”) come join us for the morning. He recorded our morning circle and playground time, got some adorable clips of the kids playing and talking, and spoke to Flora and some parents about Bambinim’s place and mission in Berlin. Like the article, the radio segment and the accompanying article are also in German, but it might be worth it for the cute children and the occasional Hebrew:
True, these pieces are in German, but maybe they’ll give you kind of an idea of what Summer Camp at Bambinim is like until I properly write about it (soon, really!). And if not — well, still, it’s cool that we got all that press, isn’t it?
A couple of weeks at Shabbat Playgroup, we decided that even though Purim was over, we weren’t done celebrating yet. We baked Hamantaschen with the children and then decorated masks, which we then wore during Kiddush. The results were fantastic all around! Delicious cookies, beautiful masks. Now that we’ve gotten that out of our system, we can movie on to Pesach!
I realized recently that Pesach is in less than a week - a WEEK - and I STILL haven’t finished putting up Purim pictures! I will now correct this grievous error.
These pictures are from an event we did with some families in the East side of the city in order to make sure that more people for whom Bambinim is geographically inconvenient could make it. We dressed up, told the Purim story, played Purim music, and made crowns and masks and pizza! A good time really was had by all. And I was so impressed by the craftsmanship these children displayed in their masks and crowns!
Two Sundays ago, Bambinim held a Purim event for families! A show with masks in German, a puppet show in Hebrew, grogger-making with clown faces, face-painting and glitter tattoos, music, food, dancing - how could anyone fail to have fun with so many cool things going on? For extra credit, see if you can spot my Pippi Longstocking costume in one of the pictures. (Three children also dressed up as Pippi - I had so many twins!)
Two weeks ago, I got together with my friend Eli to bake in honor of our last day of German class. I brought the Bambinim challah recipe, since it’s easy and we thought it would be nice to make bread, and she brought a cinnamon bun recipe that she found because, well, who doesn’t love cinnamon buns? It was definitely more complicated than the challah - the dough was pretty sticky and had to be kneaded a few times in 10 minute intervals and then left alone to rise for an hour - but the result was so delicious and definitely worth the effort (well, she mostly made the effort, but it looked worth the effort!). All I have to do is look at the picture and I remember how they taste - fluffy, sweet, buttery and full of cinnamon, with a tiny hint of lemon. And our entire German class ate like kings the next day during our last 15 minute break!
A few weeks ago, we had our February movie night, and in the Valentine’s Day spirit we decided to keep it light and show the French romantic comedy “The Names of Love” or “Le nom des gens.” We had a great turnout - 40 people from all over the world, all interesting and enthusiastic about the movie night. Many people came to me after to tell me how much they enjoyed the movie, but I was so happy to see that most people seemed to have come just as much to talk to each other and meet other young Jews in Berlin as they did to see the movie.
“The Names of Love” really is a light movie on the surface. A lot of people confessed to me after that they initially didn’t understand why I chose this film. Buried in the plot, though, is the story of one family’s connection with the Holocaust and the guilt and other feelings that burden a second-generation man as a result. I find this movie to be very appropriate for an audience of young European Jews (and also some non-Jews) and to be really fun at the same time!
The movie tells the story of Baya, whose father is Algerian and whose mother is a staunch hippie and who has made it her mission to sleep with and convert as many right wing men as possible, and Arthur, on the surface a very conventional, traditional French man - but of course, he has a secret: his mother’s family is Jewish. His mother’s parents were taken away by the Nazis when their daughter was still very little, and she grew up in hiding in Occupied France. Her name was changed and she was told to say that she was an orphan; later, she spends her whole life avoiding any memory of her past and never mentioning it to her son, who only knows that her parents were Greek and that her father was a taxi driver. Her total avoidance of the subject and her emphasis on being as conventionally French as possible causes Arthur to feel tremendous guilt about this thing that has turned into a secret. His relationship with Baya, herself an outsider with secrets, forces him to confront these issues and the part of his identity that he has repressed. The movie deals beautifully with his identity struggle and portrays with humor and honesty the different things it has meant to be a Jew in France throughout Arthur’s life - the shame when he was a kid, the fetishism when he was a teenager, and the sense of outsiderness he still feels as an adult. I highly recommend this movie both for its sense of humor and for its unexpected ability to deal seriously and well with these complex ideas.
My mother came for a quick visit a few weeks ago - she was really passing through and only had a few days - and while she was here, we rode the 100 bus line, which passes through most of the major tourist areas of Berlin. We had taken this bus line together before, but this time we got off at the Siegessäule, or the Victory Column, a big monument with a golden figure of Victoria at the top. To me it looks like an angel, but that might be because I first saw it in the German film “Wings of Desire,” directed by Wim Wenders (whose documentary film “Pina” was nominated for an Oscar this year!). Whenever I see this statue, I always think of this image, with the angel sitting on the statue’s shoulder, looking down on the city:
What a beautiful statue and what a great movie! You shouldseeit, and if you visit Berlin and take the 100 bus, make sure to sit near a window where you can crane your head as you pass and look up at the statue.
About a month ago, Rotem and I held another Jewish Movie Night for young adults, in which we showed Walk on Water, an Israeli German film about an Israeli Mossad agent who is tasked with befriending the two grandchildren of the elderly Nazi official he is trying to track down.
This isn’t a brilliant film, but it’s engaging and entertaining and it raises a lot of interesting questions about the position (maybe even the role) of second- and third-generation inheritors of the legacy of the Holocaust. This was a particularly interesting movie to show in Berlin to a crowd of Israelis, German Jews, other Jews, non-Jews, and on and on. And we had a great turnout - I counted about 35 people, all as interested in talking with each other and making connections as they were in the movie!
We have another movie night this week. This time, we’ll be showing the French romantic comedy “The Names of Love” - more on that soon!
On Sunday, February 5th, JDC Germany brought Bereshit to Berlin and I was lucky enough to participate! Bereshit is a program created to serve the European Jewish Community by bringing Israeli professors or innovative thinkers to come give seminars to various Jewish communities. The idea of helping a community by trying to feed it intellectually is one that really speaks to me and I was so excited to witness it firsthand and to get to participate in the seminar.
This particular seminar was given by Dr. Elie Holzer, a professor at Bar Ilan University and a co-founder of Shira Hadasha, an innovative and relatively new synagogue in Jerusalem. The subject of his talk was “Sounds of Community and Voices of Prayer: The Synagogue Between Past and Present.” The program description is roughly translated as follows:
For centuries, life in Jewish communities was both reflected and shaped by the synagogue. What are the challenges that the synagogue faces today? What can it offer people in today’s society and culture? This workshop will provide a perspective on the changing role of the synagogue throughout the centuries and will be followed by a discussion about the challenges, potential, and actual role of the synagogue in modern society.
This was a fascinating topic to learn about and discuss, and by the end of the three hours, we were nowhere near done. Dr. Holzer was a lively, engaging speaker with a lot to say about the different roles that synagogues have in our lives. We talked about how synagogues can feed certain social and spiritual needs and especially focused on what it takes to build a community of prayer. Readings included the two different stories of the creation of humanity in Genesis, the beginning of a work by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and various excerpts from “The Lonely Man of Faith,” by Rabbi Soloveitchik, an important figure in the Modern Orthodoxy. We would have gotten to read a bit from the Little Prince, too, but we ran out of time! The seminar was really beautiful in how it displayed the tension between our social, practical selves and our selves that feel deeply our aloneness and wonder at the universe and asked us to think about what kinds of communities best feed those aspects of ourselves. We were able to have an engaging discussion after as well, and it was nice to see people from so many different backgrounds seeking out this kind of activity on a Sunday afternoon.
I found the readings really moving and the discussion so much fun to participate in - I really miss school and was so excited to be in an academic, intellectual environment again! There are a few more Bereshit seminars happening in Berlin in the next few months, and I am so excited to participate in this program again in the future.
Last Sunday, Bambinim celebrated Tu Bishvat — twice!
Our first event that day was led in Hebrew and in conjunction with an Israeli family center in Berlin, Kumsitz. The space was beautiful and about 40 children attended! You can imagine the mayhem that resulted, but hopefully my pictures will also give you an idea of what beautiful activities we had that day. First, the kids sang a few Tu Bishvat songs and heard a Tu Bishvat story, and then after a short fruit snack break, we got started on the arts and crafts. First the kids made cookies, which we put on skewers before we baked; then they decorated flower pots; then they put a cupcake in the flowerpot, stuck their skewered cookie in the cupcake, and decorated their baked goods! As pretty as a flower but better-tasting! They also did a fair amount of coloring, decorated wooden tree figures, and used different kinds of fruit to make faces on oranges, kind of like Mr. Potato Head with real produce.
A little later, the Bambinim team held a second event, this time at a different family center in East Berlin and with the (wo)man power of a few Bambinim moms, who had volunteered to help plan the event. It was great for us to be able to engage families who live far away and for whom it is difficult to get to Bambinim with their children, and it seemed like they were about as excited to be there as we were. This event was smaller in numbers, but not lesser in enthusiasm, and it was lovely to see how quickly a warm environment developed. First, the kids painted flower pots, which we set to dry for later, before we moved on to a story about Tu Bishvat and then to a tree-decorating activity. Then, we did a little bit of singing and dancing before clearing the table for our Tu Bishvat Seder. We went through it with the children, explaining the significance of the different cups of wine/grape juice and fruits on the table. Then, we sat down to a meal to which each family had contributed something - we had pastries, hummus, couscous salad, and more. There were even waffles with powdered sugar for dessert! Then, before the kids left, we took out the flower pots they had painted and repotted some pretty flowers into them for the families to take home.
Although I had a great time at both events, I was pretty Tu Bishvat’ed-out after. I have noticed since, though, that the weather has gotten a little more pleasant and that my mind has been focused more on the coming few months, and all these little things are coming together to make it feel like spring really on its way.