By George Perlov
How often do we get to experience the simcha of seeing a new rabbi being ordained? On December 1st we had the honor of witnessing Rabbi Brian being formally ordained by the Abraham Geiger College at Berlin’s historic Rykestrasse Synagogue along with three other new rabbis and two new cantors.
The celebrations began two nights before at our home, where Stefan and I welcomed Rabbi Brian and IJC member Maria Loose and her husband Ekkehard for a dinner of leftover Thanksgiving turkey and spaetzle casserole accompanied by some bubbles and more than a couple of bottles of wine. The following night, we all attended a fantastic concert of gorgeous Jewish liturgical music honoring Israeli cantor and composer Eliyahu Schleifer at the Pestalozzi Strasse. And we were joined by el Presidente Emeritus himself, Steve Brummel. Between the music and fellowship, it was a warm and comforting evening on a cold Berlin night.
The next afternoon we attended the formal ordination ceremony. The Rykestrasse Synagogue, if you‘re not familiar with it, is Germany’s largest schul. It is a gorgeous Moorish-style building from 1904 that was miraculously left intact by the Nazis on Kristallnacht as it sits in a courtyard surrounded by residential buildings. The ceremony was full of pomp and circumstance to match the grand location, starting with a procession of rabbis, and more wonderful liturgical music.
This was followed by very short d’var torah by all the new rabbis and then the formal presentation of diplomas and rabbinical sashes. Rabbi Brian spoke of finding G-d in all places, especially comforting words in these uncertain times. The other new rabbis - from Brazil, Belarus, and Ukraine - were equally thoughtful in their words and all excited to be taking this important step in their commitment to Judaism.
All of us IJC’ers found the ceremony to be quite moving, especially in these grand surroundings, but also for it being held in Berlin, “ground zero” of the Holocaust – the incredible sadness of the past mixing with the joy and hope for the future of these Jewish community leaders.
Just as it started, the new and old rabbis marched out of the sanctuary, and then a few glasses were raised and “mazal tovs” wished to Rabbi Brian and the other celebrants.
George is an IJC member based in Berlin. Here he is with his husband Stefan, Rabbi Brian and IJC member Maria Loose.