Yoni Alon writing on the Berlin Education Mission

Between June 1st to the 8th, I had the privilege to participate in a trip to Germany led by the Fulda Foundation focusing on current life issues in Berlin and other cities, issues like Jewish history, the Jewish community, and refugees. The program included a visit to Heidelberg, Fulda, and Berlin and kept a perfect balance between learning and experiencing.

I came to this trip knowing little about the current life style of Jews in Germany. I was greatly impressed from both the challenges that the Jewish community there is facing and the creative solutions and programs their young leaders have created as an answer to these challenges.

The two most rememberable places in the trip were Fulda and Berlin. Fulda is not a city I would visit on a personal trip to Germany. It is not one of these cities you hear about when you plan your German vacation, however, it was a fascinating site to visit. We had a great opportunity to learn about the old Jewish community there, a community that was perished in the holocaust and was revived (in a way) by ex-soviet union Jews who fled “Mother-Russia” to Germany and renewed Jewish life in Fulda.

We visit the local synagogue, listened as the local “Melamed” (Jewish teacher) explained to us about the challenges of the small Jewish community there and shared with us his optimistic approach to Jewish education towards the teenagers and the children of his community. We also came to learn about the amazing history of the city, its’ role in the Second World War, The Cold War and the personal family history of Fulda Foundation’s Co-Founder Ben Brettmann.

Berlin, which was the focus of the trip, was truly an eye opener. We perfectly combined between fun, site-seeing, night life, Jewish history, World-War history and local social issues. The highlight of the Berlin part were the amazing encounters and conversations we had with some incredible people.

Young leaders in the local Jewish community talked to us about the need of creating new Jewish programing to better fit the expectations of the German Millennials and the over growing Israeli community in the city (more and more Israelis are moving to Berlin every year). We heard from the volunteers of the Israeli organization ISRAid about the organization’s work with Syrian refuges in Berlin.

This is truly a remarkable challenge to deal with, a task that requires knowledge of Arabic, Social Work, Muslim customs, and PTSD. We also met with one of the mangers of a German High-Tech business incubator who deals with facilitating and developing new German Start-Up companies. We witness how young Berliners can approach a place like that with a creative technological idea and get the funds and support they need to establish their business.

All in all, the Fulda Foundation trip to Germany was a unique experience that incorporated old and new, history and current issues, fun and learning – all in one exciting week. We live our lives in a constant routine, juggling between work and family, hobbies and friends, and we usually do not take a time-out to think and wonder about the life of other people, in places far away from where we are. As Andre Gide once said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”. This was truly an opportunity to lose sight of my shore.