This is a chronicle of the Bar Mitzvah heritage trip in June of 2003 for Eric Goldwein and Charles Baron. Eric’s Great-Grandfather, Moritz Goldwein, had been the Rabbi and Jewish teacher for a small town in Germany up until approximately 1939. In 1938, Eric’s Grandfather, Manfred Goldwein, was sent by his parents to live with cousins in Delaware, USA. He was only 13 years old at the time, and was probably the last to have had a Bar Mitzvah in the synagogue in Korbach Germany. The synagogue and school, where Moritz, Rosa and Manfred had lived, were destroyed on Kristallnacht in November 1938. Moritz and his wife Rosa were not able to get out of Germany and perished in Auschwitz. By the end of WWII, Judaism in the town of Korbach was all but destroyed.
The trip was inspired by a desire to show our children the town where their grandfather and great grandparents had once lived, the wish to link the tradition of a Bar Mitzvah to an important (albeit infamous) epoch in Jewish and our personal history, the desire to restore (even if symbolic) Judaism to the community, and the desire to fulfill the last wishes of Moritz and Rosa (based on their last letter to Manfred inscribed in his Diary).
My dear, dear Boy!
When you receive this book, it will not be sent thru us but others. So you must not be sad, for we are in God’s dear Hand and really in God’s own Land. I want you to walk His ways, for you are a son of the Chosen People; you are a link of the long chain that began in the past and reaches into eternity. Be a worthy man, a good and true Israelite and so I hope to see you again.
I love you for ever and ever.
Your true Father.
My Dear Good Boy!
This book I send you through a good friend who was always good and brave to us and in our need and pressures always stood by our side. My thoughts are with you day and night, my dear boy. Perhaps if the dear God will let us live and grants us that we can be reunited. But if it should not come about, may dear God protect you. Remain good and brave as you have always been. I know that you and all the dear ones over there have done all to save us but fate decided otherwise. You know that we have always done good deeds and that we have remained in God’s path. Don’t forget us, my dear son, as we shall never forget you. Once more, remain a good mensch, do your duty. Regards to all the loved ones from us. Farewell, my dear child. I hug and kiss you fervently.
The ceremony itself was coordinated with the very kind and generous assistance of Mrs. Debbie Tal-Ruttger of the Judische Liberale Gemeinde Emet we-Schalom congregation based in Gudensberg, Germany. That congregation numbers perhaps 25 to 30 members, and is composed of many recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have come to Germany to escape poverty, repression, and anti-Semitism. Some members of the congregation attended and participated in the ceremony. This was particularly fitting since such congregations represent the future of Judaism in Germany. Germany currently has one of the fastest growing Jewish populations in the World, largely due to the influx of Russian Jews.
Also in attendance were Korbach Burgermeister Klaus Friedrich, Herr Christoph Knebel (Kulturamt der Kreisstadt) and Korbach Stadtarchivist Herr Karl Wilke. Family in attendance included Doris and Richard Greenstein, Stanley and Cynthia Amberg, and Ms. Martine Wolff. Our very close friends, the Barons (Richard, Madeline, Lizzy and Charles), also joined us. Charles Baron, Eric's best friend, had his Bar Mitzvah in Korbach along with Eric.
Of note, Korbach is a wonderful town of approximately 75,000 located 45 km west of Kassel, Germany. The nearest active Jewish congregation besides the one in Gutensberg is based in Kassel, and is Orthodox.