Remarks (English) [Deutsch]
[These remarks were made to Eric, Charles and the Congregation during the ceremony]
Today is a wonderful day. I’d like to thank everyone for joining us, in particular Debbie Tal-Rüttger (who coordinated this event), Burgermeister Friedrich, Herr Knebel, Herr Wilke, my family, Die Jüdische Liberale Gemeinde Emet weSchalom, and my very good and true friends.
When the idea first came to me to have this traditional ceremony in Korbach, where my own father, Eric’s Grandfather, had his Bar Mitzvah, I was asked by my wife why I wanted to do this. After all, it was somewhat uncharacteristic of me to propose such an event, and while a Bar Mitzvah was certainly an important occasion to me and to our family and friends, the idea was extraordinary. I recalled only that for my oldest son, Marc, we had traveled to Massada in Israel to have his Bar Mitzvah. Massada was selected because it is a symbol of freedom for the Jewish people, and for that reason a desirable spot for having Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. That was certainly a momentous occasion for my family, and linked a tradition to the history of our people dating back 2000 years.
I did not then have a good answer for my wife. I only knew at the time that this event today would have some deep and spiritual meaning that transcended words. I’m still not sure if words are adequate, but having given this more thought, I’d like to try.
We are here today, all of us, as free men and women. We are all fortunate to live in countries that value and protect personal liberty, most recently evidenced by the presence of congregants from the former Soviet Union who have come to Germany. For you, Germany has become a sanctuary just as for my own father the United States was 65 years ago. I imagine that those congregants will tell their children and grandchildren stories about their former homes, and I imagine they yearn to return someday to visit the homes where your own grandparents were raised. Perhaps they will be able to, or perhaps not. Maybe they’ll even get the chance to visit Israel and Massada. But I have no doubt that the stories they tell their children and grandchildren will light fires in them, and that some of those children will honor them by someday returning to visit their former homes and houses of worship.
A copy of my father’s diary describing his trip to the USA is available for all of you to read. He wrote this diary at the age of 13, just after his own Bar Mitzvah. When he completed the journal, he sent it back to his parents in Korbach. Later, he recovered that journal. It had been held by the same righteous gentiles who risked their lives to aid my grandparents. What my father found in this journal were the last letters he would ever receive from his parents. And while I have now read those letters a hundred times each, the one sentence from my grandfather that stands above the rest reads as follows:
…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…
I am here with my family and good friends today fulfilling the last wishes of my grandparents, and Eric’s great grandparents. The ceremony today represents a continuation of the “chain”, and all of you in this room are now links. We are bonded by this ceremony. For that, and for the fact that my family and very good friends and all of you could share this with us, I am grateful.
Eric and Charles, never forget this day. It is more special than you can possibly imagine. Some day, you will tell this story to your own children and grandchildren. May that day be one where our nations and the world is in peace.
Last revised: June 24, 2003 Copyright © Joel W. Goldwein, 2003. Duplication and/or use of material on this website is by express written permission only.