I started the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors in 1990. At its peak, we had 150 members in eleven countries, with about a dozen members living in Germany, mostly in Munich. Later in that decade, Rabbi Walter Homolka came to my Synagogue (CBST – the LGBT Synagogue) to speak about how the Progressive Movement was re-emerging in Germany. He told us about a new Liberal congregation starting in Munich called Congregation Beth Shalom. After his talk I went up to him and told him that my Opa brought a Torah to America and that we should keep in touch as to its future.
In 2004, while doing research for a law class that I taught on Eminent Domain, I came across a lawsuit in Munich involving the Jewish community and the construction of an Orthodox synagogue. That was when I learned how the Liberal congregation was being left out of the picture, and I started to think about returning the Torah to Germany.
While my mother’s father brought the Torah to America (he was from Nurnberg), my father’s father grew up in Munich and his parents were deported to their death in Theresienstadt (from the Munich Judenhaus which used to be their small Synagogue in Reichenbachstrasse). Several of the people on the Board of Directors of the Liberal Synagogue were also members of my Second Generation group. The temporary Rabbi there was the son of my father’s Rabbi in Augsburg who slept next to my dad in Dachau. With all these coincidences I decided that the time was right to donate the Torah to Congregation Beth Shalom.
So CBST (Congregation Beit Simchat Torah) had a farewell party for the Torah and it was boxed up and Adrian Schell (who would later become a German Rabbi) carried the Torah back with him on his flight to Munich. In June 2005, on Shavuot, I flew to Munich for the Torah’s Dedication Ceremony. The processional started in front of the home of my great grandparents on Ickstadtstrasse, and ended up at the rented Liberal congregation’s space. So now the Torah is back in Germany helping modern German Jews fulfill their religious needs.
In a future installment of this story I will describe how the Ark cover from Opa’s Washington Heights Synagogue (Beth Hillel) was returned to Germany. This story will also include why I became a German citizen, my work with various Memorials in Augsburg and Brooklyn, how my dad was both an inmate in Dachau and an American soldier that liberated Dachau and finally why I formed a Jewish group to march in the German American Steuben Parade in NYC.