From Washington Heights to Munich

By Rick Landman on Email


In my last installment, you learned how the Torah that my mother’s father brought to America was given to the Liberal Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich.  From 1946 until the early 1960’s, that Torah was housed in Congregation Beth Hillel in Washington Heights, NY.  This was a congregation of Jews who fled from Bavaria under the spiritual guidance of Rabbi Baerwald from Munich.  Henry Kissinger and my mother were in the same Beth Hillel Youth Group, and I even played with the Secretary of State’s children while vacationing in the German side of the Catskills Mountains.

From-Washington-Heights-to-MunichBut the Torah is not the only thing that made its way from Congregation Beth Hillel to Munich.  In 1967, a new green velvet Ark Cover (Parochet) was dedicated to Jenny Baerwald, the Rabbi’s wife and it covered the opening of the ark where the Torahs were housed.  When Congregation Beth Hillel ceased to exist in the 1990’s, this Ark Cover somehow made its way to a Berlin flea market and then to Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich where I sent the Torah.

In June 2005, while I was at the dedication of the returned Torah I noticed the green velvet Parochet hanging on the wall in Beth Shalom’s sanctuary and I turned the corner over to see a label stating how it was from Beth Hillel, Washington Heights.  No one knows exactly how the Ark Cover found their way back to Munich.  Chabad in Germany had something to do with it.  This furthered my belief that I made the right decision in returning the Torah back to Munich.  For more information on this story, visit


In  future installments of this story I will describe how 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.

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Rick Landman
Rick Landman, is a gay son of two refugee Holocaust Survivors who is now a dual German American citizen, and marched in a Jewish contingent in the Steuben German-American Parade for 5 years. As an Attorney Emeritus, Adjunct Professor at New York Law School, Urban Planner, Licensed NYC Tour Guide, and longtime resident of Lower Manhattan, he is available to give NYC Walking Tours and Speaking Engagements on German, Jewish, Holocaust-related or LGBT history, and has a Blog on his website at and can be contacted at [email protected]