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This poem is part of Rabbi Diane Elliot’s collection of 49 poems, This Is the Day, Ha-Yom Yom, inspired by the ancient practice of counting the Omer.
From Chazan Jalda Rebling
Ordained by the ALEPH Cantorial Program in 2007
For 30 years I have lived across the street from this beautiful Gethsemane Church in Berlin.
I always call it “my” renewal church. It is an amazing, creative place. Sholem Aleichem writes in a story: “a good neighbor is better then a far away relative.”
These 30 years of having this church as my “good neighbor” are full of wonderful stories, starting in the fall of the year 1989.
It was the 9th of October, Yom Kippur. I came out of the shul and went into the crowded church, filled with more than 3,000 people. The winds of change were in the air. Within a month the Berlin Wall would come down and a new era of possibility would begin. We were all filled with so much hope. There in the church I sang Shir haShirim and Dos Lid Funem Sholem, a Song of Peace. In this night the real change in the new history of Germany happened. Our prayers for democracy were heard. But this is another story.
On November 9th the Berlin Wall was breached. In December Leonard Bernstein performed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in the famous East-Berlin Concert hall, the Schauspielhaus Berlin. I sat in the audience with my middle son, a musician, who was then 13 years young. Lenny Bernstein did something extraordinary. He changed the poetry of Friedrich Schiller’s Ode an die Freude from Freude schöner Götterfunken into Freiheit schöner Götterfunken (Joy beautiful divine spark became Freedom beautiful divine spark).
Now to the current story: A year ago, after Peter Steudner – a member of the Gethsemane church – was arrested in Turkey, a group of people started to revive the “Monday-prayers.” In the last East-Berlin year these Monday-prayers for freedom became one of the sparks that finally opened the borders.
Every single day this group meets at 6 pm for a half hour of prayer for freedom for those Turkish democrats who are in prison. Sometimes people share also their very personal feelings.
Members of this group write letters to the prisoners and to the Turkish government. They are in contact with the families of those who are in prison.
Some of those for whom they pray meanwhile have been set free and they came to visit the group. Gratefully, Peter Steudner is free, but his process in Turkey is not finished. From time to time I join my neighbors. Last Wednesday was such a day, Erev Yom haShoah.
The group chose Psalm 118. They read the poetry in the German Lutheran translation. But I had just had learned from Hazzan Jack a way to sing Pitchu li sha´arei tsedek – Open the Gates of Rightousness – to the melody of Beethoven’s famous choir Ode an die Freude, Ode to Joy! In Germany this is such a famous melody, a European anthem.
Out of the moment I started to sing! I sang with the group in the Gethsemane church the original Hebrew version of these words with Beethoven’s famous melody. I cannot describe how much love, joy, tears and hope filled the big room! Thank you Hazzan Jack for this teaching!
Chasan Jalda Rebling
Spiritual leader of Congregation Ohel HaChidusch Berlin
Gethsemanestrasse 11, 10437 Berlin, Germany
fon x49 (0) 30 44 55 969 / mobile x49 (0) 170 272 54 47
www.jalda-rebling.com / www.ohel-hachidusch.org www.aleph.org / www.eajl.org www.jalda-und-anna.de / www.happy-hippie-jew-bus.de
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