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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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My heart overflows with gratitude. Experienced my first ALEPH ordination/Smicha and first OHALAH conference. Mazal Tov again to all our new clergy and thank you to everyone who helped create the sacred space of OHALAH.
I want to share part of my remarks that I made on Tuesday:
About six months ago, I found my soul yearning for something more both professionally and personally. There is more to my story as a Jew by Choice and as a Jewish professional working within the Jewish community. I was asked during the interview process how I would do in a room full of rabbis. And so here I am. I know I can do this. Just as I said standing on the Bima 4 years ago as an adult bat mitzvah, it doesn’t matter that I am a Jew by choice. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t grow up in a Jewish home or go to Jewish camps. God is always here. No middle man. I am not seeking salvation. What I continue to seek is meaning — a life of purpose, a life filled with love and connection. No posturing. No games. There is something to be said about not trying too hard. Fully embracing myself and those around me. Submerge. Surrender. Speak honestly and openly. Turning and re-turning.