TO CONGREGATION BETH SHALOM IN MUNICH
(A Liberal Congregation)
This 2013 photo shows that Munich's Congregation Beth Shalom now has 3 Torahs in their Ark for the High Holidays.
The Torah on the right is the Little Torah, which was returned to Germany in 2005.
This photo shows the Little Torah unscrolled in NYC's Congregation Beit Simchat Torah before it was given to Munich's Congregation Beth Shalom in 2004.
by Rick Landman
From left to the right: Maria Drach, Board member of BS, Adrian Michael Schell, Board member of BS, Fred Fischer, Jan Muehlstein, In front of the Parochet that used to hang in Beth Hillel, New York City during the 1940's - 1970's. In the 1950's, the "Little Torah" was kept behind this Parochet at Beth Hillel. Martin Oettinger took Rick Landman as a child to pray at Beth Hillel and both would have davened.
The Processional in Munich with Rick Landman carrying the Little Torah.
Photo collage of Martin Oettinger and Rick Landman surrounding the Torah
The following story describes how the Torah formerly housed in New York City, came from Germany in 1946 and returned to German soil on November 14, 2004. The Torah left Congregation Beit Simchat Torah on Kristallnacht and was donated to the World Union for Progressive Judaism and loaned to Congregation Beth Shalom (formerly located at Isartalstrasse 44A) in Munich Germany.
This story ties together both sides of my family. The Torah was given to me by Martin Oettinger, my mother's father (who brought the Torah to America in 1946) and it will go to a synagogue in Munich, the city from where my father's grandparents were deported to their death in the Holocaust. That is why the Torah is being dedicated in the memory of both Martin and Elsie Oettinger as well as Gerson and Sofie Landmann.
Martin Oettinger, standing next to a different Torah. Martin brought three Torahs to America. One has already returned to Erlangen, Germany and another is in California and this one is now in Munich Germany.
Chanukah is a time for giving and for re-dedication. That is why I thought this would be the best time to return the Torah to German soil. This is a special re-dedication of my German-Jewish roots. Being the son of two Jewish parents born in pre-Nazi Germany, I have always felt a kindred spirit to those Jews who lived during the Weimar Republic. I am the direct descendant of two German Jewish families. Germany was also the birthplace of Reform Judaism, Modern Orthodox Judaism, as well as Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s civil (sexual) rights movement. In a way, part of me feels like a continuation of this historical momentum and that is why I am sending the Torah back.
Gerson and Sofie Landmann, Rick Landman's paternal great grandparents who were deported from Munich to their deaths during the Holocaust. They lived at 20 Ickstattstrasse in Munich.
Joseph Landmann, Rick Landman's grandfather and grandmother at their wedding. Joseph and Regina started their family in Augsburg, where Henry was born in 1920.
Munich is also near Dachau, where my father and grandfather were sent on the day after Kristallnacht from their hometown of Augsburg. My father, being born in Augsburg, considered himself a typical German child until 1933. On his release from Dachau in 1939, he stayed in London as an enemy alien after the War broke out. It was there that he met Mr. Aukin, an attorney who invited him to attend a Shabbat dinner. At the dinner, Henry showed everyone a picture of his family. Mr. Aukin's father-in-law recognized Joseph as the son of Gerson and Sofi, the two Jews from Munich that let his family stay at their house earlier when his family was struggling to get to England. Mr. Aukin helped my father to get a work permit and to rejoin his nuclear family in America on Thanksgiving Day that year. When America entered the war, he became an American soldier fighting against the Nazis. He landed on Anzio Beach and later his battalion liberated Dachau and his hometown of Augsburg. Henry was one of the first American soldiers to enter Augsburg on the day of its liberation. He also traveled to Munich at the end of the war in search of Gerson and Sofie and found 20 Ickstadtstrasse still standing. The area was heavily bombed and most of Ickstadtstrasse was in ruins. The wall by the entrance still said, “Landmann”. But when he knocked on the door, the residents said that they never heard of the Landmanns and didn’t know what happened to them. Rounding out the family, Gerson and Sofie’s son, my grandfather Joseph, was also the President of the Jewish Sports Center “Sportsplatz” in Augsburg until he was able to flee to America in early 1939.
But the Torah was given to me by my mother’s father, Martin Oettinger. His side of the family (and his wife Elsie’s side of the family) lived in Germany for centuries.
Martin's parents, (Rick Landman's maternal great grandparents), who died of natural causes before the Nazi era.
Martin with his two sisters (Else and Berta), mother and dog.
Martin and Elsie as newly weds.
Martin's side came from the east and Elsie's side were expelled from Spain. Martin, and his brother Albert, even fought in World War I on the side of the Kaiser.
Martin is lying down in the front at the bottom right.
Martin and his brother Albert in the WWI uniform.
Ironically, I got these images from a anti-Jewish Hate website. They make Julius Streicher out to be a martyr. Streicher was one of the Nazis to be hanged after the Nurnberg trials for his propaganda work and virolent anti-Semitism. He was the editor of the Sturmer.
Martin's Stateless Passport to leave France to come to the United States in 1939. This was after fleeing from Germany in 1933.
Elsie's Stateless Passport to leave France to come to the United States.
I always felt a special duty or mitzvah to watch over this little 200 year old Torah that survived the Holocaust. I felt like its guardian. Instead of having it displayed in a Holocaust Museum I wanted it to be used by people whose love of life and Judaism would be worthy of this 200 year old Torah. I also want to make sure that this Torah can help continue to direct the history of the Jewish people for the next hundreds of years.
This picture was taken in the early 1960's at the pier of the S.S. United States terminal. It shows my grandparents and mother and me picking up my grandparents from one of their trips back to Germany. My grandfather only lived around 5 more years after this picture was taken. He is walking slowly off to the side with a cane.
My earliest memories of the Torah were when I discovered it lying on top of my bedroom closet while attending Hebrew School. At first I thought that every home had its own Torah, sort of like a mezuzah on a door. But as I aged, I felt uncomfortable seeing the Torah each morning. So I made a curtain and turned the top of my closet into a small ark.
By the time of my Bar Mitzvah, instead of donating the Torah, I loaned it to our Synagogue so that I would be able to direct its future. I had the dream of one day getting called to read from this Torah for the occasion of my marriage.
It stayed at the Bellerose Jewish Center in Queens New York until I became an active member of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah and moved it to CBST in Greenwich Village, New York.
Rick Landman standing next to the Torah that will be returning to Germany.
This is a picture of the former Liberal Synagogue in Munich that was destroyed before Kristallnacht in 1938.
This is an interior rendering of the Synagogue.
This is another interior rendering of the Synagogue.
When in high school, during the 1960's, I read parts of MEIN KAMPF in German and wondered how anyone could not have seen what would be coming. The words clearly were so destructive to the Jewish people. So when I read that the literal translation of the Torah states that men who have sex lying down with other men should be killed (along with adulterers, disobedient sons, etc.) a bell went off in my mind. People who take the Bible literally can use it as an excuse for my death. But now I understand how the fundamentalists "pick and choose" which sentences of the Bible they emphasize or interpret or ignore. It is a favorite condemnation that is used by all fundamentalists when they point a finger at more liberal branches of their religion. I am in favor of having each generation read the Torah and interpret it based on the wisdom that has been gained throughout the ages. We might as well use the brains that G-d has given us. Most of us no longer believe that the sun travels around the earth or that dinosaurs lived 5,000 years ago. So using our collective wisdom on sexuality and genetics etc. I think that we need more interpretations to understand sexual orientations. That is why I believe that it is BESHERT that I am in the position to give a Torah to the Progressive Movement. I want the new German Jewish community to continue to study the Torah and find the love and respect and intelligence therein to help us all live in peace and grow as human beings.
I think that my grandfather would be proud of what is happening. At first a fledgling congregation in Queens, New York City had the honor of learning from the Torah and then New York City’s lesbian and gay congregation also got to make a home for the Torah. They were able to use it for prayer and study in their CBST Lehrhaus. He would be really happy that it was able to return to a Germany where Jews were once again full citizens and where tolerance of Jews is the norm.
Martin was also strongly anti-Nazi which is why he had to flee immediately after Hitler can into power. He was very iconoclastic in his own way. That is why I think I fulfilled my obligation to him to watch over the Torah and see that it returned back to the land of his birth.
I hope we can learn from the culture of the pre-Nazi era German Jews that “live and let live” may be the best way of treating our fellow citizens. I am so taken aback these days when certain religious people (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) try to use the government or other tactics to force their beliefs on others. I am one who believes that I can be a Jew and also part of the modern world. I also think we can learn a lesson from the Nazi era. The Nazis considered all Jews to be Jews, regardless of their level of Orthodoxy. No one was let off of the railroad car because he was more or less observant. I now pray that one day all the Jews of Germany will respect each other and assist each other in practicing Judaism the way one feels is right.
On October 7, 2004, at the Simchat Torah service at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) in Greenwich Village NYC, Rick Landman had the "Last Dance" with the Torah that his grandfather brought to America from Germany. The story below will tell describe how the Torah came to America and how it is going to Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich Germany in time for its re-dedication on Chanukah (with the assistance of the World Union for Progressive Judaism).
Photo of Rick Landman and Rabbi Cohen at the Simchat Torah service at CBST.
Photo of Rick Landman dancing with the Torah at the final Hakofah at CBST.
Photo of Rick Landman standing with the Torah at the final Hakofah at CBST.
Ark mantel already donated to Jewish Museum in New York City. This was also brought to America by Martin in 1946.
Ark mantel already donated to Jewish Museum in New York City. This was also brought to America by Martin in 1946.
Torah cover already donated to Jewish Museum in New York City. This was also brought to America by Martin in 1946.
The Little Torah now has company in the Munich Ark in 2013
|November 9, 2004 Kristallnacht Program at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (NYC) where the ownership of the Torah was transfered to Congregation Beth Shalom of Munich (includes photos)|
|Newspaper Articles and Letters Received Concerning the Torah|
|June 10-12, 2005 Dedication Program in Munich|
|November 9, 2004 - Photos of the Kristallnacht Program at Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (NYC) where the ownership of the Torah was transferred to Congregation Beth Shalom of Munich|
|November 9, 2004 - Newspaper Articles and Letters Received Concerning the Transfer of the Torah from NYC to Munich|
|November 14, 2004- Photos and Stories of the Torah AFTER Reaching Munich|
|Story about the Ark Cover (Parochet) that also found its way back to Munich.|
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