SHAVUOT 2005 TORAH DEDICATION WEEKEND IN MUNICH
Rick Landman in front of the Ark Cover formerly from Congregation Beth Hillel of Washington Heights holding the Torah.
SHAVUOT DEDICATION EVENTS OF THE WEEK
On Friday June 10, 2005
This is the beginning of our processional in front of 20 Ickstattstrasse.
Address on the Building
This is the modern 20 Ickstattstrasse building, that was rebuilt after the war. My great grandparents lived on the 6th floor until 1940.
During the processional, the Torah was carried by many of the men and women of Beth Shalom.
For in front of 20 Ickstatt Strasse
I am the son of your grandson Heinz. My parents named me Richard, but you can call me Ricky. Since you were both killed in the summer of 1942 in Theresienstadt and I was born in 1952 in New York City, we never could have gotten to know each other.
I would like to tell you that your son Josef tried very hard to get Visas for you, but the American government said you were too old. Your other daughters were also killed along with their husbands and some children, but 12 of your grandchildren survived mostly thanks to the Kindertransports.
You now have 56 descendants who are living all around the world.
After the war, Heinz met a young woman from Nurnberg named Lisa Oettinger, in New York City where they lived. They got married and have two sons. My brother is a doctor and I am a lawyer. Lisa's father Martin Oettinger, brought a Torah to America and gave it to me when I became Bar Mitzvah.
It is that Torah that is now back in Munich and will be dedicated in your names, Gerson and Sofie Landmann, and in the names of my grandparents Martin and Else Oettinger at Congregation Beth Shalom this weekend.
May this honor be a small way of remembering you and all the Jews who perished during the Holocaust!
At 5 pm, Jan Muehlstein, the President of Beth Shalom, started the program in the synagogue. I made a short 15 minute presentation describing the history of the Torah and why I chose Beth Shalom as its home and why I donated it at this time.
This is the congregation in their santuary.
At 6 pm there was be a small buffet followed by Kabbalat Shabbat services and an Oneg Shabbat around 9 pm.
Friday Night Talk
I am the son of two German Jewish Holocaust Survivors, who, as a teenager, was given the obligation to protect a Torah that also survived the Holocaust. Tonight I fulfill a Mitzvah that combines both parts of my family with the continuation of German Jewish history. I will be dedicating a 200 year old Torah that my mother's father gave me in the name of my maternal grandparents Martin and Else Oettinger, from Nurnberg; as well as to my paternal great grandparents Gerson and Sofie Landmann, who lived in Munich before being deported to Theresienstadt in 1942.
On Sunday night I will be giving a detailed presentation about the Torah's history, including slides of all my family members so that you may share in their lives. But tonight, I want to tell you why I decided that Congregation Beth Shalom was the best home for this Torah at this time.
In a way, I feel like a direct descendant of this historical progression. I feel like a "Second Generation German Jew in-exile". My cultural upbringing was closer to a "gute Deutsche Kinderstube" than a typical American experience. My Opa would be so happy when I recited a German poem, and I always looked forward to Chanukah when we all ate Haeberlein Metzger Lebkuchen out of a metal can from Nurnberg. My father never read me stories by Walt Disney, but instead scared me with stories about Der Struwwelpeter.
You have to remember I was brought up in America in the1950's, when Americans still distrusted Germans, and Jews boycotted purchasing German products. The only Germans one saw on television were Nazis war criminals or Hogan's Heroes, a comedy about German fools. At home, I knew my father had a German accent and my Opa never learned to speak English. It was quite contradictory being brought up as a German Jew in a mostly Christian country that avoided anything German.
Now many Germans are trying to come to grips with their history and one of the missing pieces of that history are the children of actual Jewish refugees from Germany. The Torah and my life experiences are part of that history. By returning this 200 year old Torah, I am restoring to today's German Jews the option of being a liberal Jew in the country where Reform Judaism had its roots.
The Oettinger family was living in Germany since the 1500's. My Opa, Martin, and his brother Albert fought for the Kaiser in World War I. He was brought up to be proud of the Vaterland until the late 1920's. After that Germany was no longer a country associated with pride. When my Opa gave me the Torah, neither of us could have imagined that it would one day return to a democratic Jewish-friendly Germany.
Because Opa was so anti-Nazi while living with his wife and daughter in Nurnberg, he had to flee on a moments notice right after Hitler came to power. By March of 1933, he had already fled to France. Unlike my father's side of the family who lost 17 members, Opa's side of the family came to America in tact. After the war, in early 1946 Opa went back to Germany and returned to America with this Torah.
Opa gave the Torah to me at the time of my Bar Mitzvah. Instead of donating to my parent's synagogue, I promised Opa that I would protect it, and make sure it was used. I wanted to be sure that when I grew up I could have the Torah with me in a progressive congregation where I could belong. He agreed and papers were drawn up giving me the power to determine the Torah's future fate.
For years the Torah was housed in Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in Greenwich Village in New York City. "CBST" as it is called, is the world's largest synagogue serving the lesbian and gay community. Around ten years ago, Rabbi Walter Homolka visited our synagogue and mentioned that he was starting a synagogue in Munich. At the Oneg Shabbat I remember telling him that I owned a Torah, and was thinking of returning it to Augsburg one day.
You see my grandfather Josef moved to Augsburg and that is where my father was born. My father still has friends in Augsburg and I have been there several times for various dedications. I was there when the Synagogue was restored as well as when the Holocaust Memorial was dedicated. My father was the keynote speaker for the 60th Anniversary for Kristallnacht. But the Augsburg congregation already owned a Torah and didn't reach out to us.
My father Heinz had just turned 18 years of age on Kristallnacht, so he accompanied my grandfather Josef to Dachau on November 10, 1938. They were able to get Visas and eventually ended up in America. My father then joined the U.S. Army and was with the first American troops to liberate Augsburg, Dachau and Munich. This all seemed "Besherrt". He was there on the first day that they held a Shabbat service in the Augsburg Synagogue in 1945 and was there again for its re-dedication in the 1980's.
Last year "Besherrt" things started to occur with me and Congregation Beth Shalom. I remembered Rabbi Homolka's visit to "CBST". I also learned that several members of your Board of Directors were with members of one of my Second Generation groups and had also visited "CBST". Then I learned that Rabbi Walter Jacob, the son of the pre-war Rabbi of Augsburg who my father wheeled in a baby carriage, was also a Rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom. I also learned that they still didn't own a Torah.
But the largest coincidence concerns the Parochet that used to hang in Washington Heights in New York City. The Jewish refugees of Nurnberg and Munich started Congregation Beth Hillel in Washington Heights. I used to go there with my Opa for Shabbat services as a small child. Before he gave me the Torah it used to be housed in the Beth Hillel ark behind the Beth Hillel Parochet. The German Jewish congregation of Beth Hillel ended in the 1990's because most of its members have died. Somehow that Parochet ended up in a flea market in Berlin and then found its way to Congregation Beth Shalom in Munich.
Today is the reunion of the Torah, the Parochet and an actual person who davened in Beth Hillel, whose family came from Munich. All of the pieces in my life are coming together.
Germany today, is very much like it was before the Nazi era, when many forms of Judaism were thriving. We should all respect each other as Jews and help each other regardless of which interpretations of the Torah and which traditions we follow. That is the reason why I donated the Torah to the World Union for Progressive Judaism on the condition that it go to Congregation Beth Shalom. Jews should have the opportunity to practice their religious beliefs following the interpretations of their Rabbis, whether the interpretations of the Torah or from Orthodox or Reform perspectives. We are all one Jewish People, a lesson that we should have learned from the Holocaust.
May this Torah help to continue to bring life back to the progressive Jewish Community of Munich. I hereby dedicate the Torah to the memories of Martin and Else Oettinger, and Gerson and Sofie Landmann.
Starting at 10:30 am there was a morning Shabbat service. The service began with a small procession with the Torah. I was given the third Aliyah during the Torah reading part of the service. (Parshat Nasso). At 12:30 pm the service ended and there was a small Kiddish and Oneg Shabbat. Later in the day there was a children's party at 4 pm and Havdalah at 6 pm.
At 9 pm the Evening Shavuot Service began followed by an evening of study. I gave an hour long presentation at that time. It included a slide show describing my family history and followed by questions and answers. It was similar to what is on the other pages of this website, but the presentation was given in German.
This is a picture of the current Orthodox synagogue at 27 Reichenback Strasse. A new larger synagogue is being constructed for this congregation on St. Jacob's Platz. My great grandparents, Gerson and Sofie Landmann lived in this building for a year or so after they left 20 Ickstattstrasse and until all the Jews were consolidated into a few Juden houses, such as the one they lived in at 4 Klenzestrasse. It was there that they were deported to Theresienstadt Concentration Camp.
This was the route of the Processional. We started at 20 Ickstattstrasse and walked to the Synagogue on Isartal Strasse.
|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 transfered 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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