It is an honor and a privilege to be participating in the AJC/Allianz Third Generation Initiative. I will blog (from my iPhone) and tweet (@horowitzagency) about the trip as much as possible. The itinerary is jam packed and looks amazing. July 1-4 in Munich, and July 5-10 in Berlin.
I'm really looking forward to meeting my east coast fellows and our Allianz counterparts. I think one of the highlights of the trip will be visiting Sachsenhausen on July 7. I know that both my grandfathers fought hard in WWII to preserve my freedom, so this trip is truly meaningful."
AJC and Allianz SE, one of Germany’s leading financial services companies, in cooperation with Germany Close-Up, have embarked on a 5-year groundbreaking cooperation to bring young American Jewish professionals on an annual study trip to Germany along with German peers working at Allianz. Together, this unique group will explore German-Jewish history, including corporate history during World War II, and will meet with top-level government representatives, business leaders, scholars, and leaders of the German Jewish community. Below is a live blog from one of the participants on this trip.
Nancy, Danielle, Aviva, Adina and I arrived in Munich, waited for Joanna, and took the S-Bahn to the hotel. After 20 hours of traveling from Los Angeles, we showered, and then Christopher escorted us to the restaurant. Our east coast fellows were already eating. I had a surprisingly good Indian dish that Derek, from D.C., had just finished. The conversation was light, although it did get a bit more serious after I told Christopher, Adina and Aviva about an article on Anti-Semitism I saw in the local newspaper, Suddeutsche Zeitung.
Today I woke up super early because I am still getting used to the time difference. The nice hotel owner prepared a kosher buffet style breakfast. Jeff and I then took a walk to Marienplatz, and a couple of other people took walks on their own. We all then met at 12:15 at the hotel and walked to CADU restaurant, where we ate lunch. Free wifi!!! After that, we went to Ludwig Maximillian University. We had a three hour meeting discussing the issues that would come up when meeting our Allianz counterparts. Avi spoke on international banking concerns, and the group discussed other issues such as Israel and the peace process, the challenge of Iran energy and German-Jewish relations. We ate at La Valle on Sparkassenstr for dinner and then went to Hoffbrauhaus, a massive beer hall nearby. The quote of the day came from Rebecca:"These engagements are important, and they don't happen very often."
oday was the most intense day yet. Leeor, Nancy, Danielle, Amy, Dan and I got up early to go to the BMW museum, the Olympic Gardens and the English Gardens. We saw all three, although we agree that it would have been nice to spend more time at each. We hustled back to be at the hotel by our group meeting time of 11:15. Thankfully, we made it back in time. The entire group took the S-Bahn to Villa Flora, where we had a buffet style lunch. After lunch we heard from a panel of speakers, who had differing opinions on Germany's history, Germany's diversity and Israel. It was very intense and lasted three hours. We then took a two hour walking tour of Jewish Germany led by an Allianz employee. It was good to walk around and learn about the lives of Jews in Munich over the past several hundred years. We ended up at a vegetarian restaurant for dinner. I had a nice Asian salad followed by noodles with tofu and veggies. I needed caffeine because the jet lag was really setting in. I could tell that Nancy was fading too. After dinner we went to a cool little lounge where we heard Prof. Michael Brenner talk about Jewish history. He was very impressive and answered every question.
This morning, American Independence Day, I woke up an American in Germany. I am grateful for my freedom and the opportunities, such as this one, it provides. We had to be in the lobby very early. All of us walked to the Sendlinger Tor train station and made our way to the Allianz headquarters. Our first speakers were Dr. Werner Zedelius and Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger. We then heard from Morton Fischer, and Prof. Dr. Michael Wolffsohn, who addressed four themes: Never again, The state of Germany, Land as the formula for peace and Religion. Emilio Galli-Zugaro spoke as well, and he taught us an acronym, EMMA: EMPATHETIC, MENTALITY, MOTIVATION and ANALYSIS. Other issues we discussed included: 1) Jewish communities in Germany are too secluded 2) it is not clear cut for Germany to withdraw from the Iranian market 3) what is Germany's role in a new, expanded Europe? 4) where does Germany find her voice in Europe? 5) is Germany leading Europe or is she part of the European union? 6) is NATO more important to Germany than the US.?
Ambassador Ischinger left us with this "Don't underestimate the relationship between Germany and Israel." He also hopes that the Third Generation Initiative will allow us to test stereotypes.
After the long day at Allianz I took a 40 minute nap. We ended the night at a restaurant called Weisses Braeuhaus, and I ate weinershnitzel and meatballs. It was a long day, and I was eager to go to sleep.
Today was another jam packed day. We got up super early to eat breakfast at the hotel then made our way to the US Embassy. We arrived early and then listened to Ambassador Phil Murphy speak about Germany, futbol, Iran and Israel. After that we met with Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger and then heard from Staatminister Dr. Eckard Von Klaeden. We then walked to the Allianz headquarters. On the walk, Yaniv and I had a nice chat with Wolfgang Ischinger. We had lunch at Allianz, and then listened to an Israeli journalist named Eldad Beck give us his views on the Middle East and Germany. It was the most heated debate yet because Eldad was very forthright and controversial. After that, we listened to four members of parliament, Stefan Ruppert, Phillip Missfelder, Caren Lay and Jerzy Montag debate. We had some free time after the debate so we walked back to the hotel, where some of us showered while others checked email and Internet. We then went to Cum Laude at Humboldt University, where we met up with some new people and ate dinner. After that the group went to a bar for a nightcap.
Today is the day I was looking forward to the most. Another early rise as we scarfed down some food and made our way to Centrum Judaicum at Neue Synagoge, where we were welcomed by Hermann Simon. Dagmar Pruin then led us on a walking tour through Jewish Berlin. It was sweltering so we looked for shade any chance we got. We all stopped for coffee. It was nice to sit and chat before we continued the tour. After the tour we boarded the bus and ate lunch. We arrived at Sachsenhausen just after two where we met our tour guide Toby, who was very, very good. He has been studying at Sachsenhausen for seven years. Today was by far the most emotional day. It was powerful to be walking through the concentration camp as a group of Jewish Americans and Germans. I could tell that we were becoming a family. The Jews and Germans cried at the atrocities that led to the annihilation of many different types of people, not only Jews. We ended the visit with the Mourner's Kaddish and a group song in Hebrew. Many of us broke down at the thought of such devastation. We then boarded the bus back to the hotel. We arrived back at Centrum Judaicum, where we had dinner, and then we broke off into two groups to discuss the day and the lessons learned.
This morning we took a lovely boat ride on the Spree before we visited the Soviet War Memorial in Treptower Park.
The weather was a bit overcast. After walking around the Memorial, which is big and open, we boarded the bus and took a ride to Klippers for lunch. After lunch, we headed to the Jewish Museum to meet Victoria Maria Zimmerman von Seifart (try saying that ten times fast), who is the Ambassador-at-Large, Special Rep. for Relations with Jewish Organizations. Victoria was so impressive, and she answered all of our difficult questions, including ones from "it's 5 minutes to midnight" Avi. After the discussion, some of the group stayed behind to take a tour of the Museum. David and I chose to walk around and then head back to the hotel, where we relaxed in the hotel's sauna for about 90 minutes. We needed to decompress. The group then head to Shabbat services at Oranienburger Str. Synagogue.
David and I met up with everyone at Restaurant Oranium. Nancy and Nicola had organized a charades-type presentation, which highlighted many of the events of the week. They did a great job. I especially liked Mayaan's portrayal of the Israeli journalist. After dinner, we went to Tacheles, an underground club/bar, which blew me away.
At Tacheles, you can find unique art and artists and have a drink while enjoying performances from musical groups. It was a fun ending to a hectic day.
Conclusion of the trip
It is with a heavy heart that I write this final blog entry. Saturday, July 9, was our free day, and I ate some breakfast and then took a long nap. Lars, Nancy, Daniele, Fabio, Christian, Chris, Fati and I went to eat brunch at a cafe right by the hotel. I left immediately after eating because I wanted to go back to the hotel, write and take some time to reflect. After some quiet time, I took a shower and got ready for our final dinner at Spindler & Klatt, a really nice restaurant on the river.
It was a very nice way to end a powerful week (thanks Nicola!). Many of us danced and enjoyed every last minute of the night. It was sad to say goodbye to all my new friends. I will always remember July 1-10 as one of the most powerful 10 days of my life. The Allianz/AJC Third Generation Initiative shaped me in more ways than I can write in a short blog entry.
I was introduced, by 10 understanding Allianz employees, to a Germany that accepts responsibility for her past. I met people who, I pray, will stay in my life until the day that I die. We laughed, we cried, we loved. By the time the trip was over, we were a group of 30 human beings that had achieved togetherness rather than a group of disparate American Jews and Germans.
"Sharing an experience,
Two people from backgrounds dissimilar,
Finding common ground,
Where the river meets the road,
Flowing into, forming into
One, never before seen, because life,
While it mimics dreams, creates,
Takes on shapes
Two become one,
A new journey begins,
Like the innocent child, from parents born, Carries a collection of ideas, Searching for another To make the difference