(This article was originally published on together.to, a website and forum dedicated to German-Jewish diaolgue)
Did I start The Kippa Test already one week ago? It does certainly not feel that way. It’s as if I just started it yesterday.
For those that did not read last week’s post … let me give you a quick summary of what The Kippa Test is.
Will someone wearing a Kippa feel “good” in Germany – this is what I was asked. So I decided to test it … lets call it a field study. I was wearing the kippa whenever I would come in contact with strangers, with people who don’t know me. On my way to the office and back home, when doing grocery shopping (have been to three different grocery stores this week, plus the bakery). I’ve also been shopping for a “start of school present” for my little nephew. All of that while wearing the kippa.
When my friends and family asked me to tell them about the Third Generation Initiative there was so much I had to say ... but I was at a loss for words. It was not easy to find the right words for something that left such a deep impression in me. It still is not easy.
I could talk about the program, whom we met, what we did. But this would not do justice to the incredible week we had.
Yes, we did meet scholars, politicians, the American Ambassador, historians, company executives, leaders of the Jewish community in Germany. We heard a lot of things, many ideas, lots of positions, opinions, statements, propaganda. Meetings from dawn till dusk - literally. But that's just a small part of what happened during this week.
Imagine being locked into a small room with a group of thirty people ... for nine days. People strange to you. People that you maybe thought would never talk to you. Imagine these people talking to each other. All day long. All night long. Until their brains refuse to function. They would get a few hours of sleep, then wake up eager to talk more. This is how I felt.
In the beginning we just exchanged views ... standpoints.
This changed. People opened up. They talked about their feelings. Their cut and dried opinions and how they started to change. About their families. Their past. Their future. Days and days of talking.
Strangers were no longer strangers ... they had become friends - within just a few days.
Then came Sachsenhausen. The visit to the former Concentration Camp. A visit filled with emotions. Neither the Jewish nor the Germans could hold back the tears. Everyone was just so overwhelmed by this experience. You could feel the pain, the shame, the guilt. And then again, you were not alone. There would always be the touch of a hand on your shoulder, an understanding word, or just someone sitting beside you in silence.
And then ... the trip was over. We had to walk separate ways again. Boy, oh boy, this was hard. It felt like someone took my family members away from me. How had I lived before this trip. I could not remember.
Luckily someone gave the advice to me to take a few days off after the trip. I was just sitting there, my brain still spinning around all that was said ... all that was felt. It took me almost a week to think about something else.
It takes a while for the brain to digest.
And now? What now?
Some of us decided to not let this ebb away. To continue the discussion. To offer this discussion to everyone who wants to participate.
This is why we started http://together.to
A platform for American Jewish German dialogue.