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Berlin Israel Mission Presents Powerful Impressions of Jewish People’s Past, Present and Future

Emotions ran high on the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s recent Berlin Israel Mission, as participants observed the Jewish people’s tragic past in Nazi Germany and its unusual resurrection in today’s German democracy, as well as the Israeli people recovering from this summer’s terrorist rocket attacks.

“We experienced some of the most meaningful and powerful developments that faced the Jewish people in the 20th century,” said Mojdeh Khaghan Danial, who co-chaired the Mission with her husband, Robert. “We commemorated a Jewish community crushed by the Nazis and witnessed the new Jewish reality in Berlin today. We also arrived in Israel at a trying time when it was important to let the people of Israel know that we stand with them.”

In the course of their five days in Berlin, Mission participants encountered Germany’s catastrophic legacy of World War II, visiting the Sacksenhausen Memorial and Museum. Sacksenhausen was the site of a Nazi concentration camp, where more than 200,000 people were imprisoned between 1936 and 1945. The vast majority of those prisoners died of starvation, disease, mistreatment and systematic extermination by the German SS.

The Mission also stopped at Track 17, a former railway station that served as the major transfer point for Berlin Jews who were deported to the Auschwitz and Theresienstadt concentration camps. While visiting this location, many Mission participants had an eerie feeling while reciting the Kaddish memorial prayer, as a freight train rumbled past on a nearby railroad track.

“For Jewish people in Berlin for the first time, it’s very difficult to come to terms with Germany’s past,” said Federation General Campaign Chair Amy Dean, who traveled with the Mission. “It also is interesting to see how that terrible past has influenced Germany and its present relationship with Jews.”

Although few Jews returned to Berlin immediately after World War II, the city is now home to more than 50,000 Jews, most of whom are émigrés from the former Soviet Union who settled there after the fall of East German communism. Most of these Russian Jews felt little connection to the Jewish people before relocating to Berlin. Today, they are experiencing Judaism in a free society for the first time. Mission participants learned about the new Berlin Jewish community and how the Annual Greater Miami Jewish Federation/UJA Campaign plays a compassionate role in the lives of local residents.

“In some ways, Berlin’s Jewish community is like ours in Miami because so many of our Jewish residents come from other places,” Dean said. “The difference is that we in Miami have a structure in place to deal with our communal needs. Berlin relies on outside organizations like The Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supported by our Annual Campaign.”

Arriving in Israel just two months after the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, Mission participants encountered a somber people. However, the Mission’s presence brought comfort to Israelis by conveying the deep connection between the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora.

“The people whom we met were glad to see us,” Danial said. “Tensions are still very high, but our visit was an expression of our commitment to be there for the people of Israel.”

While touring the Negev, the Mission spent a day in Yerucham, Miami’s partnership city, and observed the rapid growth of new commercial, residential and government projects in the region. They also paid a visit to Sderot, a community devastated by the recent war with Hamas, and learned how Miami’s support is bringing hope to its residents.

The Berlin Israel Mission is one example of the special nature of traveling with the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Federation Missions are transformative experiences, providing private access to venues and briefings by high-ranking officials; enabling participants to see firsthand how their dollars touch the lives of individuals and entire communities; and offering opportunities for Mission-goers to turn their philanthropic passions into action.

To learn about future Missions to Israel, click here or contact Federation’s Missions Department at Missions@JewishMiami.org or 786.866.8436.

The Mission of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation is to mobilize human and financial resources to care for those in need, strengthen
Jewish life and advance the unity, values and shared purpose of the Jewish people in Miami, in Israel and around the world.

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