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Singing 'Shalom Aleichem' at the German Reichstag

By Nadja Spiegelman

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A fully kosher Sabbath dinner was held recently inside the German Reichstag building, of all places. It was the first time a Jewish ceremony has ever been held inside the building, which has been the seat of the German Parliament since 1894. The dinner was held in the same hall where the German Republic declared itself in 1918. On this Friday evening, the hall rung with the sounds of Shalom Aleichem.

The event took many months of preparation and clearance to arrange. It was organized by Alan and Stefanie Roth as a reception to their wedding. Over 200 guests from around the world, as well as representatives from the German Parliament and the Israeli Embassy, were in attendance. The Reichstag’s kitchens were made kosher in the days preceding the dinner, all Sabbath observances were followed, and the proceedings were led by Rabbi Pinchas Berner, the Chief Rabbi of Venezuela.

Many of Mr. Roth’s relatives moved to Berlin after surviving the Holocaust. “This was a very special venue to use because here are the roots of the surviving family,” Mr. Roth said in a phone interview. Six years earlier, on a tourist visit to Berlin, Mr. Roth and his 93-year-old father, a survivor, climbed to the top of Reichstag and stood in the cupola overlooking the city. They stood in silence, their arms around each other’s waists, with the significance of the building on both of their minds. His father never imagined, said Mr. Roth, when he was captured in 1940, “that the day would come when he would stand together with a son of his at the top of this building.”

This recent Friday evening, the war was the unspoken subject on everyone’s mind. “The singing of kiddush had people quite moved because it was clear that these words had never been uttered in this building,” Mr. Roth said. “These were songs of joy and it was a very special twist of irony of history that we were there doing this.”


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