Halo from Berlin(z) Germany.
I would like to share with you a short memo regarding the opportunity of a lifetime of which I applied to, accepted, and my participation in the program recently completed. I am a young professional person who identifies as being Jewish living in North America. These two elements of self allowed for me to apply to the Germany Close Up program.
Germany Close Up ” American Jews Meet Modern Germany” is is currently administered by Action Reconciliation Service for Peace in cooperation with the New Synagogue Berlin – Centrum Judaicum Foundation. Germany Close Up is funded by a grant from the German Government’s Transatlantic Program, which draws on funds from the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. As such, the program aims to encourage German-Jewish-North American dialogue as well as to strengthen the involvement of the North American Jewish community in transatlantic relations.
The program began 16 February 2018 and I traveled with a 28 person group and two local guides (Anne and Richard) around Berlin and Hamburg, Germany. I’d like to share with you the essays that I wrote for my application to the program.
PART ONE – introduction to me and my interest in participation
People fascinate me – I’m a millennial in my late twenties who spends her time interfacing with individuals seeking connections and opportunities to collaborate with one another. I strongly believe everyone knows something I don’t know. We can teach and learn from one another by listening and gaining perspective that may change our view on the world. New media allows for people globally to communicate in ways that our elders could not. Our experiences, traditions and stories can be documented and shared at new heights.
The idea of practicing Judaism and learning how it intertwines us all on a deeper level intrigues me. Judaism was something I was born into and I have taken it upon myself to actively participate in the community, while following the traditions and teachings of the Torah. After my Bat Mitzvah, I could have easily dismissed religion outside of the high holidays – my parents and grandparents never forced me to continue with Hebrew School in High School but I wanted to. I participated in the Youth Federation of Temple Israel‘s Board as the Membership Vice President – working to engage other Metro Detroit teens to join along and participate in events. Although, has been a decade ago, but I still cherish the short time I was able to connect to my Jewish peer group each week.
I am a fourth generation alumnae of the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. Jewish-based organizations at U of M made a large university feel like a small community. For a year, I participated in the Jewish Awareness America (now known as Jewish Resource Center) practicing a Modern Orthodox lifestyle. Being an alumnae of the University of Michigan means being part of something bigger than myself. I feel that the same holds true for being Jewish on a global scale.
After graduation, my heart was not ready to leave Ann Arbor. I had the fortunate opportunity to take on a Leasing Specialist & Management role at the brand new premier luxury student housing company on campus. I achieved my professional goal of bringing the brand new property to 100% occupancy and maintaining it for three years. But to me a greater lesson was learned about how to interact with people from all walks of life and from all over the world. Interacting with the residents from 35+ different countries on a daily basis allowed for my worldly horizons to expand, an unexpected perk of my position. I learned of their hobbies, how they grew up, where they went for vacations and was exposed to their home countries’ culinary delights – I was hooked, utterly engaged and ready to take my next opportunity to travel.
Being an early adaptor to technology, at the University of Michigan I studied social media platforms and how the mass media affects society. The world today can be seen through a lens via social media platforms. Instagram provides escapism and discovery of images from around the globe. It’s endless in what you can learn and discover on the internet, it’s just a matter of how long and hard you want to look. I’m a go-go-go gal who has an innate thirst for authentic and meaningful experiences.
The thrill of being a commercial real estate broker is that my experiences, interactions and travels can always be tied back and made into a deal. A majority of my waking moments are spent prospecting retail concepts and figuring out how to add value to a community. Everywhere in the world has retail shops and restaurants – what every city does not have is the opportunity to play a role in the revitalization and re-development of historic property. My understanding and research shows that Berlin and Detroit both have strong creative energy and entrepreneurs driving new life into each market. I want to be able to gain my own firsthand experiences and be witness to how Germany functions in a post –industrial society and how they are re-developing their buildings. It is important to understand the history of a city and how that sets it up for present day society.
Moreover, on a deeper level what is it that has drawn a group of young professional Metro Detroiters to gather and all have interest in traveling to Germany for nine days.
Perspective is a powerful thing. Modern times and our access to technology allow for an ever-evolving perspective of how individuals can learn about new places and cultures- including Germany. History is never remembered objectively. It is not simply a compilation of facts. Instead, history is molded and altered by the way people choose to retell it from generation to generation. Now factoring in the internet and the mobile society which adds a new layer of story being put into the stratosphere.
At a young age we are instilled with the negative dialogue of Germans and Germany. We hear the horrors of the holocaust and the commonly spoken words, “Never again!” We are taught to only think of Germans as Nazis or descendants of Nazis. Back in the day when the Holocaust was taking place, people knew but couldn’t possibly begin to understand the severity of it because they did not have the modern media and communication outlets to showcase the happenings. It’s much easier to turn a blind eye to a horrific mass murder when you don’t see images or videos. Today’s media landscape keeps the general public steadily informed as casualties are revealed. 140 character messages blasted at you with the simple touch of your finger.
Flash forward to modern day and we are on sensory overload with images, videos and voices surfacing on screens to influence our viewpoints of the world. Simultaneously we are expected to balance and manage the past thoughts of our memory bank. It’s hard to imagine a world where all the information is not accessible.
I look for the best in every situation and want to spread the potential light that is shining within young professionals in a country thousands of miles away. I would look forward to the powerful discourse and learning of why a country that is most notably known for killing millions of Jewish people now has one of the largest growing Jewish populations in the world.
Sharing information and experiences with others is powerful. Being selected as a participant of Germany Close Up’s collaboration with The Well of Detroit would give me the opportunity to share my perspective and story about past and present life in Berlin. I’m eager to learn more about what is happening now 40+ years later to make Berlin so desirable. I have a basic understanding that there has been a long standing relationship between Detroit and Berlin in the evolution of technological music. Pending the completion of my experience, I’ll have an expanded mindset and knowledge base. At the same time, I want to be able to share my tales of the social action impact young professionals are making in Detroit.
My intrinsic thirst for gaining knowledge is most fulfilled by immersing myself in travel. Creating an itinerary with a perfected mix of history, tourist hot spots and local flare. Food and beverage can be an interesting avenue to understand an underlying constant within a region. You have to understand where a country or city has been before understanding why and how it stands today and where it could go moving forward.
I spent a spring semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain – we traveled to 11 different cities outside of Barcelona. One of the most memorable travel experiences during my trip was a weekend spent in Germany – instead of going to Ireland for a traditional St Patrick’s day – we went to Munich. Our plane was preparing for landing – all of the emotions I had ever felt, thought, heard or learned about Germany and its history were now going to be altered by my 20 year old real life personal experience. It was uncontrollable- when we landed I burst into tears, my emotions were sweeping over me like I had never felt before.
Upon our arrival to the hostel, the gentleman at the front desk helped us put together a trip to Dachau for the next day, he noted that it would be a great day for the concentration camp as it was going to be raining, dreary, and cold. Is he kidding? Once I was in through the iron gates and standing where the barracks once laid, a chill came over my body and I realized why he said that. I stood there in my raincoat, boots, umbrella and layers of clothes feeling miserable about this weather. It struck me – my people stood here with so much less protection and warmth than I had. There is this feeling in your gut that is unexplainable, and you sense the spirits of those that once filled this place. I was completely consumed by memories of these people and their families. Experiencing this day trip with my girlfriends was one of the most emotional days of my 20 years of life.
Lastly, my connection to Germany lies in an 18 year old friendship with a friend of mine, Caroline. Her family moved to Bloomfield Hills for her dad’s job in the auto industry. At nine years old it was announced in my class that a new girl would be coming to school who would also participate in advanced higher learning math (yay I will not be the only girl now), who loves to snow ski , play tennis, and has a younger brother the same age as my sister. We were instant friends and continue to be. I saw Caroline and her family during my Munich trip in 2011 and last year we met up in Amsterdam while she was there consulting for Mckinsey.
Connecting with the locals and learning what day-to-day life is like is important to me and my travels. I tirelessly communicate with my ever-expanding network, follow travel blogs and Instagram accounts for tips on an exciting fun local experience. Amsterdam, London, Miami, Chicago, or wherever my travels take me – I’ve uncovered the local coffee shop with cold brew, most fabulous juice bar or the cute little breakfast place with avocado toast. It’s my mission to seek out street artists who have made their marks all over the world and get excited when I am able to recognize them in my adventures. There is limitless possibility of what ties the young professionals of Berlin to those of Metro Detroit.
It would be an unbelievably powerful experience to go to Germany alongside a group of Jewish young Detroiters and a guide. There is a small fire inside of me that needs new logs. To have the privilege 7 years later to go back to Germany would light my fire.
PROST! SALUD! L’CHAIM! CHEERS! I am here writting to you from Berlin, this ROCKS! Please stay tuned for more details of my experience.