Shabbat Diaries: July 27, 2018

Name: Derek

Age: 23

Occupation: Editorial Intern

8 a.m. – I begin the day waking up yet again to my alarm clock. I am staying at an Airbnb in East Berlin and even though I arrived in Europe two weeks ago, I still feel like my body hasn’t adjusted to the time difference; hence, the need for my alarm clock.

9 a.m. – After taking the S-Bahn (train number 7) from my residence to a more central Berlin location, I have arrived at Sophienstraße and am grabbing my morning coffee and breakfast before walking to the Leo Baeck Institute for my graduate student workshop on Jewish and Gender Studies in Berlin.

9:30 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. – During today’s workshop, I heard from Professor Stefanie Schüler-Springorum and her presentation on Anti-Semitism and Gender before, during and after the Shoah. It is so interesting to hear the perspectives of Europeans and Germans when discussing Jewish studies. The historical and geographical differences from the United States allows for interesting stories and debates. Included in these discussions were two presentations from other participants in the workshop. An Austrian presenter introduced his research topic – mixed marriages during the first half of the 20th century. He discussed Jewish-Christian marriages from several perspectives and how they were received during the German Nazi Regime. Another presentation was on the reception of Holocaust films during the 90s. I don’t know much about film studies, but it was interesting nonetheless.

1:15 p.m. – All the participants enjoyed a well-prepared kosher lunch together. The lunches are never large, but they are included every day of the program and it provides a great opportunity to relax together as a group after our lively and intellectual discussions.

4 p.m. – I’ve made my way to the heart of Berlin and to one of the largest bookstores that I have ever seen. I was given a tip to submit an abstract for a conference that will take place in London next February in which the theme will be the German-Jewish writer, Barbara Honigmann, and all of her literary work. I realized that in order to present at this conference, I need to be more familiar with her work, so here I am, buying her latest novel.

6 p.m. – Time for Shabbat dinner! The crazy thing about Berlin is that it is such a large city and it takes nearly an hour by public transit to get anywhere. Finally, after taking three different trains, I arrive in a quiet neighborhood in the south of the city. There is a courtyard and grill-out type dinner prepared for all of the participants and speakers in this summer’s program. It’s a great opportunity for us all to recap the last two weeks together and also to relax and enjoy each other’s company before we all depart Berlin and return home or continue traveling in Europe.

8 p.m. – What a great way to end my two weeks in Berlin! But now it’s time for me to trek back across the city and get to sleep for my early flight to Copenhagen in the morning. I board the first of three trains and reflect on my time in Berlin and on today’s Shabbat dinner. I’m excited to continue traveling around Europe for another week before returning stateside.

In addition to this week’s Shabbat diaries, Derek will be contributing a post with more information about his time at the Leo Baeck Institute in Berlin and what he learned about Jewish and Gender studies from a German perspective.