Berlin cemetery

The Germany Close Up group pauses by the Binnenalster for a quick photo before continuing on the tour. 
The Germany Close Up group was welcomed to the Fraenkelufer Synagogue, a 101-year-old synagogue in Berlin. It was the first congregation in Berlin to re-open after the war, with Erev Rosh Hashanah services taking place in 1946. A few years ago, the synagogue didn’t have enough people to create a minyan; but on this night, the sanctuary was full of locals and visitors alike. At dinner, we had a chance to get to know one another, share a bit about our respective communities, sing and break bread. It was an amazing opportunity to celebrate being Jewish in Berlin, and we were reminded that this public display of Judaism wasn’t safe in the not-so-recent past. Trip participant Alyah Al-Azem said, “It moved me to tears watching, listening and participating in Shabbat services in a place where Jews were never supposed to return.”
One of the best-known landmarks of Germany, Brandenburg Gate is a symbol of European unity and peace as well as a reminder of a difficult past. The gate stands on the location that, historically, marked the city limits of Berlin and leads to the palace of the Prussian monarchs. During WWII, it became a symbol of Nazi power; and during the Cold War, it became a border crossing between East and West Berlin. Post reunification, it became the main site for the 20th anniversary celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The gate has stood through vastly different eras of German history and, now, surrounding the plaza are a number of foreign embassies, government buildings and many tourists with selfie sticks!