Germany September 2003


We arrived in Mainz directly from the Frankfurt airport and checked in at the Hilton on the Rhine.
Our main goal on this journey was to visit friends we had made in the Soroptimist Clubs in Germany.
Hanna is a active member of this organisation, a women's organisation parallel to the male Rotary club and with similar aims, with an additional emphasis on Women's Status and Rights.
We both have built the website of the Israel federation of the organisation, in response Dani was made honorary "Soroptimister". Our meeting with our friends of these clubs are documented on the Israel Soroptimist website.

Sights from the window of the Hilton Rheinufer

The Theodor Heuss Bruecke over the Rhein

On the north shore a Restaurant boat
is permanently moored

It seem s surprising how many cargo
barges seem to ply the river

Of course also pleasure Boats, like the one
we were to take later on our visit.

On the next day a friend of Hanna accompanied us on a short Rhein tour, and another friend met us at our destination in St. Goar where we made a very tasty lunch break in the restaurant of hotel "Rebstock" and drove us back to Mainz in her car.


Restaurant Rebstock

Two of the places we passed reminded me of the romantic poet and writer Heinrich Heine. "Es will mir nicht aus dem Sinn" (I cannot forget) is the keyword of the "loreley", a poem about the fable about the famous rock on the shore of the Rhein.

Click here for a translation of the poem by Mark Twain
The second is the town of Bachrach.

At the evening of his life, Heine went back to his Jewish roots and wrote the Epos of the "Rabbi von Bachrach".
Unfortunately we had left the camera in the hotel so that the pictures from the Rhein are plucked from the internet.

The restored synagogue in Weissenau.

We may be repeating information that many know well, but we must regress a little to tell about the (glorious and tragic) Jewish history of Mainz.
In the early middle ages there was a considerable Jewish population in the city-states of south Germany, Mainz, Trier, Worms and others.
At the turn of the first millenium, Rabbi Gershom of Mainz (or Magenza as it was called) was the one who decreed monogamy for the Ashkenazy Jews. Rabbi Amnon of Magenza was tortured by the Archbishop of Mainz, and on his death bed, on Yom Kippur, wrote the famous "U'Netaney Tokef".
At the onset of the crusades the so called crusaders, on their way to the Holy Land to confront the Moslims, staged Pogroms against the Jews in many cities in Europe. In Mainz, in the year 1096, the whole Jewish population was either forced to convert or murdered.
In fact a large number committed suicide and killed their children, so the latter would not be taken and brought up as Christians.
Later the Jews returned to the "Rheinland.
In the suburb of Weissenau a large Jewish community existed, estimated at one quarter of the inhabitants and in the year 1737/8 built a modest Synagogue in a back yard.
On the "Kristallnacht", when the Nazis torched and desecrated most German Synagogues, this one was not set on fire in order not to burn down the whole neighbourhood. After WW2, the building was used as a storeroom, until in 1982 it was rediscovered, and put under "Denkmal Schutz" (a law protecting buildings regarded national heritage from being destroyed)
In the 1990s the restoration was planned and carried out.
Dr. Heinrich Schreiner , then a city councillor and now retired, (though being the chairman of a local Bank) led the restoration voluntarily and also directs the activities of the site, as a center for ecumenical gatherings, as well as a real synagogue, particularly for weddings, Bar Mitzvas and the like.
Rabbi Professor Dr. Leo Trepp, a Rabbi born in Mainz who fled to the U.S. consecrated the Synagogue and visits often to lead services and officiate at wedding and the like.
Marlene Huebel, who is an accomplished tourist guide, and author of a number of historical and touristic books about the region, arranged a very emotional visit to the Synagogue.
Dr. Schreiner himself introduced us to the synagogue and explained the process of restoration to us.

The Tora Shrine

Blessed be Thou upon Thy coming and going.

Dr. Schreiner shows us the contents of the Tora Shrine

Keter Tora (A Tora Crown)

The windows were made to remind us of the tragedy
of the Holocaust and all tragedies throughout Jewish history

The Geniza

In the Jewish tradition, any document carrying the name of God, should not be thrown away but is brought to the synagogue, placed in a suitable container and stored forever or buried in a cementery.
This storage place is called Geniza. We remember the famous Geniza of Cairo, in which thousand of valuable historical documents were found
As a special bonus, the Geniza of the modest synagogue in Weisenau was found in an attic. The contents of the Geniza are exhibited in the synagogue.

A large number of plaques tell the story of Jewish Mainz and this Synagogue

A couple of years ago, in an adjacent building, an ancient Mikve (a ritual bath house) was found. There is an ancient Mikve from the 18th century, with stairs leading down to the ground water.

A number of historical photographs.

The Markt and Dome

in the evening we were invited by one of Hanna's friend in their
very special home to a marvelous dinner.


After Mainz we proceeded to Eisenach, the birth place of J.S.Bach and Pachelbel, as well as an important place in the history of Christian Reformation.
Our main purpose in visiting Eisenach was to renew the warm contact Hanna has established with the Soroptimist club there. In our report on the Israel Soroptimist website we have written in length about it.
The day we spent in Eisenach was the only rainy day on the whole of our visit, nevertheless here are some photos we took.

Street scenes from Eisenach


We then proceeded to Jena. We shall not elaborate on Jena, as we have written a great deal about it in our 2002 report.
We are bringing here a few photos from the Markt, to show the generally positive atmosphere there, despite economic slowdown and high unemployment.
Unemployment in Jena is considerably lower than in other East German cities, where it runs at about 15% and higher.

The Markt in Jena during an "Inner city celebration"


Friends recommended to visit an estate turned into hotel in a small village by the Mueritz lake.
We found it a bit disappointing, other places in the area might have been more interesting.

The "Gutshaus" Ludorf in Mecklenburg

From there we made a half day trip to "Waren",
which made us wish that we had booked there

In the afternoon we took a "Kutsche" for a round trip which should have been by the lake, but was only through the fields of Ludorf.


Our last stop was in Berlin, from where we flew home.

The "Gedaechtniskirche" which was destroyed at the end of WW2 was
left as a ruin for remembrance, and two structures built left
and right of it, to function as a church and community center.

As a special bonus we were invited by friends of Hanna to a
"Erev Shabbat Kiddush".

The candlesticks we brought as a present were immediately put to good use.

On the last day of our visit we returned to the "Brandenburger Tor
which had not been fully restored on our last visit.

The giant football opposite this landmark as a reminder of the
impending world championship in Berlin.