Saturday, August 6, 2011

Boaz’ July barmitzva – or Singing (Tora) in the rain

Y: It was to be a small affair,  to mark Boaz’ thirteenth birthday just before they are due to return to Israel. But being his thirteenth, something special had to be made of it, one way or the other.  It was Boaz who decided to have an Aliya la’Tora rather than any other form of marking the formal coming-of-age that even non-observant Jews like us consider important. So here we were in Berlin, complete with formal dress (even down to Gabi’s formal underwear),

ready to present ourselves at the Reform synagogue on Shabbat morning. Incongruously, Boaz and Shaul rode off by bicycle, the rest of us traipsed in by underground train…

Even worse,  we really hadn't believed the weather forecast for pouring rain, after leaving Israel sweltering under 30 degree heat! But umbrellas were in plentiful supply and dress shoes were only changed into at the entrance to the synagogue, so all was well.

The synagogue is a community hall in an ecumenical building donated by the US Army and dedicated to several religious denominations. The Reform movement obtained the use of this facility when the community became large enough: it now numbers some 120 members. About 30 of them were present, several were Hebrew speakers and welcomed us warmly, friends of Galia and Shaul also came to the service. Grandpa Menahem,


and honorary  Grandpa Arkee

took Aliyot. Then Boaz, complete with his grandfather's kipa and a talit from the other grandfather, performed with perfect aplomb, obviously enjoying his role and doing it very well.

The Rabbi and the Hazanit and the Gabait all had their good wishes to express to him (in German, unfortunately for us, although the Gabait also said some words in Hebrew )

 and there was Kiddush with all the children

around the Kiddush table and a light buffet which everyone enjoyed.

We had a family lunch at a very pleasant restaurant in a room to ourselves. The little ones took advantage of the space and relatively relaxed mood to run around and enjoy one another’s company and a good time was had by all.

Any thoughts of going off down town after that were shelved by the need to get out of our glad rags and (for us at least) to move from the apartment we had been borrowing to the hotel where we would be staying for the next two nights. This took us the rest of the afternoon. Galia and Shaul hosted some friends for a farewell party at the club-house of their lodging-house and so were occupied for the rest of the day.

The next day we decided to part forces. Arkee was interested in going to a museum of modern art. Had I not been with my grandchildren, I would have done the same, but I did not want to regret not being with them. The rain let up somewhat and we went to explore a large and interesting flea-market.

 Dina has an eye for bargains and picked up several for herself and the children and the day would have been completely enjoyable if  Hillel, aged four, standing off at the side for a moment, had not been picked up by a well-meaning woman who could not speak to him. Presuming he was lost, she carried him off to the information booth at the gate. Several long and horrible minutes were spent looking for him until Dina went to call the police and found him there. The experience was worse for her than for him, I think, as someone was found to speak Hebrew to him, but such events can be terrifying, if nothing worse. 

We recovered sufficiently from this adventure to make a few more purchases and have a snack lunch under umbrellas, and finally  left the market under increasingly heavy rain, drained out.

A: The modern art museum was excellent.  It contains the Marx collection of Warhols, Rauchenbergs and others of the mid century.    There was a special exhibit of a British artist Richard Long, described by the museum as follows: The exhibition entitled “ Richard Long: Berlin Circle” is the first solo show in Germany of works by Richard Long in a major museum in almost ten years. The title of the exhibition refers to the eponymous work “Berlin Circle”, dating from 1996, which features in the Sammlung Marx. The works on display are “Sandstone Circle, 1977″; “Black and White Circle, 1988″; “Turf Line, 1990″; Berlin Circle, 1996″; “Autumn Turf Circle, 1998″; “Basalt Ellipse, 2000″; and the wall work “River Avon Mud Circle, 2011″

There were films on "Land Art" and a strange exhibition called Secret Universe by a weirdo named Horst Ademeit.  He believed that he was being irradiated by "cold rays" and took thousands of Polaroid pictures over decades.  Some are interesting, some are junk.  In the complex reference systems developed by Ademeit, certain motifs play a constant role: electricity meters, peepholes, building sites, electric cables, collections of bulky trash or bikes. Ademit began to cast the flood of images he produced in a concrete form in October 1990: he arranged measuring instruments and a compass on a newspaper and photographed them with a Polaroid camera. Over the course of 14 years, he made 6006 numbered Polaroid pictures.

Y again:  On our last day we decided to go with the children to the zoo.

This was thoroughly enjoyable and interesting, the animals in the dark included some I had never seen alive (an aardvark for instance) and the big cats deigned to play to the audience and not just lie around. After avoiding the wasps at the lunch tables we went to look for the seals and the bears. Even little David was enjoying crawling along the paths and barking back at the sea-lions! A pity we had to leave them there as we had a plane to catch.

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