"Kristallnacht, seventy- five years ago, a mighty and civilized European nation decided that there is no room any longer for worship houses of a religious minority. As a result, over 600 synagogues were set on fire and destroyed in the country. This was the beginning of the war." Thus began his speech the President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, in a special memorial service to mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, which took place last night (Sunday) at the Bronen - Strasse site in Berlin, by the Conference of European Rabbis, the German government and the World Jewish Congress, and which concluded the first day of the 28th Conference of European Rabbis which opened yesterday, for the first time since its founding, in Germany.
Rabbi Goldschmidt addressed the topical issues: "I'm ready to take things a step further and state that the new campaign against Jewish customs in Europe is anti-Semitism of a 'politically correct' type... Marlene Rupprecht, who introduced the legislation in the Council of Europe, said explicitly that "circumcision is the dark side of the Jews."
In the moving ceremony, participants heard the first- hand testimony of a Holocaust survivor, Elie Pachler, now an elderly man about 90 years old, who as a boy, watched how the Beis Midrash where the ceremony took place, was set on fire. The man benched 'Shehechiyanu', and an eight year old boy who made aliyah from the Ukraine, sang before the large crowd "vehi she'amda". Other speakers were: Chief Rabbi of Israel, Hagaon Rabbi David Lau, president of the Zentralat of German Jews, and World Jewish Congress President, Ronald Lauder.
Germany's Interior Minister, Hans Peter Friedrich, said at the ceremony that the German government is committed that Jews will live openly and without any restrictions of preserving their rights. "The 110 thousand Jews here in Berlin are pride for us," he said. The fact that there are Neo-Nazis in Germany is a terrible thing, and the public as well as the authorities denounce them and fight against them.
Yesterday afternoon was the opening of the twenty-eighth conference of the Conference of European Rabbis, marked 'family, rabbi and community', and marking a decade to the founding of the Orthodox CER of Germany. At the top of the conference discussions are: the topic of Jewish rights in the continent - with an emphasis on ritual slaughter and circumcision, and practical ways to relieve the problem of agunos (abandoned wives).
About 200 prominent European rabbis and dayanim, and heads of Jewish organizations in thirty countries are participating in the conference held at the Holiday Inn Hotel, in the center of Berlin. The conference will last three days and will close on Tuesday, the ninth of Kislev.
Hagaon R' Aharon Leib Steinman and Hagaon R' Chaim Kanievsky sent a special letter to the rabbis of the conference "to strengthen those standing guard in the rabbinate, in leading the communities in the Torah's view and the spirit of Israel... and this may be the place to express my sorrow publicly when we are in great fear for the future of the Torah world here in Eretz Yisroel, when there are those who want to abolish the Torah of Israel, and I will approach you, asking you to make your voice heard in calling "al tigu bimshichai", and maybe it will help to break their advice and ruin their plans."
The conference participants were welcomed by: Chief Rabbi of Israel, Hgr"d Lau, Rabbi of Berlin, Rabbi Yitzhak Ehrenberg, Federation of American Rabbis Director Rabbi Moshe Dratsh, and president of the Jewish community in Berlin, Dr. Gideon Yaffe. Immediately after the opening session, participants heard a fascinating lesson from Av Beis Din 'Darchei Torah', Rabbi Asher Weiss on the subject: 'takanas agunos' - pre- marital contracts. The session was headed by Rabbi of the Orthodox communities in the Netherlands, Rabbi Raphael Aivers.
After Mincha, participants heard a shiur by Av Beis Din of Europe, Rabbi Chanoch HaCohen Ehrentrau, on 'tashlumim behavdola' in memory of the unforgettable conference director, Rabbi Avraham Abba Dunner zt"l. Thereafter, the book 'Sridim' was distributed to the participants, with a collection of shiurim of Gedolei Yisroel in Israel and Europe in memory of Rabbi Dunner zt"l. The session was led by Rabbi of Odessa, Rabbi Shlomo Bakst.
The first day of the convention was concluded with a festive dinner marking the foundation of the Orthodox Rabbis in Germany - ORD organization, a decade ago. The dinner was led by Rabbi Avichai Appel, presiding rabbi of Dotmond and a member of the Conference of German Rabbis. Words in memory of Gedolei Yisroel were said by the rabbinic director of the conference, a member of the Moscow Beis Din and Rosh Yeshiva Toras Chaim in Moscow, Hagaon Rabbi Moshe Label. During dinner, the following spoke in praise of the organization of the German Orthodox rabbis: Chief Rabbis of Israel, Hagr"d Lau and the Rishon Letzion Hagr"y Yosef. President of Zentralart of Jews in Germany, Dr. Dieter Graumann, and chairman of the patrons of the Conference of European Rabbis, Boris Mintz.Photo: Eli Etkin