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One Solution: 20 Something Synagogue Engagement

I carefully read the “Forum for the Future” on the RJ blog – it was well written and deserves all of our attention.  Two messages rang clear throughout all the writings: these devoted young Jewish leaders are not joining congregations; however they are searching long and hard for Jewish community.  Clearly they are not finding the community they want within established congregations which are largely designed for an older member.  The entrée to membership has most often been the question, how are we going to educate our children, an irrelevant one for most 20 somethings.

Though a singularly focused 20 something with deep commitment to Judaism might want serious Jewish study, he or she is probably not going to be comfortable studying with 50-year-olds and older.  There are generational differences.

Each congregation needs to spearhead a chavurah community for the young adults within their midst.  Every congregation can proactively do this with larger congregations forming multiple units of these artificial communities.  This is exactly what the young people are writing about: searching for community and many of them are finding it within the communities they themselves are creating.  It is an idea first popularized in the 1960s and gained strength in the 70s and 80s, but now not so much talked about.  Every congregation could reach out like fingers into the community to establish these networks to bring our 20 and 30 somethings together.  Synagogues need to be creating these communities as part of our outreach.  Exactly what they would do within their various chavurot would be up to each of autonomous group: from a Shabbat dinner together to an afternoon of hiking.  The important thing is the Jewish bonds would be created and strengthened, and communities would be built, albeit small ones.

Will these people be members of the congregation?  While they are in their 20s and early 30s we should give away a membership to anyone who wants it while they are placed within these chavurot.  The model should be similar to what many rock groups do today: they give away their music on the Internet precisely because if they didn’t it would be stolen anyway.  They have a backloaded financially viable model through their concerts and the sale of merchandise. Similarly we give everything away to our 20 and 30-year-olds as we involve them in these chavurah faith communities, and develop commitment and loyalty which will evolve as they mature. Later on, if the relationships are strong, as they create families and move through the cycles of life they will support congregations.

Who will pay for all this and who will run it?  It doesn’t take all that much to organize a chavurah.  I personally have organized many in my career and it only takes a few hours’ time at the initial meeting and the foresight to help pick a few charismatic leaders who are on board with the task.  If the group finds common purpose it will sustain itself and flourish.

The chavurah movement is an old idea that needs to be carefully promoted once again by each local synagogue to reach our young people.

Techno Judaism

Pretty Lights, photo by Krystle Blackburn

Among the many joys of having children is learning what a new generation appreciates.  I’ve always been a music lover of all genres.  Lately whenever I drive with either of my two medical school student 20 something sons, they enjoy listening to techno on their playlist.  The first time I heard it I found it annoying and redundant.  The second time I heard it I just found it redundant.  Then after listening to it a third time in the car, I began to appreciate the nuances in the structure and certainly the rhythm.  Clearly this is great dance music.  Though I grew up as a relative purist playing both classical and rock guitar, computer-generated music might one day become dominant. 

 Why not use techno music liturgically?  In many parts of the country, certainly the big cities, this is the favorite genre of music for the 20 and 30 somethings.  This is what they’re listening to in the clubs while I am fast asleep. With its trancelike sound it would work particularly well with the mantras of Judaism: the Shema, the Barchu, and naturally repetitive songs like the Oseh shalom.  A quick Google of Jewish techno music returns predominantly Orthodox material, a little of Matisyahu, and some poking fun of Judaism.   I could not find any Reform Jewish music at the top of the Google list. 

 We are desperately trying to reach the often lost generation of Judaism: those from teenage years through the 30s.  Why not try updating our Reform Jewish playlist to make worship a little more exciting.  Cantors, songwriters, and musicians: can you create some liturgical techno?  While you’re at it, can you write any new Jewish music at all for the High Holidays?  There doesn’t seem to be much in the works and it is needed.

Rethinking the Holy Days

I’ve come to the conclusion we need to change the date of Simchat Torah.

 Our Jewish festivals must be re-envisioned as inspirational community gatherings of joyful spiritual Jewish celebration.  Every single festival needs to be a time of great community involvement and meaning.  To not maximize that possibility is a mistake, which can easily be fixed.

 Here are the basics.  Though the pilgrimage festivals originally had agrarian roots, we are no longer an agrarian people.  Exactly how many Jewish farmers do you know?  With all due respect to the kibbutz movement in Israel, and to the fact I have my own garden which I tend to fastidiously, and we have a beautiful Temple garden to inspire our Temple families with the beauty of nature, we are no longer an agrarian society.  There was a time when Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succoth and Shimini Atzeret were all one interconnected holiday celebration tied in with the fall harvest.

 Now if you’ve ever spent time picking produce, and I actually have experience working for one week in a kibbutz in Israel picking pears, you know there is great celebration when you are done with the terribly arduous labor.  No question concluding the harvest is reason for great celebration.  Indeed Succoth was considered the greatest of all celebrations and festivals in the Jewish liturgical calendar, called “The Holiday” – I can certainly understand that having worked 10 hours a day picking pears.  

 Today in our congregation we have made Succoth an inspirational Festival, not one based on our concluding the harvest, but rather rethought as a time of Thanksgiving for our own personal harvests and the beauty and fragility of our lives in the shadow of God’s goodness.  We make it a true Festival: from rock music to great food and fellowship.  Similarly Chanukah, though not a biblical Festival, speaks to our people and brings out large crowds for a festive service and dinner.  Passover touches the hearts and souls of our members.  Shavuot has already been rethought by our early reform leaders and re-created as Shavuot confirmation.

 But Simchat Torah is a different, and much later Festival.  Its origins only date to the 11th century CE, so in Jewish history it is a new holiday.  Furthermore, for many reform congregations it is a celebration of consecration when we formally welcome our young people into the cycle of learning.

 Torah and the love of learning are two of Judaism’s greatest values and gifts to the world.  This is a very big deal.  We need to be celebrating properly, joyously, maximizing our attendance, and letting the world know the beauty and genius of Torah.

 Let us move the celebration of Simchat Torah to a date 30 days after the conclusion of Succoth, well separated from the High Holy Day season. Haven’t you heard what they did with Presidents’ Day?  We can celebrate the Torah in November by creating a huge family and even community celebration.   Five years ago we started an innovative tutoring program to help one of our local public schools by our members regularly reaching out to underachieving children, to help them develop a love of learning.  Judaism’s love of Torah, education, and knowledge needs to be shared with the world, and this too can be recognized on Simchat Torah.  Truth be told, we must create exciting, and well attended meaningful Jewish holidays.  If everyone just came to Temple for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and a Succoth festival, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to return one week later.  So solve the problem – let’s move the date – and honor the celebration of Torah and Jewish learning with as many people as possible in a way that it deserves.

Abraham and Noah

Abraham by Rembrandt

The Torah, which contains the first five books of the Bible, is the most realistic of books:  every character is described without any white-washing of the facts, in real human terms with warts and all.  Despite their blemishes, the Torah is filled with heroes and heroines, many whom we can clearly say are role models for living.  Noah is one exception to the long line of biblical leaders.

 The rabbis were ambivalent about Noah.  By the way in the chronology of the Bible Noah was not Jewish, for Abraham was the first Jew, the first monotheist.

 What does Noah do wrong?  He is uninvolved in saving his generation.  God tells him the Earth is going be destroyed in a flood.  Does Noah question God; does Noah do anything at all to save the world?  No!  He simply does what must be done to save himself and his family.

 Does that sound familiar?  We simply do what has to be done to save ourselves and we stop right there.

 Contrast Noah with Abraham, who fought with God to save even the people of Sodom; and Moses, who repeatedly intervened to save the people of Israel.

 It was the world’s lack of involvement that allowed the Holocaust to occur.  The sin of silence is still alive today, as it has always been.  Uninvolvement is the easy way out, not only for nations and communities, but for each of us.  When we stop caring, every institution involved suffers from our religious institutions to the public schools.

 The French writer, Albert Camus, tells of a successful lawyer who sees a woman drowning, but does nothing.  Years later, he is ruined and he asks himself, “What happened to you one night on the banks of the Seine, you who managed never to risk your life?  O, young woman!  Throw yourself into the water again, so that I may have a second chance to save us both.”

 May we learn from Noah’s failings:  involve yourself that your life might make a difference in the time God gives us.

The Rebranding of Judaism

You all know what branding is?  There is the Apple brand of course – anything with an Apple logo on it is golden.  You can take a regular computer, stick an Apple logo on it, and all of a sudden sell it for twice the price.

How about the Starbucks logo?  When traveling throughout Europe, Patti would say let’s go to the Starbucks.  Why did she want to go to Starbucks?  You could get a real American cup of coffee with some volume to it – maybe even eight or 12 ounces of coffee – instead of the typical 5 ounce European.  That brand has appealed to my lovely wife especially when she would like some caffeine early in the morning.

Or how about the Mercedes-Benz logo?  When you see that on a car you figure it’s going to be a pretty decent vehicle.  Is it really better than that ford vehicle?  I can’t really tell you with any experience as I’ve only owned the Ford.  The way most people associate the brand Mercedes-Benz, I can assume most people believe is a better vehicle.

Or how about Judaism?  How is Judaism branded?  That’s the challenge I want to talk with you about tonight.  What is that people really think about Judaism and what is it that we Jews think about Judaism?

I might be wrong, but I believe when many people think about Judaism they often think of an Orthodox Jew or Rabbi in a black coat, black hat, and a beard.  If you don’t believe me, watch some TV, and that is the exact image you often see.  Just a few weeks ago I walked into a hospital room at the Springhill Memorial Hospital to visit a member of our congregation.  There was a pulmonary therapist, who must be an educated woman working there.  When I introduced myself and she discovered I was a Rabbi, she immediately said, “you don’t look like a rabbi- you don’t have that black curly hair.”   Despite the many positive images, from the “people of the book”, to the many Jewish Nobel prize winners, and despite fact we are the faith that first gave the belief in one God to the world, there are many other images for Judaism.  Branding that might quickly pop up in people’s minds ranges from Shakespeare’s Shylock, to continual incidents of anti-Semitism around the world, and from the tragedy of the Holocaust to Israel being constantly under assault.  None of this is good, positive branding for the future of Judaism.

A similar analogy would be if the branding of Christianity was represented by a black coated bearded man in Amish country riding on his horse and buggy.  Imagine that as the branding of Christianity.  Now granted Christianity too has its branding.  Here in the buckle of the Bible belt I think, though I know often incorrectly, of a preacher who has his hair slicked that certain Jimmy Swagart way, held perfectly in place by the morning application of hairspray.  I hope I don’t offend anyone here tonight in my remarks – so of all days, this is the night to forgive me.

What do you do if you’re branded in a way that doesn’t represent your product?  That is among Judaism’s greatest challenges.  How can you get people excited about a religion whose brand in the popular imagination is falsely represented by men whose costumes are about three hundred years outdated?

Our challenge tonight is to rebrand Judaism.  That’s something that Apple Computer Company was able to do – rebrand themselves.  It was only about 10 years ago it seemed as though Apple was going down the tubes.  But then they dramatically improved their computers once again by invented iPhones, and ipads:  they took on a whole new persona.

 Certainly all religion faces challenges to reimagine itself like never before.  This summer we spent two days in St. Petersburg Russia.  The tour guide told us that 60% of the population would say they are Russian Orthodox Christians.  However very, very, few of them ever attend church.  In fact he said only one out of 30 couples will be married in the church – the 29 others prefer a civil ceremony.  All throughout northern Europe religion is facing a dramatic decline.

Here in the United States the statistics are beginning to follow northern Europe.  Recent statistics show that within the last decade, average Sunday attendance has dropped 23% in the Episcopal Church.  This is a church which has attempted to follow the most progressive possible path for a mainline Christian denomination.  Not a single Episcopal diocese in the United States saw churchgoing increase.

The path for Judaism I’m convinced must be transformative.  Can Judaism be publicly rebranded as an innovative spiritual path to ethical monotheism, one without a problematic trinity, believing science and religion must be compatible, open to all, filled with love and acceptance without exclusion, sophistication without arrogance, and a true caring community?  That is a tall order isn’t it?  But that is at its essence what Reform Judaism is all about.  The challenge is for us to get that information out to the world.

The answer for the rebranding of Judaism is really not so complicated.  It’s not up in the heavens that we cannot reach it, nor is it beyond any of our imaginations.  The rebranding of Judaism takes a simple twofold approach part of which everyone of us can be involved in, and part of it maybe we need some large financial and creative help.

First, I will tell you the hard part.  But I warn you the easier part of my message will affect every aspect of your life.  The hard part is that to rebrand Judaism properly will cost a lot of public relations time and money.  If you’ve been following the lawsuit between Apple and the Samsung Company over their respective tablets you might’ve noticed a tidbit that leaked out in the press, one that Apple wished to keep secret.  Apple spent a tremendous amount of money in rebranding to convince the world that the iPhone was better than apple pie, and that the ipads was just as good as the ice cream on top.  It came out in court that Apple spent more than $640 million to market their phones and more than $400 million to market their ipads.  And you know what happened:  people came to believe the value of their product.  Just look at the sales of the brand-new iPhone – they say more are on backorder than any other phone ever.

Judaism needs to rebrand itself the same way.  Yes marketing is everything these days and though I neither went to business school, nor studied marketing I can clearly see the effect.  And so what I’m suggesting is the Judaism needs to really market itself through public relations.  In my little way for years I’ve able to reach out to a small but significant part of our local community through advertising taste of Judaism.  A few little ads bring at least forty to fifty people like clockwork every year to the Temple to learn about Judaism.  Imagine what would happen if a campaign to inspire people about the beauty of Judaism was orchestrated by the U RJ, or the Federation movement, to excite people about the beauty of Judaism.  It all of course would take financial backing and so that’s the difficult part.  There is a generous national Jewish benefactor from Maryland who has offered this year to help with any positive Jewish ad run around the country, and hopefully we will be able to try that in our community, if our Board of Trustees deems it worthy.  We need to hear positive, good, and welcoming messages coming out of our ancient religion if we want it to flourish and grow.  It is that simple.  And we need to make annually a couple of very special events such as our Craig Taubman Shabbat, invite the community and let them know how wonderful Judaism can be.  And we need to do it regularly and repetitively. Judaism needs to market itself, and of equal importance it needs to deliver an inspirational faith. 

Now comes maybe the easier but much more involved part.  Every one of us is part of the real branding of Judaism.  By every single action we take we are part of the branding of Judaism.  Do we choose to conduct our lives like Bernie Madoff, who through his unscrupulous actions might have set Judaism back as much as Apple’s vast advertising campaign set that company forward, or do we choose to live our lives as our prophets have taught us?

2700 years ago the prophet Isaiah taught the following:

Your hands are stained with crime

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil doings

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

Those are the words of Isaiah.  Now consider: 

Every time, we in our actions stand up for justice, we help rebrand Judaism. 

Every time we reach out to those who are wronged and do what we can to lift them up, we help rebrand Judaism.

Every time we help the sick, the orphan, the widow, and the poor, by our actions we help rebrand Judaism. 

So what will you do this year to live that eternal message?  Will you help me rebrand Judaism or will you be part of our dilemma.  I ask you consider your actions, the motivations in your heart, and join me in bringing honor to God and our ancient faith.

Change In Color: Rosh Hashanah Message

“Father’s Memory” by Donald Kunstadt, acrylic on canvas

Transformation is the eternal theme for this evening.  The inevitability of transformation in our lives is clear, however much we wish to recognize it or not.

 Just one month ago Patti and I did some personal transformation in our home.  Our middle child Ethan has moved out of his room – entirely out of his room, permanently.  That meant that I rented a U-Haul trailer, which I attached to my old truck – I’ve been here long enough to get that Alabama spirit – and took all his possessions from his bed to his dresser to his new apartment in Birmingham, Alabama.  Patti and I had an empty room and we needed to transform it.

 Patti you probably know is a trained graphic artist.  You might know among my many hobbies I also paint.  I took it up about five years ago, and stopped about three years ago.  Patti and I decided to transform what had been Ethan’s room into an art room.  She has her table to work on and I have my easel to work on.  We both face away from each other when we work.  It prevents competition which there really can be none because she knows what she’s doing.

 We transformed the room.  You would never know it’d been a bedroom.  This evening I want to teach you a lesson about personal transformation, a simple lesson but one central to this holy night.

 I’m going to teach you the lesson by teaching you a little bit about art.  If any of you ever tried to paint you might know it’s on the one hand one of the most enjoyable, pleasurable and creative endeavors a person can involve him or herself in.  On the other hand it can also be extremely frustrating.  Nothing is more frustrating when you want a picture to look a certain way, but it doesn’t.  I find myself lost in time when I’m working upon a picture.  The clock is behind my back.  Sometimes I can work for hours and feel it was only minutes.  But sometimes the frustration builds, and I’m convinced I have to change something to get it right.  Life is a lot like that.  Sometimes the frustration builds and we don’t do what we need to do to get things right.  This holy night is one such opportunity, to change all that.

 So where’s the simple art lesson?  Here it is.  When something is not right in the picture there are often three solutions.  They are three precise, simple solutions.  Sometimes the color is just not right.  The color might be too hot when it should be cold, or too cool when should be warmer.  A hot yellow should really be a cool blue, or an ice cold purple should really be a warmer orange.  But this can all be changed.

 Sometimes something is so off the only way can be fixed is with an amazing product called gesso.  I learned about it in my first art lesson.  If something is not right you can take this amazing product and cover it over and you can start all over again.  It’s as though it’s a white clean canvas once more.  Everything is covered over completely.  You can’t see through it at all for it is completely opaque.  You have a blank slate before you once more, all open to your creativity.

 And there’s a third thing you can do to fix a picture.  It’s the most drastic but sometimes the very most liberating.  You see this can?  Sometimes nothing feels better than to take that piece of art and throw it in the dumpster.  You don’t want to cover it with gesso.  You don’t want to change the warmth of the coolness of the color.  You simply want to throw it away and start all over again with the cleanest of slates, a brand-new canvas.

 Now you know you didn’t come to Temple tonight for art appreciation 101.  You came here because it’s a tradition, because we are a Temple family, but you also know the theme is a new year, and a fresh new beginning for your life.

 So I’m going to ask you tonight when have you been cold to another human being like those cold colors I was talking about when you should’ve been warm?  When did your spouse try to talk with you and you were too busy to listen?  When did your child call you needing you at that moment for something critical in their life, but maybe not so important to yours, and you didn’t give your full attention or maybe you were too busy at work and never even got back to them?  When did someone reach out to you asking you to give your hard-earned money or time for a needy cause, and you were cold and said you didn’t have time for you said you didn’t have the money and you knew you really did?

 And what if you have been too hot tempered, like those hot colors I taught you about?  When did you burst out in anger when you could have kept your thoughts to yourself, and not hurt perhaps deeply the one you snipped at in anger?  You flew off the handle and you let those words out, words which will never be forgotten?

 At times changing color is not enough, and we simply need to whitewash things over and start with a clean canvas.  Remember that remarkable product I told you about called gesso – it works every time.  What is it that you need to cover over in your life right now, cover over and make it white as snow?  Only you know what it is.

 It reminds me of the story of the child who came home from school and showed his report card.  The parent looked at it and sees one A, to B’s, a C in a D.  And what does the parent say?  “How come you got a D?”  And when the parent says that the child’s face falls, deeply hurt the very core.  Now the parent realizes he should’ve said: I’m proud you got an A, and I’m pleased you got to B’s and C, and then asked him why he got the D.  But what you did last year is over.  The words you said cannot be taken back no matter how much you’d like to.  But this year you can do something entirely new when you are in the same situation or similar one.  You can cover over and make white as snow that type of hurtful talk, and do a much better job in this new year.

 Finally remember what I taught you about the most liberating thing you can do with bad art.  If something is really bad you have to just let it go, and move on to something new.  On this holy night you too can liberate yourself, from the hurt, the pain, from the jealousy, to start all over again.  To whatever extent possible the Jewish tradition tells us we are to apologize and to make amends for what we have done.  To whatever extent possible we are to undo what we’ve done wrong, the harm that we have done, the foolish things we had said, and start over with a clean canvas in this New Year.

 I ask you remember this message and take it home with you.  What are the colors of your life you’re going to change in this New Year?  What are the things you did that you need to whitewash over in the New Year so you can truly start fresh as though from the very beginning?  Finally some things must simply be thrown away.  Can you simply let go of the pain and suffering and the hard feelings you have experienced.  I promise you will be a happier human being when you do.

 May this year be a good year and a blessed year for you and your family and your friends.  May it be a year of love and understanding a year of peace and blessing.  To this may we all say Amen.

Micah’s Message For Today


Micah, the great prophet, who lived in the early 700s B.C.E., had timeless advice for our age.  His most succinct teaching is one worthy of remembering. 

“He has told you,  what is good, and what the Lord requires of you:  only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with God.”  6:8

Israel, Land of Refuge


Mikve Israel, Agricultural School, Israel

When I think of Israel I think of one story that was perhaps the single incident that propelled the idea of a Jewish state into reality.  The idea of Zionism was born out of the depths of European anti-Semitism.    Theodore Herzl was a young Austrian newspaper reporter who covered the trial of Captain Dreyfus in 1894.  Captain Dreyfus was a French Captain accused of being of traitor upon false charges.  When Dreyfus was found guilty of treason, the assembled crowd began to chant, “Death to the Jews, Death to the Jews.”    

Herzl was deeply moved by viewing the latent anti-Semitism of the French people. From this he concluded Jews could only live without persecution when a separate Jewish State was established.  Herzl’s idea was not new, but Herzl though his charisma and devotion laid the foundation for what would become the modern State of Israel. 

 A personal story.  In 1938 my father’s family had to flee for their lives from their native Vienna, Austria.  The only place in the world were my father could get a visa to enter was what was then British Mandate Palestine.  He was brought there under the direction of the Youth Aliyah, and was trained to be a farmer, at an agricultural school, Mikve Israel, which today is on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.  In 1948 this would become the State of Israel.  At the age of 16, all by himself, never knowing if he would ever see his family again, my father entered what today is Israel.    To Israel as a land of refuge, I am certainly grateful.

Did You Know Judaism Was a Missionizing Religion?


Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the religion of the Holy Roman Empire.

The single most important event in all Jewish history changing Judaism from being an active missionizing religion was the following edict by Emperor Constantine in the year 315 CE:

“I. Laws of Constantine the Great, October 18, 315: Concerning Jews, Heaven-Worshippers,* And Samaritans

We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to the flames and burn~ together with all his accomplices.

Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties.”

In one ruling Emperor Constantine made it illegal for Jews to missionize, protected Jews who became Christians, and forbade Christians from ever marrying Jews (this was in the second section of his law).  Imagine how many Jews there would be in the world today if Constantine had not banned Jewish missionizing?

A Rabbi Visits Berlin



Above first SS Headquarters Building in Berlin during WWII, and second new museum, “Topography of Terror”, built upon the site of the former SS Headquarters Building. 

So why would a Rabbi want to travel to Berlin, Germany?  Certainly there are more pleasant places to visit, from Tahiti to Hong Kong, on the bucket list of life.  Well, for one Germany is closer.  Second, I must admit a curiosity as to what modern-day Berlin is like.  It has a reputation for being über hip.  After traveling there I don’t know if I would characterize it in that way, however it certainly is a progressive city by American standards. Third, my father leaving Vienna at the age of 16 as a refugee from the Nazis must have had something to do with it. 

In fact I had traveled to Germany in the past, and found the German people to be among the very friendliest of all Europeans to Americans.  It does seem an odd turn of events that the Germans, at least ostensibly, would be the warmest of people to Americans.  Certainly it is hard to visit Berlin and not think of World War II, and all the people who died to vanquish the terror of the Nazis.  Bullet holes can still be seen in a few buildings if one looks carefully.  Sixty seven years later it is clearly a different generation.

We had the wonderful experience of spending two days with friends we had known from Mobile, Alabama.  They were both born in Berlin and both had experienced World War II as very young children, and lived through the immediate destruction in the aftermath of the war.  One friend’s father, I discovered, had lost his arm fighting in the German army against the Soviets as they entered Berlin.  My father had served in the American Army.

I will only elaborate upon one historical site for its Jewish significance.  There are certainly many to see: from the Holocaust Memorial to the new Jewish Museum. It is a new museum called the Topography of Terror, only recently opened, and built upon the site of the SS headquarters in Berlin.  Though almost all of the original building was demolished, to know one is standing on the site of the central Nazi police headquarters, the place from which a hideous reign of terror was orchestrated is a powerful emotional experience.  Today it is an outstanding museum documenting the rise of the Nazi movement.  In the pictures presented it is clear Hitler was an expert in media manipulation long before many realized the importance and effect of well-made propaganda.

How a country’s worst enemy becomes a country’s best friend is a powerful lesson in many things.  If ever there was a just war, it was the war against Hitler.  But still an estimated 50,000,000 to 70,000,000 people had to die.  And now Germany and the United States are the best of friends.  The banality of evil in war is almost incomprehensible, but unfortunately sure to be repeated.

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