Hechingen: Where Dreams Come True
Bisingen / Hechingen, Germany
The "Old Synagogue" Of Hechingen
A group of Russian Jews from the former USSR, who have settled in the last two years in Hechingen, was the reason for the chair of the association "Old Synagogue Hechingen", in co-operation with the Israelite Religious Community of Stuttgart, to try and hold a Purim Service. Thus, for the first time in 65 years, the Synagogue of Hechingen, hosted around 40 Jews from Hechingen and Tubingen along with their Jewish guests and their friends from the association. They held a religious service on the eve of Purim, naturally in the presence of regional press representatives.
The country Rabbi of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Nethanael Wurmser, who had come together with the executive of the Israelite Religious Community, Arno Fern from Stuttgart, spoke of an event of which there was no example in Germany. "I am happy to be here in this amazing Synagogue", was a further comment from him. He had no doubt about the significance of this historical event for the Jews, for Hechingen and for himself.
The question of the seating arrangement, the choir had as yet no seats, was solved without difficulties: men sat at the front, women at the rear! Wurmser started the service with a cheerful song, leading the beat by clapping his hands and moving in dancing steps.
The reading of the Esther Scroll was made as cheerful as the opening song by rapping and portraying the main characters of the Esther story through different intonations. He was assisted in the opening and closing of the Scroll by Arno Fern and the audience had the option to follow the text in either Russian or German. During the Kiddush that followed, with its Hamman cakes, brought by the congregation of Stuttgart, and the occasional "le chaim" accompanied by a glass of wine, there was ample opportunity to make one another's acquaintance and hold many interesting conversations.
A memorable evening came to a close with the announcement that from May 2003, there would be a monthly Shabbat Service, lead by the Cantor Michael Pendler from the Israelite Religious Congregation of Stuttgart.
Another festive event then took place at Rosh Hashana. At first it was not clear who would perform the service, since Rabbi Wurmser was booked for that Time by the congregation of Stuttgart. Good advice was lastly provided by a lady friend of the Wurmsers, who lives in Nuremberg and did not want to be mentioned by name. Rabbi Wurmser who has been living in Germany for the last 6 years, since his arrival with his family from Israel, thought about the idea and decided that his two sons Izhak and Daniel Wurmser, would hold the service at Hechingen.
To the reader, this may not seem worth mentioning, but this was a special decision, because Izhak and Daniel left the Yeshiva in Israel at the ages of 15 and 13 and had just come from the Eshel Yeshiva of Strasbourg to spend the holidays with their parents in Stuttgart. So which Jewish family would like to be separated on the high holidays? The author of this report knows of no such family – and can therefore imagine the greatness of the Mitzvah, which the family Wurmser performed for the benefit of the Jewish citizens of Hechingen. This lady friend had brought with her from Nuremberg an Orthodox expatriate from Russia: Ephraim Jakubov, who acted as a mediator between the preachers and the congregation.
Photo: Art Publishing Firm PEDA, Passau, Germany
The Torah scroll had been brought by them on loan from Munich and thus there was no obstacle in the way of holding a fully Hallachic service during the festive season, unless the essential Minyan would not arrive on time. This was a further cause for concern, following Erev Rosh Hashana – but every time, ten or even eleven men had appeared – Baruch HaShem!
The women were able to follow the service with the choir and the kind lady from Nuremberg greatly helped me to follow the various proceedings and to read the Seder properly.
The two young men never allowed for a moment of the tiniest impression of uncertainty. They performed their task with great confidence and provided the necessary assistance to the small congregation. They miraculously managed to let the congregation take an active part and to involve the younger sons of those present with smaller tasks, such as assisting with the rising and lowering of the Torah. Seen from the choir, the picture of the small congregation, all wearing Kippot and wrapped in Tallitot, in front of the Bima and the Torah Shrine at the Synagogue of Hechingen, remains unforgettable. Special thanks to the Wurmser family, who made the sacrifice of separating during their high holidays and thus made the service possible.
I would also like to thank the lady from Nuremberg, who had looked after Izhak and Daniel and to Ephraim Jakubov, who conveyed the meaning of the Jewish New Year and contributed, through his understanding, the meaning of the different proceedings.
Although we were only a small congregation, it was an important and marvellous event for all present.
At the Sukkoth, for the first time in 65 years, the public became aware of the presence of Jews in Hechingen. A Tabernacle was built in a small passage between the left side of the Synagogue and the former Elias Moos House.
Chief Rabbi Wurmser himself had covered the roof of the Tabernacle with leaves and on Monday evening, the third day of the holiday, 35 Jewish people and members of the association "Old Synagogue" met, when the temperature was far from the climate of Israel, to hear the story of the feast of Tabernacle.
The somewhat prolonged waiting for our teacher, due to traffic congestion, was then rewarded. Jews and Christians, particularly Germans and residents of Hechingen, sat close together on the four benches, listening to the lecture by the Orthodox Rabbi. This image is in itself a miracle. Rabbi Wurmeser explained in picturesque and cheerful fashion the meaning and customs of the Feast of Tabernacle and even for an "authority" on the subject, there was something new to discover about one point or another. For example the comparison between the "chupa", the wedding canopy and the Tabernacles with its roof as a border between earthly and the heavenly, enriched our understanding of Jewish thought concerning the kindness of G'D. We were reminded that, on our earthly tour, there is no certainty and that we must continuously learn to place our trust in G'D. Sitting in the Tabernacle is also to remind us of our own transience and that we should always search for the contact with the ETERNAL, since we need HIM.
Rabbi Wurmser had naturally brought with him a festive bunch of "Arba Minim" and elaborated on the "ingredients" and about the specific attributes of an optimal Etrog. The uncommonly pleasant aroma of this fruit, which was passed along the line, made the taste of jam almost real on the tip of the tongue.
In the harmonious atmosphere, the community experienced not only an informative encounter but also a thought inspiring event. It holds a special place in the hearts of those, who at the end of 2003, participated in the festivities and services of the reborn Jewish community of Hechingen. Three services on Chanukah at the "Old Synagogue of Hechingen" will bring the year 2003 to its close and, with the help of the ETERNAL, after this exceptional new beginning, the way to continuity is bright and promising.
Written by U. Hentsch
Read about Jewish Life at Haigerloch:
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