The Refugee Crisis in Europe - Berlin

In light of the desperate plight of refugees pouring into Europe to find sanctuary, the Rabbinical Assembly has joined with many other organizations signing on to the Syria Coalition. All information for Jewish organizations is being channeled through the Joint Distribution Fund and the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief (JCDR). Donations can be sent to the JCDR thru their website where a comprehensive list of sponsoring organizations, resources and information can be found.  

We have reached out to our colleagues in Europe and will be including their reports in RA News  over the next weeks. We begin this week with Rabbi Gesa Ederberg from Berlin who writes about the involvement of her community:

The Oranienburger Strasse Synagogue is cooperating with a refugee shelter housed in the Catholic Hospital just behind our synagogue. A few months ago, they finished building a new wing and decided to offer it as a refugee shelter. Immediately, they sent out letters to all the other religious communities and other social institutions in the neighborhood, asking for cooperation.

Just as a side note: The hospital is located on “Grosse Hamburger Strasse”, next to the Jewish High School and the former Jewish Home for the Elderly that was used by the Nazis as a collecting point before deportation to the camps. Some people managed to escape and the nuns at the Catholic Hospital took them in, wrapped them in bandages, put them in beds, simulating intensive care and so saved their lives! And today, we are cooperating for new refugees.

Teenagers and parents from the synagogue and the Jewish High School helped setting up the rooms, assembling furniture, carrying mattresses, etc. Other volunteers help refugees deal with the bureaucracy, teach German, spend leisure time together, organize sport events and other outings. We collected clothing, bags, books to learn German and more. At another refugee center, volunteers from the synagogue renovated and furnished a playroom for children.

Last year the synagogue invited Syrian refugees as guests for our Chanukka party last year and went with our kids to another shelter (next to the Jewish primary school) to do arts and crafts with the children there.

At our party we had somebody from our Muslim sister congregation helping to translate my Chanukka explanations and the candle lighting berakhot into Arabic, and later we taught them to play with dreidels and other useful German words! One of our guests asked our Muslim friend (recognizable through her head covering): “Is such a relationship as we see here normal between Muslims and Jews in Germany?” and she answered (and told me so afterwards with a smile): “Yes, that’s normal.” This is the normalcy we want to create – and it would be great if you become part of it!

Right now, we are looking for support for German language books, printing a “Welcome"  brochure with useful (and sometimes unofficial) information, providing snacks and other support during the time when people are standing in lines waiting for registration, etc. It is so important to add a strong Jewish voice to the chorus of help – as you know, Germany expects 800,000 refugees this year – since it will shape the refugees’ view about how we want to live together in Europe in the future.

The easiest way to support this work is through a donation earmarked "Masorti Germany" to Masorti Olami: If you also send me an email ( saying that it is to support work with the refugees, the money will reach us safely and we will put it to good use.