Dear Brian and Lisa:
While sipping my tea this morning, I came across a quote by Rachel Naomi Remen: “The way to freedom from fear often lies through an open heart.” It made me think immediately of the Compassionate Journey in Berlin.
Before going on this delegation, I had viewed myself as being “narrow-minded” or “closed-minded” about Germany and Germans. I found justification for this for most of my adult life; indeed, there is a large community that supports such views. At a point when I recognized that this part of my life was totally out of sync with the rest of my values and my world view, I felt that my mind needed to be changed. The delegation to Germany was going to be that mind-opening vehicle for me.
Something else happened, however, on the evening of the 1st full day of the program: the ceremony of honoring our ancestors. As we gathered together around the table — Jews and non-Jews, Americans, Germans, British — and laid down pictures of our ancestors, lit candles, and told stories, my heart began to open. I felt connected to everyone in the room. And so it continued throughout the week. Each story, whether it came from someone in my pod, or an invited guest, or the Germans who joined us on the last weekend, or on a monument to those who perished, filled me with such compassion that at times I thought my heart could open no further. But it had no bounds. And the fears that I came with were gone.
So now I know that it was about being “closed-hearted” rather than “closed-minded”. Or maybe they exist in tandem. My childhood reactions to the Holocaust of fear and hate certainly closed down my heart and altered my capacity to love fully. I still find it difficult to explain to people the profound impact the experience had on me; I know that it is one of the most important things I have done. I am so grateful to you both for being such wonderful models of love and compassion and including me in your embrace in Berlin.
L’Shana Tova! May both of you be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year and continue your marvelous work.