German Jewish Dialogue Shabbat Dinner
by Lewin Nolden

German Jewish Dialogue Shabbat Dinners that bring together young Germans and Jewish university students are an annually held event organized by the ARSP volunteer at the American Jewish Committee in Washington, DC 

Shabbat Dinners attended by American-Jewish and German Students and Interns are meant to provide room for intercultural and interreligious dialogue. Especially for the German participants, this is often a new experience, since most of them never participated in a Jewish service before. The Jewish participants can learn about modern Germany and both, groups are able to share their personal family stories.

The first Shabbat Dinner in 2018 was held at George Washington University on March 2nd in cooperation between GW Hillel, Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, American Jewish Committee and Action Reconciliation Service for Peace with around 60 participants.

George Washington Hillel, a student club that brings together Jewish students on the campus, organized a traditional Shabbat service with explanations for the German participants. The students shared bread and wine listening to traditional Jewish prayers, followed by a kosher dinner buffet.

While dinner was served, three speakers gave short remarks to provide the participants with content to talk about later during the evening. Mark McGuigan, ARSP’s US Program Director shared stories about ARSP’s engagement in the US and worldwide, encouraging students to get involved in the German-Jewish dialogue and to actively remember the Holocaust. After that, Nicole Johnson from the Heinrich-Böll-Foundation North America explained the concept of German party foundations and their commitment and contributions to the German-Jewish and the transatlantic dialogue.  Finally, Gideon Culman, a Germany Close Up alumnus and American Jew who grew up in Germany shared his experiences of living in modern Germany as a young Jew. He talked about his experiences with antisemitism as well as his personal family history rooted in Germany, which he was able to discover while living there.

After the remarks, participants started to exchange their thoughts on German-Jewish history and modern-day dialogue. The discussions went on with the last students leaving almost 4 hours after the beginning of the event. Many participants were moved by their experiences and enthusiastic about an ongoing exchange.

There was also a German Jewish Dialogue Shabbat Dinner at American University and George Mason University in cooperation with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation.

The Photo is showing the speakers and Lewin who helped to organize the event. Left : Mark McGuigan (US Program Director of ARSP), Gideon Culman (AJC Access Board & Germany Closeup Alumni) and Nicole Johnson (Boell Stiftung)