Reception before the Lighting of a Menorah on Pariser Platz

Reception before the Lighting of a Menorah on Pariser Platz

 Reception before the Lighting of a Menorah on Pariser Platz
Berlin, December 12, 2017
CdA Kent Logsdon

 

Good evening.  Rabbi Teichtal, we are honored to welcome with you so many friends from the Jewish community, the German government, and the diplomatic community to the Embassy to celebrate with us the first night of Hanukkah.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are here in the Ernst Cramer Room.  When our Embassy was opened in 2008, a decision was made to dedicate our public conference room to the legacy of a man who was proud to be a German, an American, and a Jew.  Shortly before World War II broke out, Ernst Cramer received a visa from the old American Embassy building that stood here on this site on Pariser Platz.  He left for the United States in August 1939.  He returned to Germany in 1944 as an American citizen and as a soldier, only to learn that both his parents and his brother had died in the Holocaust.  Ernst could have returned to the U.S. after the war but instead he decided to stay in Germany and revive the cultural and civic values that he knew were such an important part of this country.  Ernst Cramer passed away in 2010 at the age of 96, but he would be very happy to know that this evening we are once again celebrating the first night of Hanukkah here in “his” room, in the room we use to engage our friends and partners in public discussions of our values and ideals, and how they shape the challenges and opportunities we face.

That is what the story of Hanukkah is all about.  It is the story of a people who have overcome overwhelming odds in order to live their lives and practice their religion in peace.  It teaches us that there’s no such thing as a small act of faith.  That is why a menorah is always placed in public view, so the entire world can see its light.  The candles on the Menorah remind us of the importance of perseverance in times of trouble.  They also illuminate a path forward.

In that respect, what more symbolic or public place could there be than Pariser Platz?  Disturbingly, anti-Semitism and other forms of religious intolerance are still with us – in Europe, in the United States, and around the world.  Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is not only a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but for people of all religions and all nationalities, to celebrate the common goals and desires we share.

May the lessons of Hanukkah inspire all of us to give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, to work together for a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow, and to find light in times of darkness.  Best wishes for a joyous Hanukkah and a wonderful holiday season.  Frohes Chanukka Ihnen allen!