On the Trail of Luther and Rashi in Worms / Warmaisa

Dr Deborah Weissman, ICCJ’s Immediate Past President, was invited to Worms (Germany) as panelist at an interreligious panel discussion on “Freedom of Conscience in Our World” hosted by the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau and the City of Worms.

I recently returned from a short, busy visit to Germany. ICCJ General Secretary Anette Adelmann took care of me in her home city of Frankfurt and after Shabbat we travelled to Worms. The Ecumenical Center of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau (Evangelische Kirche in Hessen und Nassau, EKHN), who have been our friends and colleagues for many years, were holding a conference within the scope of the “Luther Decade” (2008 – 2017) organized by the Protestant Churches in Germany in preparation for the 500 year jubilee since Martin Luther and the foundations of Protestant Christianity in 1517. Our host was Rev. Detlev Knoche, Director of the Ecumenical Center of the Protestant Church in Hesse and Nassau.
On Sunday morning, I appeared on an interdisciplinary (philosophers, theologians and educators) and interreligious (Christians, a Muslim and a Jew) panel on the Freedom of Conscience. The other participants were: Prof. Volker Gerhardt (Professor of Practical Philosophy / Germany), Prof. Jacob Emmanuel Mabe (Professor of Intercultural Philosophy / Cameroon), Rev. Nikolaus Schneider (former President of the Protestant Church of Germany), and Dr Nayla Tabbara (Director of the Adyan-Institute / Lebanon).

(from left to right: Prof. Volker Gerhard, Prof. Jacob Emmanuel Mabe, Alrun Kopelke (Moderator), Dr Nayla Tabbara, Dr Deborah Weissman, Rev. Nikolaus Schneider)

After the panel Anette kindly took Nayla Tabbara and me to the historical heart of Jewish Worms (in Jewish sources well known as Warmaisa – one of the famous ShUM cities), dating back more than 1,000 years. We saw the Jewish Museum, the synagogue, the ritual bath and the place where Rashi taught. Rashi was probably the greatest Bible and Talmud commentator in medieval Jewry. He lived most of his life in Troyes but also for a few years in Worms.
It was very special for me to visit these sites with two impressive women – a Christian and a Muslim – not least because there is a tradition that Rashi had no sons but that his daughters were quite independent and learned.

I wish all those who will be celebrating Pesach at the end of this week a very joyous and meaningful festival. Pesach, of course, carries a universal message of freedom and liberation, so my best wishes to all

Debbie Weissman