WITH RABBI CHAIM ROZWASKI
Without going into a lengthy
autobiography, what caused you to making Judaism so central to your
Judaism was a natural part of my life from birth. As a child I knew only
my Jewish home, family and town. We lived in a small town that was 80
My home, my street, my whole life was within, with, and around Jews.
There was no question of outside inside relationships the Non-Jewish
neighbours were friends.
When War break out it was someehing which I heard about and saw but
could not understand.
As I grow older I began to realize that we were being killed because we
were Jews and everybody including our neighbours were trying to kill us.
The idea of blaming Judaisms for my jewish condition did not enter my
mind and did not exist.
After the war I naturally continued with my life as a Jew.
I began my education after the war in the DP Camps of Germany and was
educated in Zionist and Jewish thinking. That process of education
continuees to this day. So, to make it short, to me to be a Jew is my
very existance and Judaism is as an integral part of my life as air is
to my breathing.
What is your denominational history? How were you raised? What
denominational affiliation do you currently hold? How important is
denominationalism to you personally and to Judaism as a whole?
I grew up as a Jew without being
aware of the different movements in Judaism.
In my home town we had only one Jewish Community. Today it would be
classified as an Orthodox community. There were various cultural and
political groups but from the point of view of religion it was a
strictly orthodox Jewish community. There was nothing else.
I am an orthodox Jew. The modern movements of Judaism today are an
outgrowth of the political, social and demographic changes over the last
200 years. They are still in formation and it is premature to say what
they will ultimately turn out to be.
I view all the movement of Judaism like branches on a tree. They all
belong to the same stem. So are we also. We are all part of the same
tree that is Judaism and the jewish people.
Judaism rests on three
major categories: God, Torah and Israel. How do you currently understand
each of these terms?
To me the most important aspects of Judaism are the concept that Gd,
the Torah and the Jewish people are one. God represents the Religious
dimension of Judaism.
The Torah represents our link
with Gd and each other and is the source and purpose, or the raison
detre" of Jewish existence. The Jewish people represents the vehicle
for the expression and manifestation of Gd and the Torah in the world.
No one of the three parts of Jewish reality can survive on it own
without the other.
An additional and equally
important, part of my beleave is the principle of Darchej Shalom". The
ultimate blessing that Gd gives the Jewish people is peace. That, the
persuit of peace amongst us, must be the most important principle and
focus of our lives, especially in our century, because of the Shoah.
Therefore, I believe that Shalom amongst ourselves is more important
than ideological purity and interest.
Harmony amongst us is more important than the pursuit of the success of
our individual religious movement.
Community unity is more important than the ego gratification of any one
individual or group.
The path to achieving peace is the way of humility in personal, and
public life. It is a virtue from which we can all learn and benefit.
What do you believe to be
the central challenge facing contemporary Judaism in general / in
The greatest challenge for Jewry and Judaism today is Jewish education.
Judaism can survive best when the Jews are educated most.
The challenge for the Jewish community is to develope an educational
outreach to all the members of the community.
That educational program must be inclusive and basic.
Inclusive means reaching out to all members of the community and basic
means it must address the fundamental tenets of Judaism, our rituals,
holidays, kashruth and history, before engaging in ideological disputes
How are you addressing
This can be best implemented through the development of educational
programs in all parts of the city where there are centers or places of
Jewish residents. Each synagogue should develope on educational outreach
program for ist members and their families. These programs should
consist of the basics of Judaism and Jewish life. They should also be
offered in Russian. I am trying to do that wherever possible including
speaking in Russian.
Given that this interview
is being used as an introduction to you and your work, what three things
do you want people to know about you?
It is very important to me that the readers of this pages know that they
can turn to me for advice, guidance and help wherever possible and that
I have an open door for them.
Furthermore I want them to know that Judaism and Jewish living is the
essence of my life and that they may always come to me with questions
about it. They should also know that I love Judaism and the Jewish
While your interests are
wide is it often true that teachers have an essential message they wish
to impart. Is that true of you? And, if it is, what is your core
The most important mission of my life is to serve Gd,
to teach Judaism and the Torah, the love of Gd and the Jewish people
and the land of Israel.
What is the current focus of your work?
The main focus of my work is to serve the needs of the Jewish people and
the teaching of Judaism.
What kind of support are you in need of?
The best support I can receive from the community is for it to be united,
focused on the advancement of Jewish education for young and old
keep the mizvot, love each other and be vigilant in support of Israel.
What is your special wish
for Jewish Community in Berlin?
I wish the Jewish community would
be more structured, orderly and cohesive.
It should be focused on living Jewishly with all our children receiving
a more intensive Jewish education and the parents participating in the
religious services and be involved in the life of our people. I wish we
would care more about each other and especially more about our elderly.
In short I wish for all of us a happy harmoneous life.
Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski serves as
liberal rabbi of Jewish Community in Berlin
Berlin, July 2001 (questions by
hagalil Juli 2001