More than 60 years after serving as a way-station for Jews on their way to concentration camps throughout Eastern Europe, the town of Liebenwalde played host to a weekend retreat for more than 130 Jewish professionals and their children.

Organized by Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin, the July 17-19 retreat combined Shabbat services, gourmet dinners, in-depth classes and a Sunday-morning hike, all from a luxury hotel 40 miles outside of the German capital and less than 10 miles from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

Inspirational speaker and scholar Sara Kaplan of Safed, Israel, and noted author Rabbi Nisson Dovid Dubov of Wimbledon, England – whose family lived and fought during World War II – lectured during the retreat.

“I couldn’t help but remember the words we recite each Passover” Dubov said of the historic nature of the gathering. “ ‘In every generation they have arisen to destroy us, yet You have saved us from their hand.’

“I took my sweetest revenge for what happened here,” he continued, “in seeing the rebirth and growth of a dynamic community led by such charismatic people.”

For her part, Kaplan was also impressed with the Berlin community.

“It was very moving to meet so many families. Each member of the community is really growing, strengthening their relationship with G‑d and with the Jewish people,” she stated. “I came home very inspired.”

Beyond the Past

Participants described the atmosphere as “electric.” Rabbi Yehuda Tiechtel, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Berlin, said that he and his staff organized the retreat in part to highlight the dedication shown by individual families to strengthening a community that has experienced exceptional growth, both in numbers and communal involvement, over the past few years.

“We wanted to do something special for families who have been involved in Chabad over the years and who regularly attend our events,” said Tiechtel. “We wanted a program that would go beyond anything we’ve had until now.”

One of Germany’s largest newspapers ran an article headlined “Prayer in Prussian Hall” praising the retreat, and noting the sense of irony and victory in having such a program in Liebenwalde.

Participants, though, were not focusing on the past. The weekend’s themes, instead, looked at the strength and beauty of a Jewish home.

While the parents were learning, the children enjoyed a variety of activities, from workshops to swimming.

“I was filled with excitement to see such a wonderful community here,” said Dubov. “They are growing in both numbers and in commitment, and it was a beautiful weekend.”