Today was a holiday-themed day. After singing a Christmas lessons and carols service with my choir in the morning, I browsed in Christmas markets with a friend before heading to Temple Beth Shalom’s Hannukah party. There, I sang songs, listened to stories about Chelm, and ate enough latkes and jelly donuts to last for eight days. (After all, this is the only Hannukah party I get this year!) After the food, the Hannukah party turned into a dance party, and I learned that my friend Jesse (also American, studying abroad in Munich) knows how to Lindy Hop. I’m a bit rusty (it’s been a year and a half), but we still managed to impress our fellow party-goers.
(I’m also singing in the rain, but that’s just because I like to sing while I walk, and Munich has been having dismal weather lately.)
I spent my year at Cambridge swearing I would not join a college chapel choir. A free meal and some voice lessons were not worth the commitment of two rehearsals and a service each week. Of course, immediately after arriving in Munich, I joined a church choir (also Anglican) and committed to two rehearsals and a service each week in exchange for voice lessons (and no free meals). Makes perfect sense, right?
There’s exactly one (small) non-orthodox synagogue in all of Bavaria, so choosing a synagogue for this year was pretty easy. After one Shabbat, I can confidently say that it’s a wonderful synagogue, too, with welcoming members, a charismatic rabbi, and lots of singing (albeit with tunes that differ from the ones I grew up with).
But something surprised me about my first encounter with Judaism in Munich: the security. There have been a lot of news articles recently about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, so I suppose it makes sense that Jewish communities are being careful, but it was nonetheless unexpected.
Beth Shalom does not publish the location of their services online. To be told where to go, you have to contact their office and send them a copy of your passport. Despite that precaution, there is a police car with officers stationed outside the building all service, every service. This makes for a somewhat intimidating initial impression!
I’m wondering whether the high level of security is due to past incidents, threats, or simply local policy. Does anyone know whether similar precautions are normal in other European cities?