I grew up in Prague, the Czech capital, the city of one hundred spires, the Maharal, the Golem, and Franz Kafka. During my childhood, which followed forty years of Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, Judaism held a stigma, surrounded by unbreakable silence. For me, the son of a Shoah survivor, this silence was only occasionally interrupted by stories and yellowed photographs of my perished ancestors. After my father passed away, I decided to explore my roots and deepen my Jewish knowledge. I began attending various Jewish activities and got involved in Jewish life in the Czech Republic. This journey brought me to the URJ Kutz Camp, where I worked a teacher, and to WUPJ’s Biennial Connections Conference 2013 in Jerusalem, where I met Rabbi Edward van Voolen, who invited me to the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany. This meeting changed my life - in 2014, I became a rabbinic student at Abraham Geiger College.
My rabbinical studies have been anything but silent. I have enjoyed learning from my teachers' origin place of Progressive Judaism, listening to their inspiring insights, witnessing the Jewish Renaissance in Germany, spending an incredible year in Israel, enjoying my interesting internships, and working with rabbis from all around the world. In just a few months, I am returning to the Czech Republic to take up the rabbinical tasks in Prague and a few other Czech cities. My mission is to teach, inspire, stimulate, motivate, break the silence, and help to renew Progressive Judaism in the Czech Republic; Judaism, which gives equal spiritual and leadership opportunities for both women and men!
One short story that illustrates the impact of your support: Just a few months ago, I officiated a Bat Mitzvah ceremony at the Jerusalem Synagogue in Prague, which turned out to be the very first Bat Mitzvah with a young woman reading from the Torah and preaching in that building. I cannot even describe how exciting and meaningful it was for me and all people present.
All of this would have not been possible without the support of Women of Reform Judaism. My colleagues, rabbinic and cantorial students from the Abraham Geiger College, and I are deeply grateful to you for supporting our studies and helping Progressive Judaism to flourish in post-Shoah Europe. Thank you so much for all you do and I hope to see you in Potsdam or Prague!
David Maxa is a rabbinic student at Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany and a WRJ YES Fund scholarship recipient.