Rabbi Emanuel Cohn
Former Avrech in Montreal (2001-2003)
Founder of “Torah MiCinema” – Teaching Film and Judaism
A couple of weeks ago I and my wife returned to Israel from a two-year Shlichut in Montreal. Our major Canadian souvenir, our ten-month-old Amiel Mor Eyal, seemingly enjoys the Holy Land (although in times of serious heat I see some nostalgia in his eyes to the – 30° Celsius of his birthplace…). We have finally moved into our new apartment on Emanuel Noah street number 13 in the German Colony in Jerusalem. Now don’t think I share with you this information – and notably in a forum where you expected a Dvar Torah…- in order to receive some welcome bouquets from you to our new home, rather I see my new address as the main reason for my recent spiritual high while building my Succah. Let me explain.
Who was Emanuel Noah? He lived between 1785 and 1851 and was an influential Jew in the United States. He came up with an original idea: On September 2nd 1825 he helped purchase 2500 acres of land on Grand Island in the Niagara Rivers, envisioning it as a Jewish colony. He even gave it a name: Ararat. Fortunately only few people took him up on his dream and the plan soon disintegrated. I don’t say “fortunately” only because the name of this potential Jewish State reminds us of a certain contemporary Nobel peace price laureate (…), but rather because Emanuel Noah’s vision was so opposed to all the visions I was teaching, while actually being very close to the place he envisioned as a Jewish colony… Even though Noah had noble intentions, i.e. providing a refuge for his Jewish brethren, he made a fundamental mistake.
There is not supposed to be any official Jewish state or colony or autonomy outside the soil which has been chosen and (therefore) sanctified by God. The Jewish People and the Land of Israel inherently belong together like body and soul. (In his defense I must add that in 1840 he reconsidered his plan and decided to support the Jewish settlement in Palestine.)
Since I mentioned that Emanuel Noah street is situated in the German Colony, let me ask you another question: Why was the “German Colony” given its name? This Jerusalem neighborhood was built in the 19th century by so-called “Templers”, a group of protestants from southern Germany who had rebelled against the established church and sought to return to their source (which, as we all know, is the biblical land of the Jews). Their goal was an educated, healthy community with no priests and no formal church. However, this German sect was outspokenly pro-Nazi during World War II, and with the outbreak of the war the Templers were deported en masse – mainly to Australia – by the British who governed Palestine at that time. And now I will kindly ask you to sit down for a moment. Opposite my window on Emanuel Noach street was the branch of the Nazi movement in Jerusalem!! And one block away was the Nazi cemetery…
And now let me share with you a last piece of information: My tiny street is a side-street to Emek Refaim street, in english “Valley of Ghosts”, a not at all spooky main street with a lovely atmosphere. A few weeks ago a Palestinian Suicide Bomber killed and injured many people at the entrance of Café Hillel – on Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony.
While I was building my – FIRST! – Succah, all these thoughts went through my head. I looked at the shaky wood planks and at the wobbly S’chach and understood. My Succah says everything. It stands in the place where a terrorist wanted to destroy Jewish Life, but succeeded only in destroying Jewish lives. It stands in the street in which a party represented the idea of destroying Jewish Life, but succeeded only in destroying Jewish lives. A street which is named – lehavdil! – after a pseudo-zionist Jew who did not believe in Jewish Life in this place.
And here I am, a young Jew in Emanuel Noah street in the German Colony in Jerusalem, leaving with my family the security of our house and moving into our shaky Succah with holes in its green roof – through which I see the sky and understand: Living in our Succah means putting ourselves and our destiny in the hands of G”d. Our Succah is the quintessence of the history of the Jewish people. You are welcome to join in!
Emanuel and Naomi Cohen served in the Montreal Torah Mitzion Kollel from 2001-2003. firstname.lastname@example.org