"One of the most interesting meetings we had was with Rabbi Jonah Sievers a native of Germany and Rabbi of Synagoge Pestalozzistraße. (Most Shuls in Germany, as in much of Europe, are named for the street on which they are located, in this case Pestalozzistraße.) This was one of the few shuls that was not destroyed in Kristallnacht, with “only” the inside being ransacked. This was due to it being physically attached to residential buildings and its sturdy fireproof material.
"After the war the shul was restored and now serves as a Reform Congregation. But as was the case with most Reform shuls in Germany men and woman sat separately and continue to do so today. As Rabbi Sievers explained most Reform shuls in Germany instituted much more modest reforms beginning with a sermon in the vernacular. It was the much more radical yet rarer version of Reform that was exported and further developed in America.
"Flipping through the siddur it was hard to find any substantive differences to the Orthodox siddur. It even has maintained korbanot, said as a way of yearning for the restoration of the sacrificial order, and the vast majority of the davening is conducted in Hebrew. As was common in all Reform congregations there is an organ and a mixed choir that sings unseen from the loft above and behind the aron kodesh. What was fascinating was the Rabbi describing how important maintaining the “traditional” German minhagim are and that if his shul does not do so many will be lost. Songs by the likes of Debbie Freidman or Shlomo Carlebach are not heard as it is the “traditional chants” composed by Louis Lewendowski that one hears. While some 70-80 people attend on a typical Friday night and about half that on Shabbat day that is the only day of week services are held.
"Ironically the largest Orthodox shul, Synagoge Joachimstaler Straße maintains few of the classical German minhagim. They do not have a choir though they do have a young chazzan with a beautiful voice and it was a treat to hear him daven. Kabbalat Shabbat was done to the nigunnim of Carlebach (while the Carlebach family is a German family and Reb Shlomo was born in Berlin escaping with his family in 1939, his tunes are much different than that of classical German nussach) complete with 20 minutes of dancing after lecha dodi. Rabbi Ehenreberg came from Israel some twenty years ago to lead the congregation. His warmth is evident and it is easy to see the love the congregation has for him. I was most impressed to see over 30 people at his pre-mincha shiur. The shul maintains a daily minyan both for Shacharit and mincha/maariv and offers free Shabbat meals to those who live in Berlin something that brings many to the shul."