Among the 800 guests jammed into Central Park’s Boathouse for the October 3 celebration of the 16th year of German Unity were Christo and his flame-haired wife, Jeanne-Claude, whose February 2005 “The Gates” installation in Central Park split New Yorkers into pro and con factions. They told me that their latest “wrap” oevre is “The River Project” in Colorado. After a formal receiving line handshake with Germany’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Thomas Matussek, and his wife, Ursula and Germany’s consul general, Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth and his wife, Lizabeth, guests headed to the buffet table, which were laden with roast suckling pigs, pates, wursts, herring-beet salads, pretzels and assorted cheeses. On a separate dessert table was a huge tureen of raspberry mousse topped by fresh raspberries, chocolate strudel and sublime Linzer tortes plus German wines including palate-tingling Rieslings. And at a discreet distance from treyf edibles was a large table with plastic covered platters of kosher food.
The Hans Wernicke Group jazz ensemble performed an un-strident, deconstructed version of Germany’s national anthem and a recognizable jazz interpretation of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Though the melody of Germany’s anthem remains unchanged, the new lyrics reflect the ethos of the 16-year-old unified Germany: “One state united for justice and freedom for the German fatherland.”
Defining Germany’s unification as “a velvet revolution,” Heimsoeth stated, “Germany’s unity, sovereignty… came at a great price.” He expressed gratitude to the United States” and touted the need for “unity… vital to the tradition we both inherited from our Judeo-Christian roots.” Amid the crush, I managed brief chats with Japan’s consul general, Motoatsu Sakurai; the American Jewish Committee’s Shula Bahat and Rebecca Neuwirth; Rabbi Arthur Schneier, senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue, and his wife, Lisabeth; Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the United Nations; Lubavitcher Rabbi Yisroel Ber Kaplan and Tennessee-born Rabbi Beryl Epstein of the Chasidic Discovery Center in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights area. According to Kaplan:
“We are one of Brooklyn’s foremost tourist attractions…. Two hundred Reform and Conservative congregations send their confirmation groups on our tours…. They come from all over the 50 states, more than 40 countries and 100 [international] universities…. From Amish to Zion-Coptics. In fact, we had an Amish bishop with a group of teenagers from Lancaster [Pa.] on a tour — the only ones to ever come from the Amish community.”