It is customary during state visits by world leaders the guest and host to exchange gifts. This is not only a tradition but a protocol intended as a symbol of personal and diplomatic friendship.
But Michal Herzog and Elke Büdenbender, the wives of President Isaac Herzog and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, decided to do things a little differently when the Herzogs paid a state visit to Germany this week.
The two presidential wives decided to make a joint donation to the Chabad kindergarten in Berlin that relocated from Odesa, bringing refugee Jewish children to the German capital.
The Chabad Gan Israel
The Chabad Gan Israel in Berlin has taken in some 30 refugee children from Ukraine. Altogether some 150,000 Ukrainian children have found a haven in Germany and are studying in German schools.
Following the outbreak of war in Ukraine more than half a year ago, Chabad directors all over Europe realized that they would have to make preparations to absorb refugees.
The Chabad Israel Kindergarten already had 85 Jewish children ages three to four from the Chabad community of Berlin. However, it has always been a Chabad practice to make room for more – and this is what they did following the arrival of the youngsters from Odesa.
This is not the first time that the two women have embarked on a joint project. In January of this year, to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, they co-hosted a Zoom meeting of Zikaron Basalon (Living Room Remembrances), in which a Holocaust survivor told his story to them and to Israeli and German students.
As gifts between heads of state do not belong to them personally, the two women decided to forego a material gift and instead decided to benefit the children who had been uprooted from their families, their homes and their country.