Germany’s Jewish community is growing fast – without me

February 12, 2008

Tonight, Rabbi Josh Spinner gave a lecture at Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. Rabbi Spinner is the vice presidenRabbi Spinnert of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, a well-intended organization that aims at rebuilding and strengthening Jewish life where the Holocaust has left few traces of it. The topic of Rabbi Spinner’s presentation: Why does Germany have the fastest growing Jewish community in the world today?

I don’t know Rabbi Spinner personally, but I know his yeshiva in Berlin and I guess the answer to his question involves the tens of thousand East European Jews who came to Germany after the collapse of Communism, some of which have children studying at the yeshiva…

In any event, I was wondering if Rabbi Spinner had read the brilliant article, which recently appeared in The Economist. The article basically said it all:

By the time the Berlin Wall fell, Germany’s Jewish community had only 30,000 ageing members and was dwindling rapidly. Today it is the third-largest, and the fastest-growing, Jewish population in western Europe, after France and Britain. Between 1991, when the country was unified and immigration rules relaxed, and 2005, more than 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union emigrated to Germany… In some parts of Germany, immigrants—usually referred to as “the Russians”—make up 90% of the local Jewish population.

Besides statistics, the article also pointed out, unfortunately quite correctly, how dissatisfied many German Jews are with this wave of immigration:

Established Jews find the newcomers anders (different from us), suspect that they are not “real” Jews and think they are mainly coming in search of prosperity and material help from the state and the community. “They take whatever they can get,” sniffs one.

It is toward the end of the article, however, that the authors brings the point home:

Germans will have to adapt to having a big, largely secular Jewish community. Established Jews will have to accept that the glory days of sophisticated German Jewry—from Albert Einstein to Kurt Weill—are gone forever.

At first, I was tempted to attend Rabbi Spinner’s lecture, not only because I grew up in Germany and thus witnessed the often-quoted “growth” first hand. But then I decided to spend my time on something else: filling out some paperwork for my upcoming aliyah… Good luck with your growth, Jewish Germany, you need it!



  1. “Germans will have to adapt to having a big, largely secular Jewish community. Established Jews will have to accept that the glory days of sophisticated German Jewry—from Albert Einstein to Kurt Weill—are gone forever.”

    Germany’s community was already before the “Russians” a secular community. Even in those communities, where the image (or better: the self-image) was that of an “orthodox” community one could rather speak of a “non-observant-orthodox” community. The days of Einstein and Weill had long gone, where destroyed with the German jewry of the pre-war times. The majority of the post-war jewry in Germany where jews from Poland and Hungaria, and in between some few German jews – survivors and remigrants like Heinz Galinski or Ida Ehre and others.

    IF there will be a lively orthodox life in Germany again – it will not be without the “Russians”. Therefore: good luck.

    And for you b’hatzlocha with your aliyah.

  2. […] Union who were flocking to cities across Germany in such numbers that, to this day, render Germany the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world. My friend and I worked as Lauder Fellows in Frankfurt am Main. Twice a month, we would drive three […]

  3. Some of the comments make me want to throw up. Didn’t the Jewish community of yester year learn anything? If push comes to shove, those that hate you will not care if you have Polish, German or any other nationality. Your education won’t mean a darn thing. You are Jewish, please don’t forget that so what happened during World War 2 will not happen again. As an African American, I have great admiration for the Jewish communities tenacity. Dividing into haves and have nots is not the way to go. Together you stand, divided you will fall.

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