Posts Tagged ‘identity’


A mere shadow of former glory

April 25, 2008

I just wanted to quickly point out an interesting article in the Spring 2008 issue of PresenTense. Brauna Doidge (pronounced Deutsch?) spent six week in the “new Jewish Berlin” and pretty accurately debunks the myth of the renewal of Jewish life there. 

Indeed, for each Jewish cultural event that occurs in Germany—the ordination of rabbis, the renovation of synagogues or a new Jewish museum—there is nothing short of a media frenzy. Many have a stake in this “renaissance”: Germans want to show their country has normalized, Jews want to celebrate growing Jewish communities, and the community itself is eager to prove it has recreated life in this formerly thriving center of Jewish activity. But for all the exciting news my Google results offered me, I found an all-too typical Jewish community: racked by in-fighting and pettiness and a mere shadow of its former glory.

Read the entire article here.



German Rabbi: Better be a Jew in Germany than in France

February 22, 2008

This is a pretty standard report on the Jewish community in Germany by RussiaToday, an “English-language news channel to present the Russian point of view on events happening in Russia and around the globe.” The interesting part is toward the end, where Rabbi Yitzchak Ehrenberg speaks. He is the chief rabbi of the Orthodox community in Berlin and also the head of the O.R.D., the conference of Orthodox rabbis in Germany.

Rabbi Ehrenberg said that he feels safe walking the streets in Germany, and, however “perverted” that may be, it is better to be a Jew in Germany than in Belgium or in France. Yet, he “can’t say that the Germans hate us less than the French… Yes, the hate is there, but it’s hidden.”

If the Germans really hate the Jews just as much as the French, then why is it better to live in Germany? Because the hate is hidden? Well, thank you very much. From a rabbi I would have expected he’d rather live in a place where there are Jewish schools, synagogues, kosher shops and restaurants, etc. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that French synagogues don’t pay their rabbis as well as German synagogues…


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!


“No future for me:” Why young Germans in New York don’t want to go back

February 7, 2008

As the spring semester unfolds, hundreds of Jewish foreign student in their last semester on American campuses start worrying about their future in this country. Visa restrictions make it increasingly harder for non-Americans to stay in the U.S. after graduation. The interesting question is, however: Why do so many young Jews leave their home countries to come here? Most Jewish students from Europe and Latin America come from wealthy or at least comfortable backgrounds. Also, many of them grew up in thriving Jewish communities. Or did they? An article that appeared a while ago in the Jerusalem Post tells the story of three German and two French Jews who came to New York to study and decided to stay. While some had no problems getting the required papers, for others it was – and still is – very difficult. But apparently the hardships are worth it, because nobody wants to go back.

One thing was always clear to Nowbakht: He would not stay in Germany, although he said he enjoyed his childhood there. “It’s tough to live in Germany as an Orthodox Jew. There’s no future for me there.”

Luckily, he had no serious problems obtaining a work visa. One of his friends, also from Germany, did not fare as well:

The 25-year-old, who withheld his name because he is currently “unlawfully present” in America, spent about $17,000 on legal fees, appealing and reapplying, but to no avail.

Read the entire article here.