web analytics
December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Columns »

Kiruv In Berlin?

One week after the 75th commemoration of Kristallnacht in November, my daughter landed in Berlin. In Israel this year for seminary, she and another girl were chosen by a rav in their school to accompany him to Berlin on a kiruv mission.

When my daughter first called me to request permission to go, I was struck by the irony of the suggestion. Kiruv in Berlin. Almost an oxymoron. For someone like me who has sworn never to step foot in Germany, granting her permission wasn’t easy. But in the end I relented. How can I tell my daughter not to do kiruv?

So off she went to the city of Kristallnacht and the cradle of Nazism to introduce the beauty of Judaism to the uninformed. Those uninformed make up approximately 120,000 members of Germany’s Jewish community, mostly Russian Jews who flocked to Germany after the fall of the USSR in 1989 in response to generous government incentives. Like the Jews of Russia who were completely detached from Judaism living under communist rule, these Jews are true examples of a “tinok shenishba.”

My daughter’s experience, though brief, was profound. She encountered mainly students, including a dozen girls studying in the new midrashah in Berlin. Though most were Russian-speaking German Jews, some were non-German Jewish students studying in local universities who were attracted by the kiruv programs. Most were eager to learn about Judaism and sincere in their motivation.

Proud as I am of my daughter’s enthusiasm and her proclivity for outreach, I somehow can’t shake a niggling regret that it had to be in Germany. As the daughter of a Hungarian mother who escaped deportation by running with her family from the Nazis and the daughter-in-law of a Dutch Jewish man whose parents were shot by the Nazis and who was liberated from Bergen Belsen at the age of 12, I am one generation closer to the Holocaust than my daughter. And one degree closer to the idea of shunning anything and everything German.

Many of my friends are children of Holocaust survivors. We grew up with the uncontested notion that buying German products was taboo and visiting Germany unthinkable. Though many countries were complicit with the Nazis during World War II, and many other nations over the centuries perpetrated vicious anti-Semitic acts against Jews, the sheer magnitude and horror of the Holocaust places Germany in a league of its own.

Indeed, there is an established Brisk shitah that categorizes the Germans as Amalekites. In Fate and Destiny, Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik refers to Nazis as Amalekites, citing his father Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik’s interpretation of Amalek as “any people or group that, filled with maniacal hatred, directs its enmity against” the Jewish people.

Though this is approach is not halacha, the Rav is known to have applied to Nazi Germany the precept that one may not derive material benefit from the products of Amalek. He even told Ben-Gurion after World War II that he was not permitted to accept reparation funds from Germany.

One may view today’s Germans as more conciliatory and apologetic toward Jews and think it unfair to hold them accountable for their fathers’ sins. However, anti-Semitism is alive and well in Germany. Though the most aggressive form of anti-Semitism can be attributed to the Muslim population there, both the far right and the far left of the political spectrum are plagued with nuanced anti-Semitism, much of it cloaked in anti-Israel sentiment.

Kiruv notwithstanding, is a country notorious for its systematic murder of Jews the proper site for rebuilding Jewish communities? Shouldn’t more be done to encourage Russian Jews in Germany who are interested in Yiddishkeit to emigrate to Israel rather than settle in a land drenched in Jewish blood?

About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

One Response to “Kiruv In Berlin?”

  1. Douglas Kent says:

    This isn't news. I remember listening to a speaker,Rabbi Moshe Dick who had come back from Berlin in 2000 and he told us much the same. Where I differ from the author is the assertion that these people should move to Israel. Germany is a blood drenched country. No doubt. But no matter how much you don't like to hear it,it is safer than Israel.Just read this very paper and Arutz 7.It is Israel's fault. When you release murderers your life is worthless in that country.Another thing not mentioned is that many Jews in Berlin are Israelis.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Dr. Ben Carson at the Western Wall.
Black GOP Leader Prays at the Western Wall for ‘Solomonic Wisdom’
Latest Indepth Stories
UN Flags

If the UN Grants national recognition to Palestine, why stop there? Tibet, Chechnya, Basque…

The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

More Articles from Sara Lehmann
Bret Stephens

What’s important is to make the case for Israel more forcefully and to give it the articulation that the next presidential candidates ought to have.

Annise_Parker

From Obamacare to Common Core to gay marriage, radical agendas are pushed through the legal system.

In the fury and flurry of publicity surrounding the Klinghoffer opera, another musical affront to Jews almost went unnoticed.

You’re not going to change public opinion. The media are so biased you can’t get your story through. But what counts is America.

I understand how two governments can negotiate a ceasefire, but terrorists by definition are not playing by the same rules as you are.

Like all patriotic Americans, I cheered implementation of the Bush Doctrine to preemptively protect American lives from the perceived threat of WMD.

Though the school district eventually pulled the assignment after coming under pressure, the fact that an American school would ask its students to debate whether the Holocaust was “merely a political scheme created to influence public emotion and gain” is both astounding and frightening.

It is not the role of schools or government to make people feel good about themselves. Self-esteem comes with productivity, not in the absence of it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/kiruv-in-berlin/2014/01/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: