web analytics
February 1, 2015 / 12 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


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
The United States condemned Iran for honoring Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh but is not so bothered when Abbas honors PA terrorists.
CIA, Mossad Collaborated on Killing Hezbollah No. 2 Leader in Damascus
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Sara Lehmann

It is hard to believe that only one hundred years ago religion played such a central and accepted role in the personal and governmental lives of American citizens that its invocation was standard.

Arieh King

We see pictures of mosques, monuments for terrorists, illegal schools, and hundreds of apartments being built on Jewish land without repercussions. We are losing Jewish property, so it is up to us to protect it.

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.

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.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: