web analytics
March 5, 2015 / 14 Adar , 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?

Though some Jews might relish the thought of flaunting the rebirth of Jews in Deutschland, perhaps we should look to a different precedent and examine the well-known cherem placed on any Jew living in Spain following the Spanish Inquisition. That famous prohibition follows a lesser-known cherem said to have been placed on the city of York, England, in response to the massacre of Jews there in 1190.

Though no cherem was placed on Germany following the Holocaust, my soul cries out against the resurrection of anything Jewish there. The Holocaust was the single biggest and cruelest atrocity committed against the Jews and it happened in many of our own lifetimes. Though my opposition to the resuscitation of Jewish life in the graveyards of Germany cannot claim any halachic authority, shouldn’t an emotional response have a measure of validity?

I am a firm advocate of kiruv and by no means support the abandonment of our Jewish brothers and sisters wherever they may be. But at what price? I know that if I had been asked to go to Berlin on a kiruv mission, I would not have been able to go through with it.

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.

Current Top Story
An Arab sheikh hands out flowers in a gesture of brotherhood and good will.
Haifa U Research Confirms, ‘Think Good & It Will Be Good!’
Latest Indepth Stories
Mordechai on the King's horse, being led by Haman

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.

Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.

Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Obama created the “partisan politics” by asking Dem. party members to avoid Bibi and his address

Enough is enough. The Jewish community has a big tent, but the NIF should have no place in it.

I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites

Obama’s real problem is that he knows Netanyahu has more credibility on the Iran issue than he does.

Kristof’s op-ed “The Human Stain” was flawed and wrong; more than anti-Israel, it was anti-Semitic.

“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt-how undeterred by fear of G-d”

More Articles from Sara Lehmann

In his September speech to the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed to that fox when he compared Iran to the Nazis.

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.

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.

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

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: