Should a Jew avoid living in Germany? What about doing business there?
A Jew should live in Eretz Yisrael – certainly not in Germany, but also not in the United States.
It is a Torah commandment to make aliyah, and all of the excuses that were once cited against moving to Israel have no substance today. There is much more Torah in Israel than in any other country. In Israel, people live longer than in any other country. In Israel, the health care and health insurance is as good – if not better – than in any other country.
There is no reason why Jews should not come home to Israel. There is very little assimilation in Israel – in contrast to other places where there is a great amount. When a Jew makes aliyah, he or she can be sure, to a very great degree, that their children and grandchildren will remain Jewish. Jews in the Diaspora cannot be certain of this.
Someone who falls away from the Torah in the Diaspora is likely to enter a forbidden relationship with a non-Jew and be disconnected from Am Yisrael. How can a Jew give up on having Jewish grandchildren? Who can guarantee that he will be protected and saved from this?
There is no guarantee, and we are not allowed to rely on miracles. One is obligated to make aliyah and participate in the redemption of Am Yisrael from galut since every Jew who makes aliyah plays an active part in the geulah.
— Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzefas
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Allow me to cite a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe in which he addresses whether it’s appropriate to buy German products. His response can be applied to the question of living or doing business in Germany:
“I am in receipt of your letter in which you ask my opinion ‘as to whether it is a weakness or impropriety’ to avoid the purchase of goods made in Germany. You add that you ask this question as a Jew, in light of Jewish law and custom.
“Surely this is more a matter of feeling rather than a question of Jewish law and custom. Consequently, as in all matters of sentiment, it is difficult to express an opinion that would have universal application.
“At any rate it certainly cannot be categorized as a ‘weakness.’ On the contrary, a decision of this kind bespeaks strength of will, all the more so since it entails some inconvenience.
“Nor can it be considered an ‘impropriety,’ since it is based on a principle which may be considered to come under the category of ‘Remember what Amalek did unto you.’…
“While on this subject, a point must be made which, unfortunately, is often overlooked. It is that the so-called ‘Final Solution,’ which Hitler wished to bring about, can take various forms. It can take the form of an overt attempt at physical extermination, or it can be an insidious process…through assimilation and intermarriage….
“It is too painful of a subject to dwell on here, but the conclusion is obvious. Each and every one of us…must do everything possible to counteract the tide of assimilation by positive and dedicated action, to strengthen the eternal Jewish values and Torah-true institutions in his community and environment.”
— Rabbi Simon Jacobson, renowned
Lubavitch author and lecturer
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I believe Jews are required to live in Israel (I say this as someone still stuck in the exile). So really the question is: If circumstances push or force someone to live elsewhere, should Germany’s Nazi past mean we should reject Germany as an option?
The truth is, I wonder about rebuilding destroyed communities anywhere not absolutely necessary. Why invest the time, effort, and resources into building a Jewish communal structure in places where it existed and was destroyed? Just as one can ask, “Why move to Germany?” one can ask, “Why move to Poland, the Czech Republic, or Hungary?”
As for doing business in Germany: My father, a”h, spent World War II hiding in the hills of Italy after having fled Croatia. We did not buy German products when I was growing up because the memory of what Germany had done was so raw.
In the intervening half-century, however, Germany has paid billions of dollars in reparations, built good relations with the state of Israel, and has been a largely responsible and praiseworthy world actor (by taking in Syrian refugees, for example).
You can’t buy absolution, but Germany models repentance pretty well – by acknowledging its sin, regretting it, resolving not to do it again, and repaying what it can. Between doing business with Germany or problematic countries like Russia and China, I think we should choose Germany.
I think Germany has made the best possible argument for keeping it as a memory that has receded just enough to leave room for a new chapter in the relationship.
— Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, author, regular
contributor to www.Torahmusings.com
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All Jews should live in Israel.
There was a period of time right after the Holocaust when there was discussion of imposing a cherem on Germany similar to the one placed on Spain after the Spanish expulsion of 1492.
Singling out Germany, though, tends to sideline the horrors perpetrated throughout Europe in recent and medieval times. There is hardly a country on that continent that didn’t persecute, torment, and expel Jews. German Jew hatred was unique in the magnitude of the evil deeds it inspired, but it was the culmination and apogee of European Jew hatred of more than a millennium.
Germany today is not the Germany of the Holocaust. Ironically, there are few places in the world in which the Holocaust is as tangibly felt as Germany. I have visited several times and was overwhelmed by the public manifestation of Holocaust history in, for example, Berlin, which has numerous photographs and exhibitions on its streets. A picture and caption reminds everyone that, here, on this street on this date, this number of Jews were deported to their deaths.
This is in addition to the ubiquitous Stolpersteine – brass plates embedded in sidewalks containing the names and dates of deportation of German Jews who lived in the adjacent apartment. I saw these in Berlin and Cologne. Once you grasp what they are, you can’t ignore them. They are eerie reminders of the lives that were brutally ended.
Many young German citizens with whom I’ve spoken feel no guilt over the Holocaust (they didn’t perpetrate it), but they do feel shame that their country committed such a horrendous evil. It‘s not a reason to live there or do business there, but, as for the latter, prosperous Jews walking around Germany is living proof of the failure of their ancestors to destroy us. Am Yisrael chai.
— Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the Israel regional
vice president for the Coalition for Jewish Values