Young German Jews Will Not Forget, Nor Are They Dwelling On The Past

A new report, Jewish life in Germany: achievements, challenges and priorities since the collapse of communism, has been released by the UK based Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

Written by author and journalist Toby Axelrod, it offers an overview of how Jewish life has changed in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the subsequent huge influx of Jews and their families from the Former Soviet Union.

The report, based on interviews and focus groups with German Jewish leaders, says that the question of whether Jews in Germany should be sitting on packed suitcases “has been answered with a resounding ‘no’ by prominent members of the community.” Yet the question of how safe Jews are in Germany remains alive and well.

The report further examines how the huge influx of Jewish immigrants from the FSU has totally transformed Jewish life in the country, whilst simultaneously throwing up a wide variety of new challenges. Chief among these is the issue of “Who is a Jew?”, and how community institutions manage their relationship with the many who self-identify as Jewish but are not halachically Jewish, as well as with the non-Jewish family members of Jews.

Whilst the report does not quantify the number of Israelis currently living permanently in Germany, it touches on a new Israeli cultural scene in Berlin, and claims that “it is more common to see Israelis moving to Germany than Jews moving from Germany to Israel.” However, the qualitative findings suggest that, on the whole, Israelis in Germany are not joining the Jewish community there.

The question of what the future holds remains open. Interviewees commonly saw clear indications of both vibrancy and decline. As the report states, “smaller cities are seeing ‘new’ Jewish communities dwindling. But there is definitely a much livelier, more diverse and ‘in your face’ Jewish life in Germany’s major population centres today than in 1989.”

The research was conducted by local experts on behalf of JPR and funded by Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe. The report is the third in a series (previous reports focused on Hungary and Poland) designed to assess the development of Jewish communities in East-Central Europe since the collapse of communism, as well as the challenges they face going forward.