Home
In this issue
April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Dec. 20, 2007 11 Teves 5768

Faith beyond the Atlantic

By Suzanne Fields


Printer Friendly Version
Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | BERLIN — The religious skirmishes in the American presidential war sometimes sound almost medieval, and it's probably true, as Mitt Romney said, that the cathedrals of Europe stand more as postcard backdrops than places where Europeans kneel in prayer. But religious faith prospers in the lives of many Europeans.


The religious focus here is of an entirely different order than in the United States. No one much cares that Angela Merkel grew up as the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman in Communist East Germany, where being religious was an invitation to official trouble and harassment. The omnipresent Stasi, the government's efficient secret police, lurked behind every cross, a symbol of the free society the communists hated. But freedom of religion was only one among many of the freedoms the Germans were denied in the East.


Germans enjoy neither freedom of speech nor separation of church and state as we know it. Germans are free to say whatever they like, as long as they don't say anything forbidden by the government such as anti-Semitic Nazi slogans. All "official" religious bodies must pay taxes to the state, and in return receive subsidies from the state. Curiously, the fastest growing religious community here is made up of Jews, partly because so few were left in Germany after the Holocaust. The number of Jews in Germany is estimated to be as high as 200,000. The big growth started after the Wall came down; 85 percent of them coming from the former Soviet Union, where they were denied freedom of worship.


The Germans, forever looking for ways to assuage their guilt over the Holocaust, have been particularly receptive to Russian immigrants who signify a revival — especially in Berlin — of a Jewish culture, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of Auschwitz.


On the first night of Hanukkah, I was invited to a menorah lighting at the Brandenburg Gate. It was sponsored by a group of Chasadim, whose head, a Brooklyn-born Jew, joined Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit to welcome hundreds of celebrants, most carrying sparklers and balloons. The mayor spoke of the lively Jewish community in Berlin, of the vigilance required to make sure Jews feel "at home and safe in Germany." The menorah shares space on the square with a beautiful Christmas tree — Mitt Romney would love it — as well as the sight of Jewish and Christian children singing and dancing together with glee, warmed by the flickering lights glazing the winter raindrops falling all around them.


The next day, I visited a Jewish kindergarten where the children sang Hanukkah songs and lit holiday candles. The kindergarten is housed in a compound with a beautifully renovated synagogue that the Nazis used as a horse stable. Here, Jewish men can study the Torah in a traditional yeshiva. This flagship center is run by Rabbi Josh Spinner, who was born in Baltimore and grew up in an Orthodox family in Canada. He is vice president of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, which aims to restore vital Jewish life in Eastern Europe. "Wherever there are Jews there should be Jewish life," he insists enthusiastically, aware of the impact such words have in the city where Hitler designed the Holocaust.


While Americans argue about the relationship between freedom and religion, Jews in Germany look to root their religion in everyday life. Sandra Anusiewicz-Baer, a pretty blond, blue-eyed Jewish mom with a 16-month-old baby in tow, wanted to talk to me about Familienmentsch: a quarterly Jewish parenting magazine she has started. It celebrates secular, liberal, conservative and orthodox Jewish identity and traditions.


The first issue is devoted to circumcision, which is a sensitive topic to Jews in Germany because that's how the Nazis identified Jewish men, since few other German men had been circumcised. When Sandra wanted to have a bris — the traditional circumcision ceremony — for her son, she didn't know how to arrange it. She discovered that many others wanted to learn more about Jewish religious and cultural traditions as well. She's published articles about circumcision from religious, historical, as well as practical perspectives and will approach other subjects in a similar way.


Several of her colleagues protested when she put a blond, blue-eyed baby on the cover, complaining that he didn't look Jewish. Stereotypes, she reminded them, are wrong. Besides that, the boy on the cover was her son. The magazine is about variety and tradition in the Jewish cultural experience. Her next issue will be devoted to Jewish kindergartens — the future of Jewish life in Germany. The question has shifted from why Jews would choose to live in Germany to how they will grow up as Jews in Germany. The importance of faith assumes greater importance when it is ruthlessly denied. It always does.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.

Up

Suzanne Fields Archives

© 2006, Creators Syndicate, Suzanne Fields

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles