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New study of German Jewish life

New study of German Jewish life

The renewal of Jewish life in Germany comes under scrutiny this week in a new JPR report in its series on the Jewish communities of countries which experienced communist rule.

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.” “With all its neuroses, its ambivalences and lurking threats, Germany is home.” Yet the question of how safe Jews are in Germany remains alive and well.

The report 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 Jews but are not halachically Jewish, as well as with the non-Jewish family members of Jews.

The question of what the future holds remains open. Interviewees commonly see 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 the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe. The report is the third in a series 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. To date, JPR has published reports on Jewish life in Hungary and Poland. Each report is published simultaneously in English and in the vernacular and is available in both languages. A report on Ukraine will be published in early 2014.

To download the report in English click here

To download the German language version, click here

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