Du bow digest germany edition june 5, 2012

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Du bow digest germany edition june 5, 2012

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER 10 Voorhis Point, South Nyack, NY (845)353-1945 dubowdigest@optonline.netGERMANY EDITIONJune 5, 2012Dear Friends:I have returned from my trip to Germany where I staffed the American groupparticipating in the 32nd annual AJC – Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Exchange Program.I must say that it was a fabulous trip. Ingrid Garwels of the KAS put together aprogram that started in Berlin, took us to Erfurt, the Buchenwald Camp, Weimar andthen a return to the Haupstadt. Our venerable translator, Heiner Sussebach,accompanied us – for him the 22nd year in a row working on this program.I don’t get overly enthusiastic about most things but this program which, so far, haslasted almost a third of a century is something to shout about. More important,perhaps, is the fact that well over 600 people have participated in it since itsinception in 1980. It has had great impact on both sides of the Atlantic. If theimprovement of German – American Jewish relations is important, this program hasdone more than almost any other.I firmly believe that it would not have been possible for AJC to open its office inBerlin were it not for the fact that many AJC leaders first became acquainted with thenew Germany through the Exchange. I don’t think I have to spell out the importanceof having an American Jewish presence in Berlin and how that presence hasaffected the thinking of many American Jews about the reality of today’s Germany –and vice versa.Over and above the political importance are the relationships the program has builtbetween individual American Jews and Germans. In addition, the group experiencehas bonded members who traveled together. Some of the American groups, yearslater, are still having reunions.The same goes for the Germans. While in Berlin I was invited to a gathering of abouta dozen members of the 1982 German group admirably organized by one of their 1
  2. 2. members, Wolfgang Vogel. Thirty years ago I had actually accompanied the groupon a trip through the U.S. and so I merited an invitation to their dinner. It was one ofthe great experiences of my professional life. We all lied to each other about howyoung we look, had a wonderful meal sharing stories about the original trip and whatwe had been doing in the last 30 years.I will leave the subject by saying that 1982 marked my first trip to Germany – as anExchange participant. It certainly changed my life.[A note to new readers. This edition of DuBow Digest, the Germany Edition, mostlydeals with happenings, thinking, writing, etc. emanating from the U.S. In addition Ialso write an American Edition which mostly contains German news, etc. Both areposted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com for all to read. If you want to be on bothmailing lists just drop me a note at dubowdigest@optonline.net. Happy reading!]On to the news…IN THIS EDITIONTHE PRESIDENT & ISRAEL - It was a good trip but not without a little controversy.A NEW JEWISH LEARNING CENTER – Berlin-Brandenburg is the place! Fantastic!LIBERAL DEVELOPMENTS – Judaism is not static.THE PRESIDENTIAL POLLS & THE JEWS – Our President, not yours.THIRD AMERICAN JEWISH REVOLUTION – An important piece on how Jewishorganizations are facing the economic “retraction”.THE SUBMARINES – When is a secret not a secret?THE PRESIDENT & ISRAELA couple of weeks ago Pres. Joachim Gauck visited Israel in what the Jewish worldconsidered an important trip. Anytime a German national leader visits the JewishState it is important. He also visited the Palestinian territories.The president received all the proper honors and, indeed, the visit was, by and large,a success. That is not to say that everybody was happy. The Times of Israelreported, “A former Protestant preacher, Gauck became popular for his role as adissident in Communist East Germany, where he grew up as the son of earlymembers of Hitler’s Nazi party. He does not belong to any party and when hispredecessor, the younger but much less charismatic Christian Wulff, stepped down 2
  3. 3. earlier this year amidst corruption charges, Gauck was voted into office with thesupport of all major parties in the Bundestag.When he decided to visit Israel just weeks into his term — this was his first tripoutside Europe and his first official state visit — Gauck received much advancepraise. And while the Hebrew media took little notice of his presence, it madeheadlines back home, mostly positive.“It became a bigger story than we expected,” said one German reporter, adding thatvisits by German leaders — especially figureheads with no political clout — usuallycreate little buzz.Gauck used big rhetoric wherever he went, words that on paper might sound cornyor exaggerated. In Burin, he professed himself “excited” about the friendly receptionand enthused that the village “impressed me with its beauty.” The residents wereplainly delighted.During his Tuesday visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, he spent nearly 10minutes on a lengthy entry in the guestbook, which left some readers teary-eyed.“Initially there is a flood of emotion, horror at the extent of evil, sympathy, empathy,mourning — because of the fate of a single child or because of the millions ofinnocent victims,” he wrote.Gauck, 72, knew that any German president coming to Israel is walking a tightrope,first and foremost because of the complicated history of German-Jewish relations.But the present is crucial as well. Berlin remains one of Jerusalem’s most importantallies, and it is no secret that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is not happywith Israel’s settlement policies.Aware that he was not in Israel to make policy speeches, Gauck trod lightly, for themost part. In his speech at the state banquet at the President’s Residence, he spokefor 10 minutes about his past growing up in an anti-Zionist regime that did not allowhim to properly understand the Holocaust. He said that Germany would“determinedly confront” those who threaten Israel but added vaguely, in what almostsounded like a throwaway sentence, that he hoped Israel would “send a signal”regarding settlements.To be sure, Gauck brought up the same issue in his conversations with PrimeMinister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, suggestingthat settlements are really in nobody’s interest and could impede a peaceagreement. Unsurprisingly, the Israeli leaders begged to differ. But thedisagreements were muted, and aired in the context of a “special” relationship,within the legitimate rights of friends to express criticism.Despite all the diplomatic tact and the enthusiastic verbiage, however, Gauck didmake one interesting statement that went beyond the kind but characterless 3
  4. 4. utterances of his predecessor: He caused something of a stir by apparentlycontradicting Merkel’s ironclad commitment to protecting the Jewish state from anuclear Iran.In a 2008 speech in the Knesset, the German chancellor had declared that Israel’ssecurity is part of her country’s “raison d’être” (“Staatsraison” in German). Therefore,she vowed, “Israel’s security will never be open to negotiation.” While she neverexplicitly pledged to defend Israel militarily if it ever came to a confrontation betweenthe Islamic Republic and the Jewish state, some commentators took that statementas a guarantee of exactly that, and criticized her for making promises she didn’tintend to keep.In contrast, Gauck said Tuesday, rather less dramatically, that “Israel’s security andright of existence are determining factors of German policy — Israel shall live inpeace and secure borders.” When reporters asked him a day later whether heagreed with Merkel’s dictum of Israel’s security being Germany’s “Staatsraison,” heresponded that he wouldn’t have used that phrase. “I don’t want to think in warscenarios,” he said, adding, however, that “Germany should be the very last countryto revoke its friendship and solidarity to Israel.”Some Germans were apparently dismayed by the shift; not only is the president notsupposed to contradict the chancellor, but with Iran upping its belligerent rhetoricagainst Israel and remaining inflexible in nuclear talks, this is also not the time todisavow one’s support for Israel. But others appreciated the president’s honesty:after all, it is simply not realistic to promise Germany would take up arms in apossible war between Iran and Israel, they argue.In any case, however, as Gauck headed back to Schloss Bellevue in Berlin onThursday evening, few Israelis took much notice of this debate. Most decisionmakers here aren’t counting on European assistance anyway.One organization that did not let the “Staatsraison” issue pass unnoticed was AJC.In a press release they noted, “…while emphasizing Germany’s commitment toIsrael’s security, Gauck declined to express support for German Chancellor AngelaMerkel’s position that the defense of Israel is “Staatsrason“ (raison d’etre) forGermany. Gauck said that this position could cause the Chancellor “enormousdifficulties” regarding Germany’s response to a crisis situation.AJC called for further clarificaiton of President Gauck’s positions on German supportfor Israel.”Recent polls show an increasingly negative climate toward Israel in Germany,” saidDeidre Berger, Director of AJC Berlin.“The timing of President Gauck’s visit is of particular importance, given the threat toIsrael of Iran’s secret nuclear program,“ said Berger. “We urge President Gauck to 4
  5. 5. clarify that his statements do not indicate a shift by the German government in itsposition on Israel. We are concerned the comments, without reaffirming the positionof the German Chancellor, will have a further negative impact in Germany onsupport for Israel.”While I do not have a direct line to the Chancellor’s Office I have the feeling thatthere are people in her administration that were also not thrilled about thePresident’s position. It does seem to be in direct conflict with that of the Chancellor. Imust also believe that the staff of the Israeli Embassy in Berlin were, as well, notenraptured by the President’s position.Anything that even seems to erode German support for Israel to some isunwelcome. But, as The Times of Israel notes, „it is simply not realistic to promiseGermany would take up arms in a possible war between Iran and Israel…”.Therefore, even taking the “Staatsraison” into consideration the visit goes into thehistory books as a considerable success.A NEW JEWISH LEARNING CENTERI think it is well known that the great immigration to Germany from the former SovietUnion is pretty much over. There are now 103,000 Jews registered in the FederalRepublic and, perhaps, another 100,000 to 150,000 outside the official registry of theZentralrat. While the numbers today are declining mostly because of aging and lowbirth rate, the one thing that seems to be booming is Jewish education andacademic life.It was recently reported in Y-Net News that, “A new center of Jewish learning hasbeen formally dedicated in the German capital. The "Zentrum Jüdische StudienBerlin-Brandenburg" was officially dedicated Wednesday.The Jewish Telegraphic agency (JTA) reported that a joint project of several Berlineducational institutions, the center will provide a symbolic focal point at BerlinsHumboldt University for Jewish studies programs, in the region where the 18th and19th century Jewish Enlightenment movement, or Haskala, took shape.Under the new academic umbrella, students will continue taking courses at the fourparticipating institutions: Humboldt University; the Technical University of Berlin; twoprograms of the University of Potsdam: the Abraham Geiger College, which trainsReform rabbis and cantors; and the Moses Mendelssohn Center for EuropeanJewish Studies.Cooperation partners include the New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum JudaicumFoundation, Touro College in Berlin, the Leo Baeck Summer University and theWalter de Gruyter publishing firm. 5
  6. 6. The center, which also will offer space for interfaith dialog, is the brainchild ofChristina von Braun, director of the Seminar for Cultural Studies of the HumboldtUniversity.Its start-up funding of $8.5 million over five years comes from the German federalgovernment and will support fellowships and professorships for visiting scholarsfrom the United States, Israel, Great Britain, France and the former Soviet Union. Itwill endow two new academic chairs: one in Jewish biblical exegesis at theUniversity of Potsdam, and another for Jewish music at the Weimar Academy ofMusic, in the former East German state of Thuringia.In addition, JTA has learned that a new center for training Conservative rabbis andcantors is set to open in 2013 under the auspices of the Geiger College: TheZacharias Frankel European campus of the Los-Angeles based Ziegler RabbinicalSchool. It will be the first Conservative seminary on the European Continent,according to Jewish Theological Seminary graduate Rabbi Gesa Ederberg of theBerlin Jewish community.This development underscores the growth in privately funded training programs forJewish teachers and rabbis in Germany, particularly since the influx of nearly200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union since 1990.Anybody who studies the Jewish past knows that Jewish learning and academicdevelopment has a long and important history in Germany. Religious life andteaching pre-dates 1933 by several centuries. It is underway once again. It bearswatching. Time will tell what sort of a contribution it can make to both Jewish andGerman life.LIBERAL DEVELOPMENTSOne of the strange things about Jewish life and religious practice is that, at timesand in certain places, things seem to defy the forward movement of history and inothers progress is quite apparent. In Orthodox life we still see men and womenseated apart and the garb of some men seem to be more 17th century than 21st.While some elements seem to be frozen in history progress is zooming ahead inothers. For instance, as The Jerusalem Post reports, “The Rabbinical Assembly’sCommittee on Jewish Law and Standards -- which sets halachic (Ed. Note:Religious Law) policy for the Conservative movement -- has voted unanimously toprovide the approximately 1,600 Conservative rabbis with guidelines on performingsame-sex marriages.The move is an official sanction of the ceremonies by the movement. 6
  7. 7. The CJLS approved the documents Thursday by a 13-0 vote with one abstainingballot. For years, the Conservative movement has debated how to approach same-sex unions. Traditionalists often opposed such relationships while urging respect asprogressives -- particularly some rabbinical students -- pushed for full equality.In 2006, the CJLS officially sanctioned gay relationships. At the time, it stressed thatrabbis were not obligated to perform such ceremonies, but could do so and not beviolating RA standards.Rabbis Daniel Nevins, Avram Reisner and Elliot Dorff created the new ritualguidelines. They offer two types of gay weddings, as well as gay divorce.“Both versions are egalitarian,” Nevins told the Forward. “They differ mostly in style-- one hews closely to the traditional wedding ceremony while the other departs fromit.”The templates do not include kiddushin, the ceremony in which the groom presentshis bride with a ring. However, they do detail a ring exchange that is based onJewish partnership law, an established halachic concept, Nevins told the Forward.If the recognition by the Conservative Movement seems revolutionary, adevelopment in Israel seems equally mold breaking. JTA reported, “This week’sannouncement that the Israeli government for the first time will pay the salaries ofsome non-Orthodox rabbis represents a major victory for the Reform andConservative movements.But its a victory more of principle than major practical changes -- at least, so far.The Israeli attorney general’s office said Tuesday that Reform and Conservativerabbis in some parts of Israel will be recognized as “rabbis of non-Orthodoxcommunities” and will receive wages equal to those of their Orthodox counterparts.For now, the decision applies only to Israel’s regional councils -- large districts ofrural communities -- but not Israeli cities. And the non-Orthodox rabbis, unlike theirOrthodox colleagues, will have no authority over Jewish law or ceremonies such asmarriage or divorce. Rather than being funded by the nations Religious ServicesMinistry, they will receive their salaries from the Ministry of Culture and Sport.Even though the decision will not affect most Israeli Reform and Conservative Jewsbecause the vast majority of them live in large metropolitan areas such asJerusalem and metro Tel Aviv, the decision nevertheless opens a door toward fullequality with the Orthodox, non-Orthodox Israeli leaders said.“The importance of the decision is that it sets the model for the relations betweenthe non-Orthodox movements and the government,” said Rabbi Gilad Kariv, theexecutive director of Israel’s Reform movement. 7
  8. 8. Jewish religious life in Germany, as many of you know, is patterned on the Orthodoxmodel even though most of it seems (at least to me) to be a quite liberal version ofthat model. Non-Orthodox rabbis, for instance, have been paid by the governmentfor a long time. With separate seating some synagogues have organ music andchoirs. Both a “no-no” in Orthodox houses of worship. It is not static at all.However, there are a large number of the Russian émigrés who are not “Jewish”according to Halachic law. Either they have Jewish fathers but not Jewish mothersand, therefore, fall outside the definition of “Who’s a Jew”. Some (many?) I am surewould like to be official members of the Jewish community but cannot. Perhaps therewill be some progress and a way will be found to incorporate them. The Jewishcommunity in Germany could certainly use more members and the individuals inquestion could certainly benefit psychologically and emotionally from theacceptance.Who knows? Maybe progress will come knocking on Germany’s Jewish door one ofthese days.THE PRESIDENTIAL POLLS & THE JEWSI don’t know whether it pays for me to continue to report on how American Jews arelikely to vote in the November presidential election. No matter what else ishappening in the world the numbers do not seem to change. However, in an effort tokeep you updated I guess I’ll keep plying you with the news until you say, “Stop!”A few days ago J.J. Goldberg writing in The Jewish Daily Forward reported, “There’sgood news and bad news for President Obama in a new survey of American Jewishopinion released Thursday by the Workmen’s Circle. First, the bad news: Jewishvoters favor Obama over Mitt Romney by about two to one — 59% to 27%, with14% undecided. If undecideds follow the same 2-to-1 split, the result will be 68% to32%. This points to a 10% drop from November 2008, when Obama got 78% of theJewish vote, according to national exit polls at the time. The good news is that it’snot November yet, and if you compare June 2012 to June 2008, Obama is doingconsiderably better now than he was then. At this point in 2008 Jews were backingObama by only 62% to rival John McCain’s 31%, according to Gallup’s tracking poll.Obama dropped further in July 2008, to 61-34, before beginning a steady rise inAugust. In fact, a surge might already be discernible this year, if we compare theWorkmen’s Circle survey with a similar survey released two months ago, April 3,conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute for the Nathan CummingsFoundation.Will the president repeat his 2008 late-summer uptick? Hard to say. Romney isn’tlikely to give him the sort of gift McCain offered when he chose the spectacularlyunqualified Sarah Palin as his running-mate. On the other hand, everything else in 8
  9. 9. the Workmen’s Circle poll, which was conducted by Professors Steven M. Cohenand Samuel Abrams, points to a Jewish public that remains solidly liberal. Given thestarkly conservative cast of the Republican campaign so far, it seems unlikely thatRomney could muster more enthusiasm among Jewish voters than the moremoderate McCain did in 2008. It could be that distress over Obama’s Israel policieswill lower his Jewish support, but both surveys show Israel playing very little role inJewish voters’ thinking. In fact, Cohen’s statistical analysis of respondents’preferences and demographic characteristics indicates that people who have strongopinions about Israel tend to show a host of other tendencies that factor as stronglyif not more so into their decisions.There is more to the article which you can read by clicking here. It dealshttp://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/157187/all-the-news-on-jews-views-comparing--polls / largely with how the polls are done and when. For our purposes itlooks as if Pres. Obama will retain somewhere in the mid to high 60’s in terms ofpercentage and Romney will be in the 30’s. Of course, the Jewish vote is relativelysmall so, in the final analysis the numbers won’t really affect the final result.However, sine the Jewish vote is mostly in 5 or 6 large cities, the way it comes outmight actually have a genuine on Senate and House of Representative races. Theyare not (repeat “not”) unimportant.Taking that into consideration I guess I’ll keep on reporting polls, etc. as they comeout.THIRD AMERICAN JEWISH REVOLUTIONI once again want to spell out that among the various purposes in my writing andpublishing DuBow Digest is to go beyond German – American Jewish relations and,as well, acquaint you with all the important matters our community faces. One canonly understand “the other” if one sees the complex problems “the other” is facing.Toward that end I am including this article which has absolutely nothing to do withGermany but spells out the difficulty the American Jewish community is facingbecause of the severe problems brought on by the economic recession. Please keepin mind that American Jewish life in all its aspects is supported mostly by voluntaryfinancial contributions. No (or very little) government money is involved. Jews have agreat record of taking care of themselves but with this economy new challenges arearising.Dr. Steven F. Windmueller, the retired Dean of the School of Jewish CommunalService at Hebrew Union College authored a piece in eJewish Philanthropy entitledThe Unfolding of the Third American Jewish Revolution. He notes, “Over the pastseveral years, we have been witness to the unraveling of the global economy andmore directly the American enterprise. This economic “tsunami” has led to afundamental reordering of the structural and financial well-being of many core 9
  10. 10. institutions. In particular, this upheaval is having a profound impact on the AmericanJewish community.Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff suggests that America is experiencing its“Second Great Contraction” (the first involved the Great Depression). In such aneconomic setting, output, employment, debt, housing prices, and equity can takefour or more years to recover. He wrote recently: “The difference between‘contractions’ and ‘recessions’ is that the former last much longer and requires adifferent medicine to cure the economy.” Rogoff sees the fiscal crisis today as morereflective of the Depression than a traditional recessionary cycle. This school ofeconomic thought holds to the view that government must find an alternativesolution than simply introducing short-term stimulus spending.Proponents suggest that as a society we are experiencing a reordering of our coresocial fabric and structure. The economic outcomes and new social realities willrequire us to think differently about certain basic elements, including “work”,“membership” and “community”.In the context of understanding both the events surrounding the Depression of 1929and the current global economic picture, it may be of value to examine similartrends, shared challenges, and potential opportunities that shaped the lives ofAmerica’s Jews and their communal institutions during this earlier period that mayprovide lessons for us.After going over the history and development of Jewish organizational andcommunal structures, Dr. Windmuller opines, “If the current economic climatereflects a national “contraction” rather than a recession, then our financial strategiesand institutional planning will need to incorporate a different and distinct course ofaction. The strategies that employed will have a profound impact on how oursynagogues, agencies and organizations will operate as part of this lengthy periodof economic transition.The article is complex – too complex for me to boil it down to just a few paragraphs.Dr. Windmueller lays out the problems carefully and suggests ways in which the canand should be handled. I cannot urge you strongly enough to click on the link belowto read it in its entirety. If you’ll do that you will get an important insight into theproblems American Jewry is facing and what they must do in terms of arevolutionary adjustment in order to face the future.Click here to read it. http://www.jidaily.com/ys6M/eTHE SUBMARINESFor several years I have been following and reporting on the German sale ofsubmarines to Israel. It was pretty obvious right from the beginning that the subs 10
  11. 11. stood to be Israel’s second strike offensive weapon should an attack on Iran bedeemed necessary. It was equally obvious that while Germany was not building thesubs with nuclear capacity they would be quickly converted once they were in Israelihands. After all, what did Israel need subs that only had regular torpedoes ormachine guns?So, I was quite surprised that when a raft of articles started to appear this past weekunveiling the great secret that the subs had nuclear capacity. If this was a secret, itwas the worst kept secret in the history of secrecy. If there was any surprise it wasthat this non-secret all of a sudden became a media sensation.Of course, the subs have nuclear capacity. They would be useless otherwise. I don’tthink there is any doubt that Israel and world Jewry feel a debt of gratitude toGermany for providing the Jewish nation with its most important weapon. When theChancellor said that Germany would give Israel “its back” (I assume meaning itsbacking) this is just the kind of support it needs. Many other nations give lip servicebut in this case Germany is backing up its promises with action. If there was ever anaction to ward off war and help preserve peace the sale of the subs are it. An Israelwithout this sort of responsive weapon almost insures a more aggressive stance byIran and a possible war “to wipe it from the face of the earth”. Preventive weaponshelp preserve peace. Period!**********************************************************************************************See you again at the end of the month.DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 11
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