November 23, 2010
As I write this, practically everyone in the United States is gearing up for the long
Thanksgiving weekend. Thanksgiving is observed by all religions and all those
who are religion-los. It is the nation’s most celebrated holiday. It is a joyous
family oriented event. However, it’s not a good day to be a turkey as it is
traditional to have a roasted version of this bird as the centerpiece of the feast. It
usually comes with stuffing, sweet potatoes, & cranberry sauce.
On two of the three Thanksgivings I spent in Germany (1997-1999), two of them
were spent with a half American couple who took me in. On the third, they had
moved to the U.S, and so my colleague Deidre Berger and I had to hunt around
Berlin for a restaurant that featured a Thanksgiving dinner. After much research
we found T.G.I.Friday’s. It wasn’t home cooking but it wasn’t bad. I think about all
three occasions frequently.
In addition Jews are also getting ready for Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights
So, for those that celebrate; have a great Thanksgiving and a joyful Hanukkah.
Time to get on with the news.…
IN THIS EDITION
THE PEACE PROCESS
A GENUINE DISGRACE & EMBARRASSMENT – Not a proud moment for a
CONFUSION: GERMANY & IRAN – Where does the FRG stand?
THE CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER’S THREE D’S – Common sense from north
of the border.
JEWISH COMMUNAL SUPPORT – Where American Jewish organizations will
look for funding.
A JEWISH GERMAN CHILDRENS BOOK – More important than it sounds.
HANNUKAH – The Festival of Lights
HIDING THE NAZIS – The Americans did it too.
CHABAD IN GERMANY – An important Jewish religious group puts down roots
WAGNER IN ISRAEL – Finally?
AFRICAN JEWS – Two recent developments.
THE PEACE PROCESS
If you can figure out where the Israeli – Palestinian peace process stands you’re
a better analyst than I am. One thing is for sure – it’s on hold and for the moment,
I assume, there is a lot of backroom talking and bargaining going on. One of the
most effective tools of diplomacy is the “carrot and stick” approach. You offer a
little and you threaten or push a little. At the moment the U.S. seems to be using
the “carrot and carrot” method of offering lots to each side in order to even get
back to the negotiating table with no visible stick if, indeed, Pres. Obama has a
stick to use – that he can use. Yes, he can threaten to cut off aid to both sides
but that’s a non-starter right from the beginning.
So, as of this moment the Israelis seem to be in an acceptance mode as they are
getting sophisticated fighter planes and promises not to extend a building freeze
beyond a certain amount of months and not to include east Jerusalem in the
freeze. The Palestinians have not as yet delivered their list of what they want and
have kept to the line that east Jerusalem must be part of the freeze.
If I had to venture a guess, I would say that most American Jews are in the same
place that I’m at. We don’t expect too much even though we hope that,
somehow, something positive will happen. However, no one expects anything
long range. Nothing like that seems to be in the picture.
There is just too much distance between how most Jews and most Arabs see the
situation. A recent poll reported in Haaretz notes, “Almost two-thirds of
Palestinians (59 percent in the West Bank and 63 percent in Gaza) support the
two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) but eventually hope that one state −
Palestine − will prevail, according to a survey by pollster Stanley Greenberg for
The Israel Project.
Only 23 percent said they believed in Israel’s right to exist as the national
homeland of the Jews. However, 50 percent supported recognizing Israel as a
Jewish state in order to reach the two-state solution.
For the moment I’m going to focus on my upcoming Thanksgiving dinner.
A GENUINE DISGRACE & EMBARRASSMENT
Obviously, not all Jews are responsible for the crimes committed by other Jews.
However, when it was revealed that a group working for The Conference on
Jewish Material Claims Against Germany had embezzled millions of dollars over
a 16 year period – funds that were supposed to go to people who had suffered
because of the Holocaust, at least for me, I felt a strong sense of disgrace and
considering my close connection to Germany, deep embarrassment.
According to The New York Times, “Over 16 years, the suspects used fake
identification documents, doctored government records and a knowledge of
Holocaust history to defraud the fund of more than $42 million, according to an
indictment (filed) by the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara.
The defendants, the indictment says, would recruit applicants — many of them
from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn — through Russian-language newspapers,
offering help to people applying for compensation from the Conference on
Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. In many cases, the immigrants’ actual
experiences would be manipulated or tailored to fit the requirements of the fund;
once the payments were approved, the defendants would receive kickbacks from
the applicants, according to the indictment.
Birth dates were changed so people would appear to have been alive during
World War II; anecdotes about surviving inhumane conditions in a Nazi-occupied
territory were repeated in multiple applications; photos of certain applicants were
reused on dozens of unrelated applications.
The conspiracy was directed at two programs run by the claims conference. The
conference was established in 1951 to compensate Jewish victims of Nazi
persecution; the German government appropriated money for the conference the
following year, and has been financing it since.
One of the programs, known as the Hardship Fund, pays reparations to Jews
who became refugees when they fled the Nazis; the majority of payments from
the Hardship Fund went to people from the former Soviet Bloc countries who
were not under direct Nazi occupation, but who fled to escape the Nazi advance,
according to the indictment. The fund pays a one-time payment of approximately
The second program, called the Article 2 Fund, compensates survivors who lived
in hiding, under a false identity, in a Jewish ghetto, or who were incarcerated in a
labor or a concentration camp. This program provides monthly payments of
approximately $411 to survivors who make less than $16,000 per year.
You can read the whole story by clicking here.
A colleague of mine writing a personal e-mail noted, “This is a terrible
embarrassment to be sure. As you know seventeen people have been arrested
for defrauding the organization out of $42 million by falsifying documents to
portray individuals to be Holocaust survivors when they were not. Please bear in
mind that this scheme was first discovered by the Claims Conference months
ago, and they immediately contacted the FBI who conducted this very extensive
investigation. In fact, the FBI and the US Attorney in the press release they
issued (copy attached) cited the "extraordinary cooperation" of the Claims
Conference as being essential to the investigation and they explicitly thanked the
organization. This in itself is not a common thing.
I can add to the above that as soon as the fraud was uncovered, the German
government was also immediately contacted.
I’m sure the perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the
law. If there is more to the story I’ll let you know. It is a very painful happening.
CONFUSION: GERMANY & IRAN
I must admit that I am confused about the relationship between Germany and
Iran. While the Chancellor seems to be out front calling for strong economic
sanctions against the Ahmadinejad regime, the amount of trade between the two
countries seems to be on the rise.
I rarely totally swallow what “single issue” organizations have to say on the
issues central to their interest. However, recently I did come across one called
“Stop the Bomb - Berlin” (StB) which seemed to have, in a letter they sent to all
Bundestag members, a well researched case pointing out considerable, and
even increased, economic cooperation between Germany & Iran.
StB points out, “At the economic level, such trips (of Bundestag members)
contribute to a situation in which the German-Iranian trade continues to grow. In
the first half of 2010, exports to Iran increased by 14%, German imports by even
88%. Two conferences, which will promote German-Iranian trade, will take
place next Monday, November 22, in Frankfurt and Hamburg. Elke Hoff is
a board member of the Near and Middle East Association (NUMOV), which
openly campaigns against sanctions and instead promotes trade with
I personally do not know the StB people or anything about their organization.
However, even if half of what they have to say is correct then my confusion about
where Germany stands in regard to Iran is justified. I think you should read the
letter that went to the Bundestag members and see if you are any clearer about
Germany’s position than I am. Click here to read it.
If you can help me understand Germany’s position please do so by dropping me
an e-mail with an explanation. Not only will I read it but, with your permission, I’ll
print it in my next edition.
Write to me by clicking here.
THE CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER’S THREE D’S
In the public sphere you can never tell who your best friends are until they speak
out. Canada does not have a great history in terms of its own anti-Semitism.
While there has been a thriving Jewish community there, “soft anti-Semitism” has
had a long history. Even today, in a recent poll reported by The Gazette
(Montreal) only 34% of French speaking Canadians feel that Jews share their
values as opposed to 73% by those that are English speaking.
However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech to a gathering of
international parliamentarians and experts attending a conference on combating
anti-Semitism noted “We must be relentless in exposing this new anti-Semitism
for what it is. Of course, like any country, Israel may be subjected to fair criticism.
And like any free country, Israel subjects itself to such criticism – healthy,
necessary, democratic debate. But when Israel, the only country in the world
whose very existence is under attack – Is consistently and conspicuously singled
out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand.
Demonization, double standards, delegitimization, the 3 D’s, it is a responsibility,
to stand up to them.
I don’t know how anybody could have said it better. Below you will find a link to
excerpts from the Prime Minister’s speech. Read them. It’s not only nice to have
friends but even more important to have one that fully understands the
relationship between anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.
JEWISH COMMUNAL SUPPORT
I’ve said previously that among the goals of DuBow Digest is the educating of my
readers in Germany about the inner workings of the American Jewish
community. The more we understand about each other, the better are the
chances that we can cooperate and truly relate to one another.
In my last newsletter I wrote about the “GA” General Assembly of the Jewish
Federations of North America. JTA, following the close of the meeting did an
article which spells out the major internal problems the entire Federation system
Taking into consideration that the private funding from individuals and family
foundations pay most of the bills rather than government funding, reaching
younger Jews is a major problem. The donor base is aging and the “grass roots”
are not responding as well as they might. These sorts of problems face all the
Jewish organizations, inside and outside the Federation world. AJC has
established a program called ACCESS for young professionals to deal with its
youth problems which, incidentally has connections to Germany Close-Up and
Allianz. There are many programs that are reaching out to younger adults. They
represent the immediate Jewish future in the U.S. Below you will be able to read
about the difficulties we’re having.
Read the JTA story by clicking here.
A JEWISH GERMAN CHILDRENS BOOK
It might not seem like a major event but the publishing of the first Jewish
children’s book in Germany is something to take note of.
Y-Net News recently wrote, “A Horse for Hanukkah' is filmmaker and author
Myriam Halberstam's first attempt to cater for Germany's 200,000-strong Jewish
community. It's important to have a book in which 'Jews are normal and nothing
terrible happens to them,' she says
Six and a half decades after the Holocaust, the first Jewish publisher of children's
books in Germany issued its inaugural title on Monday. Filmmaker and author
Myriam Halberstam, a German-American Jew, said she set up "Ariella Books" in
May 2010 because there was a lack of children's books on Judaism in Germany.
A Horse for Hanukkah" – a humorous story about a horse who wreaks havoc on
a family's celebrations during Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights – is
Halberstam's first attempt to cater for Germany's 200,000-strong Jewish
"At Christmas there are all these books you can buy for your children, but if
you're Jewish and you want to read them something about Jewish holidays, you
can't," she told Reuters. "I needed to create something for my own daughters."
Presenting the book in Berlin's Jewish Museum on Friday, Halberstam said there
was a need for the books in Germany because local communities had grown
rapidly in recent years due to an influx of Jews from the former Soviet bloc after
Halberstam said she wanted to be able to pass on her Jewish identity to her two
young daughters via the book, which is intended for children, aged 4-8. The 32-
page book – which is being published in English and German – is not just aimed
at Jews. Halberstam said she hoped Gentiles in Germany's increasingly
multicultural society would also read the book and become aware of Jewish
traditions. "It would be nice if Jews and Judaism would become a normal part of
German society – but only if you know about Jews can they become normal,"
"In Germany the Shoah is omnipresent, it's still in the media and it determines
the relationship between Jews and non-Jews," she said. "I wanted to do
something that looks to the future in a positive way without the burden of the
Frau Halberstam’s book fits nicely with the article above it dealing with America’s
Jewish Federations. The more you know the better things are. Period!
The children’s book story above is a good lead in to talk briefly about Hanukkah,
an important Jewish holiday which comes up at the beginning of December this
year. According to Wikipedia, “…running from Dec.1 to Dec. 9, known as the
Festival of Lights, (it) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the
rededication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of
the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE, Hanukkah is observed for eight
nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar,
which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the
The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a very special
candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukkah, one additional light on
each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. An extra light
called a shamash (Hebrew: "attendant" or "sexton") is also lit each night for the
purpose of lighting the others, and is given a distinct location, usually above or
below the rest. The "shamash" symbolically supplies light that may be used for
some secular purpose.
In terms of the religious calendar, Hanukkah is not an “important” Jewish holiday.
However, coming at the end of the Gregorian year near Christmas, it has
developed into something of growing importantance – especially for children. The
lighting of the candles, games, stories, special food and the giving of presents
have turned into a quite special time of the year. Just to give you an idea of how
it is celebrated, click on the special Chabad Hanukkah page. Latkes (pancakes)
of many varieties are something Jews & non-Jews should partake in. However, if
you do, watch your waistline.
HIDING THE NAZIS
Following World War II and for many years after, individual Germans and the
German government were assailed for hiding and protecting Nazis, especially
those who were involved in the destruction of European Jewry.
It now comes out that our own intelligence services here in the U.S. were doing
exactly the same thing. The New York Times reported, “A secret history of the
United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American
intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and
their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often
hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.
The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for
four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most
notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades.
Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central
Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous
government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar
intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of
American complicity and deception in such operations.
The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s
collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some
of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even
though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided
itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small
measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.
If there is something that is truly “damning” it is that our own Justice Dept. tried to
keep the 600 page report secret for more than four years. Frankly, I don’t
understand the rationale for that. Did they think it would be hidden for ever? On
the surface it just seems stupid. However, there is evidently more to the story. At
least I think so. I hope they investigate the matter further.
The moral is that no country has an exclusive when it comes to bad guys and evil
acts. You can read the whole sordid story by clicking here.
CHABAD IN GERMANY
When the media in Germany carries stories about the German Jewish
community they frequently write about the Zenatralrat and quote various rabbis
and Jewish community leaders in their stories. Rarely does the name Chabad get
mentioned. However, this American based ultra Orthodox organization now has
bases in 14 German cities and is constantly growing. For locations click here.
What is Chabad and why are they in Germany? A year or two ago
www.myjewishlearning.com ran an article by Sue Fishkoff which noted,
“Although many Hasidic sects exist today, Chabad-Lubavitch is by far the most
well-known, because of its public profile. Starting in the 1950s, the group's
leader, Menachem Mendel Schneerson--the seventh and last Chabad rebbe-
emphasized outreach to non-observant Jews. To increase Jewish observance,
he sent emissaries around the world to revive small communities, bring
individuals to more traditional practice, and establish Jewish communities where
none existed before.
Schneerson died in 1994 at the age of 91, after which media coverage of
Chabad focused mostly on the belief of some Lubavitchers that the rebbe was
the messiah and would come back from the grave as King Messiah. As the
following article shows, there is another story of Chabad in the years since
Schneerson's death. Excerpted with permission from The Rebbe's Army: Inside
the World of Chabad-Lubavitch
In the decade after Schneerson's death, Chabad's infrastructure grew faster than
during his lifetime. Between 1994 and 2002, more than 610 new emissary
couples took up their postings and more than 705 new Chabad institutions were
opened, including 450 new facilities purchased or built from scratch, bringing the
total number of institutions worldwide--synagogues, schools, camps, and
community centers--to 2,766. In the year 2000, 51 new Chabad facilities were
established in California alone.
Numbers don't tell the whole story. Chabad is of interest not because of those
relatively few Jews who lead Hasidic lives, but because of the success with
which these Lubavitchers have made their mark in the non-Hasidic public arena.
"You can't measure their influence by the number of guys they have in black
hats," points out Samuel Heilman, sociology and Jewish studies professor at City
University of New York and author of Defenders of the Faith: Inside Ultra-
One telling indicator is the number of Chabad rabbis filling leadership positions
within the mainstream Jewish communities of many countries”.
Chabad’s goal is to lead more Jews to Jewish observance and deeper Jewish
learning. They want to make Jews “better” Jews by better educating them and
convincing them to adopt a more Orthodox lifestyle. They are not interested in
Christians. Certainly not in conversion. They seem to be well funded and once
putting down roots in a community certain members of each community become
supporters. Their “emissaries” (shluchim), who mostly from the Chabad
community in New York sign on, become dedicated to their work and stay on in
far flung parts of the world – wherever there are Jews.
Incidentally not all Jews are thrilled with Chabad. Some with small children feel
that the children will become ultra Orthodox something they would not like to see
happen. In addition, the Chabad style is very assertive, again, something that
turns off many Jews. Local rabbis sometimes feel as if the Chabad
representatives are poaching on their territory.
The Chabad rabbi in Berlin, Yehudah Teichtel, and I became friends in when I
first arrived to open the AJC Office there. Though we are pretty much at opposite
ends of the observance spectrum, we found out that we were both born in the
same hospital (Brooklyn Jewish Hospital) even though at very different times.
Rabbi Teichtel has done a fantastic job. He has a building, a school, a camp and
many programs. He is a top flight organizer. You can access his website by
clicking here. http://www.chabadberlin.de .
There is no question Chabad is a force in Jewish life – in Germany too! I think
that as time goes on, you’ll be hearing more and more about them.
WAGNER IN ISRAEL
I think most of you know that Richard Wagner’s music is not played in Israel
though, of course, it has a very wide audience in the U.S. including among many
American Jews. The situation in Israel might be changing in the near future.
Y-New News recently reported, “Despite the severe backlash that followed a
decision by the Israel Chamber Orchestra to perform at a Wagner festival in
Germany, the Justice Ministry's Registrar of Endowments decided Sunday to
award official status to a Wagner association in Israel. Attorney Yonatan Livni,
who heads the newly founded association, says "it's time to allow those who
desire to hear Wagner's music in Israel to be able to do so.
Karl Orff and even Richard Strauss, who was president of the Reich's State
Music Bureau, are played in Israel. So why is it prohibited to play Wagner, who
died years before the Nazis came to power?" Livni wondered. "This boycott no
longer makes sense."
Livni claims the ire directed at Wagner is the last remnant of a post-Holocaust
boycott of German products. "Wagner has become a symbol," he said.
"It's true that he was a huge anti-Semite, however we are not talking about his
speeches, but about the music he wrote as a great composer." The attorney
added that though Hitler had loved Mercedes and Volkswagen cars, they are
being driven freely in Israel.”
I’m not an Israeli so I think whatever they decide should be their own decision.
However, I don’t have a problem in going to a Wagner concert or opera (not that I
go to many). I didn’t have any problem teaching at the University of Bayreuth
during the summer of 1995 – Bayreuth being Wagner’s hometown and the home
of the Wagner Fest. Through the good offices of my friend Michael Zoeller, a
professor at the Uni, I taught a course in American Jewish history and
organization. I thought it was the right thing to do and I appreciated Michael’s
Maybe things in Israel will change. After all, nobody has to listen to Wagner’s
anti-Semitic speeches or read his writings. Listening to his music is quite
In my last newsletter I spoke about the interesting development of Jewish life
(and Jews) in Africa. Since then two new items on the subject have popped up
on my screen.
The Israeli Knesset (parliament) voted to accept 8,000 blacks Jews from
Ethiopia. JTA recently published an article which said, “The Cabinet's approval
came as aid groups involved with Ethiopian aliyah (Ed. Note: Settlement in
Israel) reached an agreement under which mass Ethiopian aliyah will end once
these 8,000 Ethiopians are brought to the Jewish state. The would-be
immigrants are considered so-called Falasha Mura -- Ethiopians who claim
family links to descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity
generations ago. They must embrace Judaism as a condition of their aliyah.
The Ethiopians currently awaiting aliyah live in the Ethiopian city of Gondar,
where they receive aid services from the North American Conference on
Ethiopian Jewry and health services from the American Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee. Under the deal reached by the aid groups, the Jewish Agency will
take over many of the aid operations, which will cease once the 8,000 people are
brought to Israel.
The Ethiopians will be brought at the rate of approximately 200 per month over
the course of four years.
In addition, I also read in JTA, Native-born Ugandan Rabbi Gershom Sizomu is
running for the country's national Parliament. (Picture)
If elected in the February 2011 vote, Sizomu would be the first Jew elected to
national office in Uganda and also the first rabbi to be seated in a nationally
elected government outside of Israel, according to Be'chol Lashon, an American-
based organization committed to strengthening the Jewish people worldwide.
Sizomu, the chief rabbi of Uganda, has been endorsed by the Forum for
Democratic Change party and is waiting for his candidacy papers to be approved
by the National Electoral Commission.
The rabbi ministers to Uganda's native Jewish community, called the Abayudaya,
300 of who converted to Judaism in 2003 under Sizomu's initiative. Israel and
Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora do not recognize the Abayudaya as Jewish.
Sizomu is an ordained Conservative rabbi.
These stories certainly shoot holes in any theory about racial purity. Those
theories didn’t hold much water anyway.
See you again in December.
DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted
by clicking here.
Both the American and Germany editions are posted at
www.dubowdigest.typepad.com. Click her to connect