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DuBow Digest Germany Edition July 2014


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An American Jewish - Germany Information & Opinion Newsletter

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DuBow Digest Germany Edition July 2014

  1. 1. 1 AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER GERMANY EDITION July 2014 IN THIS EDITION THE PALESTINIAN FUTURE & GERMANY – Does history provide a road ahead? DOUBLE STANDARD – Is Israel judged unfairly? BEGINNINGS & ENDS – Who says it has to end? AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION & GAZA – Yes! There are numbers. So what? PRESBYTERIANS – This American church group lines up (sort of) against Israel. GERMANY & UKRAINIAN JEWS – Germany tries to help. THE FIRST WOMAN RABBI – Neither American or Israeli. Surprise! She was German! Dear Friends: These are difficult times. The shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines plane by the Russian separatists, the need to impose new sanctions on Russia because of Pres. Putin’s irresponsible behavior and, needless to say, the war in Gaza (It is a war) have cast a pall over all of us in the U.S. and Europe – and beyond. For those of who are Jewish and supporters of Israel it is particularly gloomy. No one, no matter who you favor, can feel anything other than terribly sad because of the violence and death that has gripped Gaza. No matter where you come out on the political and blame spectrums, the cutting short of young lives – be they Arab children or Israeli soldiers, you have to grieve for the dead and for their families.
  2. 2. 2 I don’t think there is much of a secret about where my sympathies lie and who I think started this awful turn of events. However, I think about the other guys (the Palestinians) as well. So much depends on what they will choose for their own future. Sometime (hopefully soon) the shooting will stop and then they will try to rebuild their lives. In so doing they will have to make some decisions. In Gaza there are more than 1,600,000 Palestinians. In my first article (below), which I have written myself rather than excerpt from someone else, as you will see, I have thought about what the Palestinians might learn productively from Germany. Let’s get on so you can read it… THE PALESTINIAN FUTURE & GERMANY Obviously, it’s hard to know when the Gaza War (I don’t know what else to call it) will end. But sometime it will. The more important question is what will happen after that. Are the Israelis and Hamas in for another war? What kind of future will that insure for the Palestinians In thinking about the future of the Palestinians in Gaza, I wonder if they’ve had enough. It’s only when they reach that point that Hamas will disappear as a force. Hamas has committed these poor people to a never-ending war. Peace will only come when they choose an end to the hostilities that are destroying not a limited number of the enemy, but they themselves. I wonder if there is a way forward for them in the same manner that the citizens of Germany (I’m talking here about West Germany) decided on as World War II and the Four Power occupation that followed drew to a close. They had been devastated by overwhelming military force. They had lost millions of their citizens and had to face the fact that war had led them into a blind alley with no chance of escape or victory. Of course, there was the Cold War, and a tough occupation. I think that they collectively decided that violence of any kind would only lead them to further disaster and, therefore, moved themselves toward pacifism and economic development. In a relatively short time they began to experience all the positive results that a peaceful society could deliver for them. Jobs, excellent health care, top flight education for their children and, most important, a modicum of freedom which they had not experienced for many years. They won everything in the peace that had not been able to win in two wars. Gaza and Germany are not the same. 1945 and 2014 are different times. The politics are different as are many other factors. However, what is the same is the necessity for a people to find a way out of a horrible situation and establish a path to peace, security and wellbeing. Hamas and its desire to destroy Israel is a dead end for the Palestinians. Israel is here to stay. Palestinians don’t have to love it but they do have to eventually deal with it on peaceful terms.
  3. 3. 3 Yes! They will have to deal psychologically with having suffered another defeat but they’re not done as a people. If they have the strength and the leadership they can do what Germany did. Swear off wars, get rid of the war makers and start themselves on to a road to genuine recovery. I wonder if I’m a Pollyanna. Maybe, but I don’t see any other way forward. DOUBLE STANDARD It’s not every day I read an article in a rather extreme periodical that I agree with. I’m a kind of middle of the road guy who tries to see all sides of arguments even though sometimes I honestly cannot understand why anybody who takes a certain radical position indeed takes it. Over the years I have remained amazed that some people could not see that anti-Israel feeling sometimes, in some way, is connected to anti- Semitism. At times the argument is made that there is no connection. I frequently hope that is the case but deep down I tend frequently not to believe it. I know enough about history and culture to know that the connection might lie somewhere – perhaps in the sub-consciousness. I want to be clear. Not everyone who is anti-Israel or is opposed to some Israeli policy is, ipso facto, an anti-Semite. However, might there be, at least, some connection? Maybe? To me, when I read or hear someone applying a double standard to Israel policies, the warning lights go on in my brain. It frequently happens when reading the newspapers or periodicals. It is rare when I find a non-Jewish journalist who even raises the question. I found one this time. Recently I came across a British web magazine which calls itself SPIKE. It’s been around since 2001 and bills itself as, “a metaphorical missile against misanthropy”. It’s the publication that puts the case for human endeavour, intellectual risk-taking, exploration, excellence in learning and art, and freedom of speech with no ifs and buts, against the myriad miserabilists who would seek to wrap humans in red tape, dampen down our daring, restrain our thoughts, and police our speech. Pretty interesting and rather unusual. It’s edited by Brendan O’Neill who wrote a piece noting, “There’s something very ugly in this rage against Israel. In it he notes, “The line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism gets thinner every day. …the minute Israel fires a rocket into Gaza, the second Israeli politicians say they’re at war again with Hamas, radicals in all these Western nations will take to the streets, wave hyperbolic placards, fulminate on Twitter, publish pictures of dead Palestinian children, publish the names and ages of everyone ‘MURDERED BY ISRAEL’, and generally scream about Israeli ‘bloodletting’. (When the West bombs another country, it’s ‘war’; when Israel does it, it’s ‘bloodletting’.) Anyone possessed of a critical faculty must at some point have wondered why there’s such a double standard in relation to Israeli militarism, why missiles fired by the Jewish
  4. 4. 4 State are apparently more worthy of condemnation than missiles fired by Washington, London, Paris, the Turks, Assad, or just about anyone else on Earth. Such are the double standards over Israel, so casually entrenched is the idea that Israeli militarism is more bloody and insane than any other kind of militarism, that many Western liberals now call on their own rulers to condemn or even impose sanctions against Israel. That is, they want the invaders and destroyers of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere to rap Israel’s knuckles for bombing Gaza. It’s like asking a great white shark to tell off a seal for eating a fish. America must ‘rein in Israel’, we are told. ‘The international community should intervene to restrain Israel’s army’, says a columnist for the Guardian, and by ‘international community’ he means ‘a meeting of the UN Security Council’ – the Security Council whose permanent members are the US, UK and France, who have done so much to destabilise and devastate vast swathes of the Middle East and North Africa over the past decade; Russia, whose recent military interventions in Georgia and Chechnya suggest it is hardly a devotee of world peace; and China, which might not invade other countries but is pretty adept at brutally suppressing internal dissent. On what planet could nations whose warmongering makes the current assault on Gaza look like a tea party in comparison seriously be asked to ‘rein in’ Israel? On a planet on which Israel is seen as different, as worse than all others, as more criminal and rogue-like than any other state. Of course, Western double standards on Israel have been around for a while now. They can be seen not only in the fact that Israeli militarism makes people get out of bed and get angry in a way that no other form of militarism does, but also in the ugly boycotting of everything Israeli, whether it’s academics or apples, in a way that the people or products of other militaristic or authoritarian regimes are never treated. But during this latest Israeli assault on Gaza, we haven’t only seen these double standards come back into play – we have also witnessed anti-Israel sentiment becoming more visceral, more emotional, more unhinged and even more prejudiced than it has ever been, to such an extent that, sadly, it is now becoming very difficult to tell where anti-Zionism ends and anti-Semitism begins. A poll of Europeans discovered that most now consider Israel to be the key source of global instability. This is where we can see what the new anti-Zionism shares in common with the old anti-Semitism: both are about finding one thing in the world, whether it’s a wicked state or a warped people, against which the rest of us might rage and pin the blame for every political problem on Earth. There is more to the article and you should read it. Click here to do so. inc/?utm_source=Mosaic+Newsletter&utm_campaign=3f3a4f91f0- 2014_7_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0b0517b2ab-3f3a4f91f0-41169781 I’d be interested in knowing what you think of O’Neill’s piece. Drop me a line at to let me know.
  5. 5. 5 BEGINNINGS & ENDS Years ago when I worked with paroled felony offenders I supervised a fellow from a nice elderly middle class family who had a 40 year old son who had a habit of cashing checks for which he had no funds. He wound up with a prison sentence. After parole and while under my supervision he reverted to same behavior and I had to arrest him. His distraught father asked me, “Mr. DuBow, when does it end?” I replied “Who says it has to end?” As I read about Israel and Gaza, I have come to the same conclusion. Explaining my position in a much better way than I can, Max Boot writing in Commentary opined, “After a while, both Hamas and Israel [will] decide they have had enough–the former because it does not want to suffer any more damage, the latter because it does not want to reoccupy Gaza. Then the two sides agree to a ceasefire which lasts perhaps 18 months if we’re lucky (before today the last such round of fighting occurred in November 2012). Eventually, however, some fresh incident occurs (such as the recent murder of three Israeli teenagers by Palestinian extremists and the equally odious revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists) to trigger a fresh outbreak of conflict. The preferred solution of the U.S. and the European Union is an Israeli pullout from the West Bank. This is intended to hasten a “final settlement” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But Israel will do no such thing because it has seen in Gaza the wages of withdrawal–not peace but rather more conflict. But if the doves have no real answer to the threat from Gaza, neither do the hawks who urge that Israel annihilate Hamas. The only way this can happen is if Israel reoccupies the Gaza Strip. Otherwise, as has happened so often in the past, Hamas will simply regenerate itself after suffering some casualties. The problem is that the Israeli public has no desire to assume the role of occupier in Gaza once again–which would undoubtedly reduce rocket attacks on Israel but increase casualties among the conscripts of the Israel Defense Forces. The fact that the Iron Dome system provides a fair degree of protection against Hamas rockets makes it all the more unlikely that Prime Minister Netanyahu will take the drastic step of reoccupying Gaza. So for the immediate future there appears to be no way out of the strategic impasse in which Hamas and Israel are trapped. Hamas would love to destroy Israel but is too weak to do so. Israel has the power to destroy Hamas but not the will. Both sides thus keep conflict within manageable bounds and preserve their resources for future battles. There is, for the foreseeable future, no exit from this grim deadlock–and attempts to achieve one (by, for example, forcing Israeli territorial concessions) are only likely to make the situation worse. I am usually an optimist but in this case, like Max Boot, I do not see a way out. However, I also believe that everything does have an end – sometime. It’s just that the
  6. 6. 6 Gaza situation has not reached that stage as yet. We, and probably our children and grandchildren, will have to be patient. AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION & GAZA I’m never too sure how important “public opinion” is when it comes to such events as the war in Gaza. We are told that the Israeli public is fully behind what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is doing in Gaza. What else would we expect? I don’t haven’t statistics about Israel’s Arab citizens (roughly 20% of the population) but I’d bet that they’re pretty much on the other side. Obviously, there isn’t any polling going on in Gaza among its citizens but clearly those who would be willing to voice an opinion are certainly not supporting the Israeli position. How about the U.S.? The Jerusalem Post reports, “According to a recent poll by Pew Research, 40% of Americans blame Hamas for the current crisis in Gaza, while only 19% believe that Israel is responsible. The study also found that the public's opinion was largely divided by political affiliation. 60% of those who considered themselves Republican believed that Hamas held the blame for the current violence. Among Democrats, opinion was more divided with 29% holding Hamas more responsible and 26% saying that Israel was to blame. 18% of Democrats said both sides were to blame. According to the survey a majority of Americans agreed with Israel's response in the conflict, but by a lesser margin of 35% saying that Israel's response was "about right." 25% felt Israel has "gone too far" and 15$ believed Israel had "not gone far enough." Further analyzing demographics, the poll found that elderly Americans held a more favorable view of Israel, as did Caucasians. College students, African Americans and Latinos were more divided without a clear majority opinion. A HuffPost/YouGov poll finds. Americans support Israel over the Palestinians by a 27- point margin, but while Republicans and those over 65 are steadfastly supportive of Israel, others are less inclined to take a side. The online poll, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday before the announcement, found deeply divided opinions and little certainty about Israel's recent military action in Gaza, with 40 percent supporting it, 23 percent opposing it and 37 percent not sure. Reactions were similarly split to the possibility of an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza, with Americans about equally likely to back the idea, oppose it or have no opinion. More broadly, 36 percent of Americans said they sympathize more with Israel and 9 percent more with the Palestinians -- roughly the same as in an Economist/YouGov poll from March, when Israeli worries about a nuclear-armed Iran made headlines. Another 13 percent said they sympathized with both sides, while 24 percent said neither side and 18 percent were unsure.
  7. 7. 7 Two-thirds of Republicans said they sympathized with Israel, and just 2 percent with the Palestinians. Democrats, by contrast, were equally inclined to support Israel, both sides or neither, and only slightly less likely to sympathize mainly with the Palestinians. Americans over 65 were also firmly in Israel's camp, while those under 30 were most likely to express no opinion or sympathy for either group. That’s enough in the way of numbers. I think you get the general idea. A majority of Americans favor Israel with lesser support coming from young people and Democrats. Without giving you more (useless) numbers, I think if it’s safe to say that there is good support for Israel in the Gaza matter but, probably, that support will diminish if there is a lot more civilian death. My guess is that there is less support for Israel in Europe than in the U.S. given the greater acceptance of Jews here. The outbreak of anti-Semitism in Europe as of late also indicates, in all probability, much less support for Israel. After all is said and done, the level of support in either place will not have a significant impact on what is going on in Gaza. It is only the actions of the two warring parties that will determine what will happen there. PRESBYTERIANS By and large American Jewish organizations have good working relations with the many Christian church organizations in the U.S. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seems to be an exception. In a JTA article, Rabbi Gary M. Bretton-Granatoor a vice president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism penned an article entitled, “The Presbyterians’ Judaism problem”. In it he said, “The Jewish world has been shaken by the decision of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from three companies that it claims “further the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” The denomination has placed itself squarely on the side of the divestment movement that seeks to hold Israel solely to blame for the plight of the Palestinian people. It did so, furthermore, over the opposition of many Presbyterian pastors and lay leaders. Despite protests to the contrary by the denomination’s leaders, the church’s embrace of divestment is an affront to the Jewish community. The insult is made worse by the release earlier this year by the church’s Israel/Palestine Mission Network of a vehemently anti-Zionist congregational study guide, “Zionism Unsettled.” This ahistorical and wildly biased broadside impugned the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel and the very legitimacy of this core element of Jewish identity. While the church’s recent General Assembly did pass a resolution stating that “Zionism Unsettled” does not represent the denomination’s views, the study guide remains for sale on the church’s website. (Ed. Note: It was quickly removed after this article was published).
  8. 8. 8 Regrettably, the church — which often has been a partner of the Jewish community on critical social justice issues — has been on a 10-year road to this moment. At the Presbyterians’ 2004 General Assembly, the church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee called for a “phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.” Since then, within the church, Israel has often been compared to South Africa’s nefarious apartheid regime. Even worse, these ostensibly political actions are part of a warped theological framework that delegitimizes any Jewish attachment to the land of Israel. This theological structure represents a wholesale denial of Jewish history, Jewish experience and Jewish religious strivings to live in covenant with God. Irrespective of repeated statements by the denomination’s leaders that the church loves its Jewish friends, the real problem is what the church thinks about Judaism. The truth is that the denomination is theologically unreconciled with the Jewish community. Whereas many other Christian denominations have grappled seriously with anti-Jewish theological traditions, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has failed to do so. Many Protestant denominations took up the same process of theological soul- searching. The Episcopal Church dealt with the issue of with the issue of supersessionism and the validity of the Jewish covenant in a resolution in 1988; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in 1994; the United Methodist Church in 1996. These other mainline Protestant denominations have wrestled with their theological relationship to Judaism. They have developed a language of understanding and respect upon which to respectfully engage with Jews on political questions. The Presbyterians have not done this. True, a white paper on these questions has been circulating around the Presbyterian Church since the mid-1980s, but it was never acted upon. The Presbyterian Church has not resolved the question of supersessionism. It has not resolved how it teaches about the Jewish covenantal relationship with God and the biblical roots of the Jewish people’s attachment to the land of our heritage. And by denying our essential identity, the Presbyterians have now ceased to understand us as we know ourselves. All of this became very clear when the Presbyterians’ 2014 General Assembly debated whether the church should emend those prayers and hymns that refer to Israel, or at least to footnote that the Israel of the hymn does not refer to the modern land of Israel and that Zion only refers to the “City of God,” not a physical place. True, this resolution was rejected, but an atmosphere of anti-Judaism created the opportunity for it to be debated seriously. The Presbyterian Church’s actions have not only called into question its relationship with Jews. They have highlighted a glaring issue: the church’s relationship to Judaism. Until the official church body is willing to wrestle with this theological question, we can only expect expanded efforts within the church targeting Israel and a further tearing
  9. 9. 9 asunder of a Jewish-Presbyterian relationship that was built upon a shared vision for a just society. Much work lies ahead if the Presbyterians wish to repair this breach. Jews are an eternally hopeful people, and we stand ready to work with them. But to mend ties, the church must affirm our identity as a people still in covenant with God and with a legitimate attachment to both our history and our ancestral homeland. In many ways, as Rabbi Bretton-Granatoor points out, the stand of the Presbyterian Church is based on a negative understanding pf Jews, Judaism and the importance of Israel to both. It is not only political and that makes it all that more dangerous. Most of us can live with criticism of Israeli policies. We ourselves don’t always agree with them (Many Israelis don’t either). However, when you get into matters of religious legitimacy you are dealing with the borders of anti-Semitism. Dangerous stuff! GERMANY & UKRAINIAN JEWS I don’t have to go deeply into the subject of political unrest in Ukraine. It’s a daily item (though a little less lately) in the general media. However, there is at least some question about the security of the Jewish community there. In anticipation of real trouble and an outbreak of anti-Semitism, Israel Hayom reported, “Germany is easing its immigration restrictions for Jews from Ukraine amid reports of an increase in anti-Semitic incidents since the Ukrainian crisis broke out in February. The German government said Thursday it will give priority to immigration applications from Ukrainian Jews over those from Jews of other ex-Soviet republics, and will waive some of the stricter application rules that have been in place since 2005. After the fall of Communism in 1989, Germany established a generous immigration program for Jews who wanted to leave the former Soviet Union because of widespread anti-Semitism there. This led to an influx of some 200,000 Jews until the regulations were tightened in 2005. The German government said it was watching the situation for Jews in Ukraine closely. Since the outbreak of the current Ukrainian crisis, large numbers of the country's Jews have sought safe haven, with many moving to Israel. In May, the Jewish Agency came to the rescue of two Jewish Ukrainian families after rebels seized control of Donetsk airport as they were waiting to emigrate to Israel. The families were driven to the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk, then flown to Kiev, where they boarded a plane for Tel Aviv. The number of Ukrainian Jews immigrating to Israel has more than doubled this year compared to the same period in 2013, the agency said. Between January and April this year, 762 immigrants arrived in Israel from Ukraine, compared to 315 in the same period a year ago.
  10. 10. 10 Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky announced in February that the agency had decided to provide emergency relief to the Jewish community in Ukraine and to strengthen security at Jewish institutions in the country. "The Jewish community in Ukraine, which has about 200,000 members, is a thriving community with dozens of active Jewish institutions," Sharansky said. "Recent events have taught us that we must work to increase the security at these institutions." It is a nice offer from the German government but I doubt if great numbers of Ukrainian Jews will pick up on it. First, as always, no matter where people live, if they feel that they are in a “home” situation they are not inclined to leave. Things would have to get very bad before a more substantial number would get themselves together and actually leave. Second, the Israelis, feeling that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people would try hard to get them to locate there. There will be a certain number as there was after the Berlin Wall came down and emigration became an option that will want to go to Germany. Others, of course, would like to come to the U.S. At the moment there does not seem to be a severe outbreak of anti-Jewish activity. Ukraine and Russia seem to have quieted things down. However, for those of us who follow German – Jewish relations it’s nice to know that Germany continues to live up to its responsibility to the Jewish people. THE FIRST WOMAN RABBI Surprise! She wasn’t an American or an Israeli. She was a Berlin born German and now a group of women rabbis are trying to remember and commemorate her. JTA recently reported, “Ask most Jews where and when the world’s first female rabbi was ordained, and they’ll likely guess 1970s America. But they’d be off by four decades and a continent. The first woman rabbi was not Sally Priesand, ordained by the Reform movement in 1972, but Regina Jonas, who earned the title in 1935 in Berlin. This week, Priesand — along with other pioneering women rabbis from various movements and countries — is in Berlin and Prague trying to bring some belated recognition to Jonas, who perished in Auschwitz in 1944. Highlights of their five-day tour, organized by the Jewish Women’s Archive and the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives to honor Jonas, included installing a plaque in Jonas’ memory at the Terezin concentration camp, where she was initially deported, and visiting Centrum Judaicum Archive, where Jonas’ personal papers were stored for safekeeping on the eve of her deportation.
  11. 11. 11 “They came out with this little box,” said Priesand, who said she had been expecting a much bigger trove. “Her whole life was in this little box. And it reminded me of how important it is to tell the story. I wonder how many other stories were there” and never told. Born in 1902 in Berlin, Jonas studied at the city’s Liberal Hochschule fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Higher Institute for Jewish Studies) and was ordained by Rabbi Max Dienmann. Leo Baeck also signed the ordination papers. But after her death, she was largely forgotten until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when her papers were rediscovered. In a Tuesday evening program honoring Jonas, the rabbis discussed the challenges facing female rabbis today and shared stories about inspiration and obstacles. Panelists included Amy Eilberg, who in 1985 became the first woman ordained by the Conservative movement; Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, who became the first woman Reconstructionist rabbi in 1974; Jaqueline Tabick, who in 1975 became the first female rabbi ordained in the United Kingdom and today is convener of the Rabbinic Court of the British Reform movement; and Alina Treiger, who in 2010 became the second woman rabbi ordained in Germany. The program’s one Orthodox woman rabbi — Sara Hurwitz, who was ordained with the title of rabba in 2009 by Rabbis Avi Weiss and Daniel Sperber — was unable to reach Berlin due to the temporary closure of Ben Gurion Airport. “Although [Regina Jonas'] voice was silenced,” said Hurwitz, speaking to the group via cell phone, “it is thanks to her courage [that] we are guaranteeing that [Jewish learning for women] not only survives but also thrives.” Treiger noted that while Jonas had to do her studying at home, she herself was able to study alongside male rabbinical students at the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam. “It was my motto: If she can do it, I will do it also,” she said. In Jewish circles the ordination of women rabbis ranks right along with the acceptance of single-sex marriage as important changes in the last 50 years. It is an enormous change in Jewish thinking and practice. In the U.S. the hiring of female rabbis by synagogues has become commonplace. In most Reform and Conservative congregations the gender of the rabbi is no longer even a question. Thus far the same cannot be said for the Orthodox. Throughout Europe where there is greater leaning toward Orthodox practice the rabbinate remains mostly male. The same goes for Israel. However, change, once initiated, rarely disappears. There are female rabbis in Germany and the number of them in the future, I believe, will slowly increase to the point where it is no longer even a discussion item.
  12. 12. 12 In the meantime I am delighted that Rabbi Regina Jonas is being recognized. She was a hero and a martyr and deserves universal recognition. **************************************************************************************************** See you again in August. DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be reached at Both the American and Germany editions are posted at