DuBow Digest Germany Edition Novemebr 25, 2013


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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DuBow Digest Germany Edition Novemebr 25, 2013

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.net GERMANY EDITION November 23, 2013 IN THIS EDITION THE IRAN NEGOTIATIONS – Who knows? THE NEVER-ENDING “JEWS KILLED JESUS” MATTER – Somehow we can’t kill it off. AMERICAN JEWISH OPINION – Pessimism reigns. EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISM – It’s getting worse. JEWS & THE NOBEL PRIZES – Many! Why? THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (GA) – The annual gathering of communities. Dear Friends: I wish I could say that as we approach both the Thanksgiving and Hanukkah holidays happiness reigns supreme across our land. It doesn’t! Our very divided politics have us feeling – well, divided! The members of our Congress seem to be in a constant state of non-agreement. The Obama Administration and the Congressional Democrats found it almost impossible to get high level federal judges and administration appointees confirmed so the Dems voted to have the Senate confirmation rules changed. The Republicans yelled “Power Grab”! The main battle field is the on-going fight over The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or "Obamacare". It 1
  2. 2. is a United States federal statute signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. The fact that it’s the law of the land and has been for almost the last four years hasn’t brought the battle to a close. The war continues. The Jewish community faced with a proposed international agreement on Iran which many feel does not give Israel the sort of assurances it needs, leaves many deeply concerned. The fact that the Israeli – Palestinian discussions do not seem to be moving forward at the moment is almost felt as a momentary and needed respite. Having said all the above, I think most Jews will stop worrying for a moment and enjoy both holidays either separately or together. They are two of the most joyous. While we may feel troubled we have a great deal to feel good about here in the U.S. We are full participants in this country with relatively little concern about anti-Semitism. Other than Israel, of course, there is no other country in the history of the Jewish people that has been as good to us as the USA. As far as Hanukkah is concerned it celebrates “rededication”. If you don’t know much about it but want to, click here for some explanation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah So, putting aside our troubles, let me wish you the best for the two holidays. Both are family events and both include great feasting. Enjoy! THE IRAN NEGOTIATIONS Perhaps the most worrying and trying situation now facing the American Jewish community is the one surrounding the negotiations now going on in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear capacity. While the whole world should be concerned about the Iranians developing a workable nuclear bomb or even getting close to be able to manufacture one, Jews in both Israel and the U.S. (and, of course, elsewhere) are troubled about what that might mean for the Jewish State. Everyone knows that the final decision about how far Iran will go rests with its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian head of state. If the head of state of a country that has promised to wipe you off the face of the earth has said the following about your country, you too would be troubled. He recently said in a BBC translation to Basij commanders (a volunteer paramilitary organization operating under the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) on Nov. 20: "We are against the arrogance. We fight against the arrogance. Arrogance is a word in the Koran. It is used in the Koran for people like Pharaoh, malevolent groups which are 2
  3. 3. hostile to truth and righteousness....The government of the United States of America is on the top of the arrogance in the world." [The audience repeatedly chants: "Death to America."] "The Zionist regime is doomed to oblivion. The Zionist regime is an imposed regime which is formed by force. None of the formations or creatures which are formed by force is durable, and neither is this one....Unfortunately, some European countries cringe before this creature which is not worthy of the name of a human being, before these leaders of the Zionist regime, who look like beasts and who cannot be called human." (BBC) It is no secret that the Israeli government, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, has been not been swayed by the recent Iranian “charm offensive” and feels that the economic sanctions the U.S. (and much of the Western World) put in place should not be relaxed but, rather, strengthened. The Israelis are deeply concerned about the Geneva outcome. There is a major disagreement between Israel and the Obama Administration. The American Jewish community, many members of the U.S. Congress and many other Americans as well, caught in between, feel strongly that Iran cannot be trusted and that even stronger sanctions are needed. American Jews on the other hand do not want to have any kind of an open argument with Pres. Obama or Secy. of State Kerry who feel that a deal can be reached and Iran’s nuclear activity policed. It would be nice if Iran could be trusted and would not be inclined to develop a nuclear bomb. Everything they have done in the past and are still doing in terms of development tells me that that is a false hope. However, the general American public is so sick of years of war involvement that its majority is willing to have the President to sign off on the easing of sanctions and some sort of interim agreement. You can read about it by clicking here. http://www.jta.org/2013/11/22/news-opinion/politics/poll-shows-majority-support-forinterim-iran-deal?utm_source=Newsletter+subscribers&utm_campaign=8da6d59059JTA_Daily_Briefing_11_22_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2dce5bc6f88da6d59059-25329937 I wish I could give you answer to the question about how this entire matter will work out. I can’t and no one else can either. It’s just too fluid. All I can say is “Stay tuned” and pray for the best. THE NEVER-ENDING “JEWS KILLED JESUS” MATTER I fully recognize that most “regular” Americans are not biblical scholars. Many, who wouldn’t know Jesus from an exegesis hold on to the now discredited age-old lie that the Jews killed Jesus. It wouldn’t have been so bad if over the centuries people who 3
  4. 4. believed it just stowed it away in their minds and did nothing about it. However, history tells us that just the opposite happened. However,… Candida Moss writing in The Daily Beast recently noted, “A poll released last week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that twenty-six percent of the American public continues to believe that “Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus.” Although the number has dropped from 31% in 2011, the ADL described it as “surprisingly large.” In many ways it is strange that anyone continues to think this. In the wake of World War II a number of Christian leaders and organizations issued formal statements on this topic. The Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church categorically stated that the Jews as a whole could not be blamed for the death of Jesus. And yet, some fifty odd years later, a quarter of regular Americans still think that Jews are to blame. Really? Sigh. For all of the surprise over the results of the poll, there’s no real mystery about the origins of this idea. The claim that Jews were responsible for Jesus’s death is in the New Testament. In all four of the canonical gospels a (presumably) Jewish crowd calls for the death of Jesus, and Jewish authorities spearhead efforts to arrest and convict him. The Gospels of Matthew and John, in particular, emphasize the role that “the people” and “the Jews” played in orchestrating Jesus’s death. In Matthew, the Roman governor, Pilate, asks the people whom they want to see released: Jesus or a common criminal. When they call for the criminal, Pilate washes his hands of responsibility for the death of Jesus in a basin of water. The crowd responds in unison, “His blood be on our hands and on the hands of our children” (Matthew 25:27). This is pretty damning stuff, but when it comes to anti-Jewish sentiment in the Gospels, it gets even worse. In John, “the Jews” are repeatedly identified as the opponents of Jesus. Not some group of Jews, not some fringe group, but “the Jews.” In John 8:44, Jesus even accuses “the Jews” of being “from [their] father the Devil.” In religious terms, there’s no worse form of slander. The historical legacy of these stories is devastatingly clear. They laid the groundwork for and nurtured nearly two thousand years of anti-Semitism. There is no doubt that stories about the death of Jesus can provoke violence. In the medieval period, when the death of Jesus was publicly performed in passion plays at Easter time, riled-up audience members would spill out onto the streets and attack Jewish members of their communities. Such pogroms may lie in the past, but unsympathetic portraits of Jesus’s Jewish contemporaries persist in simplistic TV adaptations of the Easter story…” And, as this poll reveals, a quarter of Americans still hold Jews “responsible.” Are those who think this bigoted, Biblical fundamentalists, both, or neither? 4
  5. 5. Reading the New Testament alone does not clear this up. Saying it wasn’t “all Jews” does not satisfy. What’s needed here is not just Biblical literacy, but historical competency. One finding of the ADL poll was that the higher a participant’s education level, the less likely he or she was to hold anti-Semitic views or subscribe to negative views about Jews. Clearly that education included Biblical Scholarship 101. What are the Jews doing about it? It seems that righting the wrong is pretty important. Many Jewish agencies, synagogues and Jewish academic institutions try to clarify the situation with the many Christian contacts they have. AJC, for instance, has two full-time learned rabbis who do very little else. Christians, who understand the importance of historical accuracy in their churches and institutions, do the same. It’s a never-ending activity but one that is great importance to both Christians and Jews. While I haven’t done any international research myself, I think that the Statistics in Germany on this matter are about the same as in the U.S. To read the entire Moss piece which includes more in the way of historical fact click here. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/11/05/sorry-america-you-re-wrong-thejews-did-not-killjesus.html?utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=cheatsheet_af ternoon&cid=newsletter%3Bemail%3Bcheatsheet_afternoon&utm_term=Cheat%20She et AMERICAN JEWISH OPINION Every year AJC (The American Jewish Committee) does a survey of American Jewish opinion on the various issues that are of most importance to them. What follows are some of the findings from the AJC press release: American Jews are generally pessimistic about current political developments across the Middle East, notably the "Arab Spring," Iran's nuclear program and Arab intentions regarding Israel. "This annual survey, which AJC has sponsored for many years, reveals many fascinating insights about the Jewish outlook. Among them are that American Jews are highly engaged in, and concerned about, top U.S. foreign policy challenges," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "Our survey shows that they are particularly worried about Iran's drive for nuclear-weapons capacity. And despite all the reports of a decline in American Jewish enthusiasm for Israel, over three-quarters of the respondents believe that caring about Israel is a key component of Jewish identity." "Arab Spring" The survey asked, for the first time, about the upheavals in the Arab world that began nearly three years ago. 5
  6. 6.  Regarding the changes in several Middle Eastern countries, 56 percent are pessimistic, and 40 percent are optimistic.  Regarding the recent political developments in Egypt, 68 percent are pessimistic and 30 percent are optimistic.  On the civil war in Syria, 11 percent would like to see the government win, 24 percent favor the rebels, and 63 percent chose neither side. Peace Process While American Jews are distrustful of the long-term goals of the Arabs regarding Israel, half of the respondents favor the establishment of a Palestinian state.  50 percent favor and 47 percent oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2010, 48 percent favored and 45 percent opposed.  75 percent agree and 24 percent disagree with the statement: "The goal of the Arabs is not a peaceful two-state agreement with Israel, but rather the destruction of Israel."  68 percent say the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace have stayed the same since a year ago, while 12 percent say the prospects have increased and 19 percent decreased. Iran Nuclear Threat While an overwhelming majority of American Jews continue to be highly concerned about Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear-weapons capability, support for military action, whether by the U.S. especially, or by Israel, to prevent Iran from crossing that threshold has declined.  84 percent are concerned about the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. In September 2012, 91 percent were concerned.  46 percent say it is likely, and 52 percent say it is unlikely, that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In 2012, 36 percent said it is likely and 64 percent unlikely.  52 percent would support and 45 percent would oppose U.S. military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. Last year, 64 percent supported and 35 percent opposed American military action.  67 percent would support and 30 percent would oppose Israeli military action if diplomacy and sanctions fail to stop the Iranian program. In 2012, 73 percent supported and 26 percent opposed Israeli military action. Israel As in previous AJC surveys, the state of Israel is a major factor in American Jewish identity. A majority, 70 percent, agrees and 30 percent disagrees with the statement 6
  7. 7. "caring about Israel is very important part of being a Jew." For the first time, the AJC survey asked about the role of religion in the state of Israel, and found that most American Jews think that currently religion has too much influence. Forty-three percent favor separation of religion and state; 25 percent say religion should play less of a role; 23 percent say the current relationship of religion and state is best; and 6 percent say religion should play more of a role. Separation between religion and state enjoys strong support across all denominations.  47 percent of Orthodox, 31 percent of Conservative, 41 percent of Reform, and 50 percent of Just Jewish think there should be separation of religion and state.  The view that the current relationship between religion and state is best is supported by 22 percent of Orthodox, 30 percent of Conservative, 21 percent of Reform, and 23 percent of Just Jewish  Religion should play more of a role is backed by 22 percent of Orthodox, 6 percent of Conservative, 6 percent of Reform, and 2 percent of Just Jewish  Religion should play less of a role is supported by 10 percent of Orthodox, 33 percent of Conservative, 29 percent of Reform, and 22 percent of Just Jewish Anti-Semitism American Jews remain highly concerned about anti-Semitism, especially in Europe and, above all, in the Arab world. 14 percent consider anti-Semitism in the U.S. a very serious problem, 67 percent somewhat of a problem, and 18 percent no problem at all. 38 percent consider anti-Semitism in Europe a very serious problem, 52 percent somewhat of a problem and 9 percent not a problem. 88 percent consider anti-Semitism in the Arab world a very serious problem, 10 percent somewhat of a problem and 1 percent not a problem. Jewish Identity Thirty-three percent say being Jewish is very important, 30 percent somewhat important, 22 percent not too important and 14 percent not at all important. But opinions about the importance of being Jewish vary by denomination and by age. Among the Orthodox, 77 percent say it is very important, 14 percent somewhat important, and 9 percent not important Among Conservative Jews, 50 percent say it is very important, 28 percent somewhat important, and 20 percent not important Among Reform Jews, 34 percent say it is very important, 41 percent somewhat important, and 25 percent not important 7
  8. 8. Among Just Jewish, 11 percent say it is very important, 26 percent somewhat important, and 62 percent not important Among 18-29 year olds, 52 percent say it is important (either very important or somewhat important) and 46 percent not important Among 30-44 years olds, 46 percent say it is important and 53 percent not important Among 45-59 year olds, 66 percent say it is important and 33 percent not important Among 60+, 74 percent say it is important and 25 percent not important The poll of 1,034 American Jews was conducted on KnowledgePanel®, GfK's probability-based online panel. The field period was from September 30 to October 15. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. I don’t think there is anything in the survey that is surprising. The American Jewish commitment to Israel is very strong and there is concern about anti-Semitism especially in Europe and the Arab world. It shows, in my opinion, that there remains deep concern about the well-being of other Jews world-wide. That hasn’t changed in the last few thousand years. EUROPEAN ANTI-SEMITISM Since I mentioned above that American Jews were concerned about anti-Semitism in Europe, it seems that its increase has moved more Jews to think about emigration. Andrew Higgins writing in The New York Times reports, “Fear of rising anti-Semitism in Europe has prompted nearly a third of European Jews to consider emigration because they do not feel safe in their home country, according to a detailed survey of Jewish perceptions by a European Union agency that monitors discrimination and other violations of basic rights. The survey, carried out by the bloc’s Fundamental Rights Agency, focused on eight countries that account for more than 90 percent of Europe’s Jewish population and found that “while member states have made sustained efforts to combat anti-Semitism, the problem is still widespread.” The Vienna-based agency, in a lengthy report on its findings, did not reach any conclusions about the cause of a perception among European Jews of rising bias. But the results of its survey suggest that prejudices traditionally associated with far-right nationalist political groups like those that collaborated with the Nazis during World War II have now spread to other segments of society and are increasingly driven by conflict in the Middle East rather than homegrown bigotry. One-third of respondents said they considered statements critical of Israel as antiSemitic. Jewish groups in countries like France have long warned that Europe’s economic crisis, 8
  9. 9. lingering prejudice and a surge of Muslim immigrants often hostile to Israel have stoked a revival of hostility toward Jews. But the new survey, due to be released Friday on the eve of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht violence against Jews in Nazi Germany, gives the first detailed snapshot of Jewish perceptions of the problem across Europe. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they considered anti-Semitism to be a major problem in their countries, while 76 percent said the situation had become more acute over the past five years. The Internet has become a particular cause for concern among European Jews, with 75 percent of those surveyed stating that they considered anti-Semitism a problem online. Nearly the same proportion said they believed it had grown more serious over the past five years. A quarter said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitic harassment. Physical violence, however, is comparatively rare, with 4 percent responding that they had experienced violence or threats of violence because they were Jewish in the 12 months prior to the survey. As in the American survey reported on above nothing here is very surprising. AntiSemitism has been on the rise in Europe for some time now and has been widely reported (including in this newsletter). What is new is the fact that the negative feelings about Jews have reached the point where they, the Jews, have begun to think seriously about emigrating. Frankly, I don’t feel that the situation in Germany is as bad as either, for instance, Hungary or France. However, according to DW, “The survey also found that Jews living in Germany were particularly concerned with two issues that have sparked much debate in recent years: the prohibition of circumcision (brit mila) and traditional Jewish rituals associated with slaughtering animals (shechita). Almost three-quarters (71%) said that banning circumcision would be a "very big" or "fairly big" problem for them, while half (50%) held the same view regarding prohibitions on traditional slaughter. "I will wait for the developments concerning a statutory regulation on the Brit Mila. This will be crucial for my decision on whether or not to leave Germany." * The quotations in italics are statements made by Jews living in German who responded to the survey online. Translations are taken directly from the report. It takes a lot for anybody to think about pulling up stakes and moving to another country. It goes without saying, therefore, the situation is very serious. If you would like to read the survey itself you can do so by clicking here. http://fra.europa.eu/en/event/2013/fra-present-its-survey-jewish-peoples-experiencesand-perceptions-hate-crime JEWS & THE NOBEL PRIZES 9
  10. 10. It did not escape my practiced Jewish eye that so many of the Nobel Prizes this year were won by Jews. It also didn't pass unnoticed by an Israeli academic named Noah Efron who wrote a piece about it in Haaretz. The Professor "teaches in the Graduate Program on Science, Technology & Society at Bar-Ilan University. His forthcoming book, "A Chosen Profession: Jews and Science in the Twentieth Century," will be published jointly by Johns Hopkins University Press and Hebrew Union College Press. In the article Efron notes, "Did you know... Of the 8 individuals who have won Nobel Prizes this year, 6 are Jewish, 2 are Israeli, and 1 is a Holocaust survivor! While most reactions were triumphalist (“Super Jews and Our Incredible Nobel Prize Statistics,” ran one headline), some were pensive. Here in Israel, the fact that two chemistry laureates had abandoned the Jewish State when they realized it held no jobs for them, tinctured our national pride with self-censure. Elsewhere, rabbis and pundits tried to puzzle out what it is about Jews that make them so super at science. Broadly, two sorts of theories have been floated. One is that Jews have primo genes. Another theory is that Jews love hitting the books, as Israeli economics laureate Robert Aumann told the army radio station Galei Tzahal: Jewish homes have overflowing bookshelves. Throughout the generations we have given great honor to this intellectual pursuit. There are good reasons to doubt both sorts of theories. For one thing, Jewish excellence in science is a new thing. Jewish excellence in science is a phenomenon that flowered in the decades before and, especially, after the Second World War; it is too recent a phenomenon to be explained by natural selection, or even by putative ancient cultural traditions. The real explanation of Jewish success in science lies elsewhere. The 20th century began with massive migrations of Jews, to the United States, to the cities of Russia (and then the Soviet Union), and to Palestine. In each of these new lands, Jews turned to science in great numbers because it promised a way to transcend the old world orders that had for so long excluded most Jews from power, wealth and society. Science, based as it is on values of universality, impartiality and meritocracy, appealed powerfully for Jews seeking to succeed in their new homes. It is not so much what Jews were (smart, bookish) that explains their success in science, as what we wanted to be (equal, accepted, esteemed), and in what sorts of places we wanted to live (liberal and meritocratic societies). …our self-congratulation keeps us from seeing something that matters. Nobel Prizes are a lagging indicator. Given years after the achievements they celebrate, often to long-retired scientists, they reflect a state of affairs that existed 30, 40, and sometimes 50 years ago. They are a browning snapshot of bygone days. What bugs me about attributing the remarkable prominence of Jews among Nobel laureates to genes or enduring cultural traditions is that doing so suggests that Jewish 10
  11. 11. success in science will inevitably continue as a matter of course. Most likely it won’t. The percentages of Jews among new American Ph.D.s in the sciences has declined greatly over the past generation. In Israel, spending on higher education has continued to decline during most of the same period; to many of the growing numbers in Israel who embrace religion, the appeal of science has nearly vanished. The passions that drew Jews to sciences in such great numbers have dissipated. Maybe this was inevitable, maybe not. Either way, there is no good reason to expect that the remarkable contributions of Jews to science will continue for generations to come. Rather than celebrating the late ripening fruit of our parents’ and grandparents’ toil, each Nobel Prize is a chance to ponder whether we oughtn’t to be planting afresh the too-often neglected fields they bequeathed us. I think what Prof. Efron says makes good sense. If he's wrong and Jews do have some inherited genius genes they certainly aren't shared by all Jews. I have none. I was a lousy science student. More important is his point about the future generations. If there are fewer Jewish Ph.D.’s there will be fewer Nobel Prizes. He’s right! Nothing lasts forever. For the sake of transparency I would mention that my mother was an Efron but I don't think the Professor and I share any intellectual or super writing genes. Given his background and my scribbles in this journal, he certainly appears a helluva lot more endowed than I am. THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY (GA) The most important American Jewish meeting of the year is the General Assembly of the North American federation movement. Almost every American city that has a Jewish population of any size has a Jewish “umbrella” organization consisting of all the local and locally based offices of the national organizations. It is usually called “The Federation”. Normally it is a coordinating body and also a major fund-raising entity for both local and, to a lesser degree, the national organizations. It is also a major cultural and educational factor in each city. “The Federation” is usually seen locally as very important and, therefore when they all come together once a year at the GA what transpires there is of critical importance. Gary Rosenblatt reporting on the GA in The Jewish Week notes, “The GA, like just about every serious Jewish gathering these days, focused as well on two timely topics of concern — the internal worries over Jewish continuity brought to light most recently by the Pew Research Center study of American Jewish identity, and the existential crisis Israel faces from Iran and its nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at the opening plenary, used the occasion to take aim at the U.S., though never by name, and its apparent willingness to reach an interim agreement with Iran that would ease sanctions without undoing any of Iran’s efforts to create a nuclear bomb. 11
  12. 12. n his GA speech, the Israeli leader received sustained applause when he pledged that Israel would do what it must to defend itself, and called on world Jewry for continued support. Appearing to be in no mood for extending any olive branches, he also insisted that the Palestinians must make serious concessions before any peace deal can go forward. The following day U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told GA delegates that Israel and the U.S. were as close as ever, and that Washington would never jeopardize Israel’s security. But those who heard Netanyahu’s emotional response to the Iran negotiations with the West will long remember his angry words and sense that Washington is too eager to make a deal with Tehran. References to the Pew study, which reported increasing assimilation among American Jews, found their way into any number of panels, workshops and discussions. At a session devoted to its impact, Barry Shrage, president of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies, said “the Pew study says that we are doing very badly on many things,” including not following up sufficiently with Birthright participants. He said there are many opportunities that Federations must take advantage of to reach young Jews. JFNA leaders acknowledge that findings like the Pew report cannot be ignored, and that action is required. Jerry Silverman, the president of JFNA, recently unveiled a number of proposals to address these concerns, such as a call for free universal preschool for Jewish children and dramatically increasing the number of children in Jewish camps. It is unclear whether or not these and other projects will take hold at a time of ongoing economic worries and talk of the federation movement losing clout. But this GA may well mark a turning point in the effort to close the gap between North American and Israeli Jews — at least for those who cared enough and could afford to take part in the three days of dialogue in Jerusalem. Rosenblatt’s report was longer than what I have reported above. The right of women to pray at the Kotel (Western Wall) which is an Orthodox “no-no” and the need for a more pluralistic Israel were major internal Jewish themes that were discussed. To get a full picture you should read Rosenblatt’s entire article. You can do so by clicking here. http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/gary-rosenblatt/ga-jerusalem-pushpluralism ********************************************************************************************** See you in December DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be reached at edubow@optonline.net Both the American and Germany editions are posted at www.dubowdigest.typepad.com 12