A year ago, a new Jewish newspaper appeared in Berlin, published by Rafael Seligmann. Since then, the “Jewish Voice from Germany” has found readers all over the globe, not all of them Jewish, but all of them interested in what the German Jewish community has to say about a wide range of topics – from politics to art and culture, from religion to economy and history. Congratulations on the first anniversary!
Since the end of World War II, Jewish people have returned to Germany. As we know, not all of them intended to stay. Many of them planned to leave as soon as possible for places where Jewish life seemed less difficult and burdened. It is remarkable, and we are indeed grateful, that so many changed their minds and stayed on. Charlotte Knobloch described this situation vividly in her autobiography. Thousands came from the ex-Soviet Union after 1990, and today the Jewish community has approximately 110,000 members.
All over Germany, synagogues are being built and inaugurated. Colleges for Jewish studies are being founded, university institutes and religious teaching institutions established. A full-fledged academic, scientific and religious approach to Judaism is now again possible in this country. Rabbis are solemnly ordained having obtained a degree from a religious teaching institution in Germany. I have attended such a ceremony in September in Cologne and was deeply impressed by the young rabbis, who came originally from Ukraine, Belarus and the USA and will now be working in Germany as the religious heads and pillars of their congregations. Jewish kindergartens and schools exist in every larger German city, and they are being chosen by non-Jewish parents as well for their quality of learning and good child care. Jewish life in Germany seemed impossible after the Shoah, and now it is flourishing again.
This includes parents’ right to have their small sons circumcized. By the time this article is published, the Bundestag will have adopted a bill formally legalizing circumcision. The highly understandable anxiety in the Jewish community after the Cologne court ruling in June will hopefully end once this legalisation has been passed. It is the wish and the resolve of the Federal Government, and of the broad majority in parliament – as all the recent debates have shown –, that Jewish people are able to live in Germany freely and in security while enjoying the fundamental right to practise their religion. No Jewish citizen in Germany should ever have reason to doubt their decision to live in their home country.
The Jewish community and the readers of the “Jewish Voice” follow closely the events in the Middle East, and so do I, of course. Germany maintains a unique relationship with the State of Israel. We are partners and friends and we will continue to stand at Israel’s side. We will not remain silent when Israel's security is threatened. This is why I travelled to Israel in November with a message of solidarity and reassurance while rockets were being launched from Gaza to hit targets in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Germany and Israel share fundamental values: freedom, democracy and the rule of law. The fourth round of German-Israeli Government Consultations in December showed once again the strong bond between Germany and Israel. We will continue our frank and open dialogue on all issues of mutual interest. We will strengthen the exchange of young people that will contribute to a greater knowledge and understanding about each other. We share with Israel the vision of a two-state solution. In our view, the two-state solution, with an independent and contiguous Palestinian state along the State of Israel will protect and strengthen the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel. Therefore, we will continue to support all efforts towards this objective.
I am proud that there is a Jewish voice which by its very existence but also by what I have seen of its contents in the past year, shows its many readers that there is vibrant, new and forward-looking Jewish life in Germany. There could not be a better message. I wish the “Jewish Voice from Germany” every success and many readers. Mazel tov!