Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, June 28, 2002

A rabbi in Germany attempting to replant Judaism in a place that has seen its share of death and destruction.

...I have been in Schwerin since early March as the first rabbi for 68 years. Sixty years of Nazism and communism left only 55 disused cemeteries here and not a single living Jew. There are now some 1,200 Jewish migrants.

He recounts fears and hope.

A “Jewish” life in Europe has always been the product of an inner pull from the soul and an outer push in the form of anti-Semitism. In that respect today’s Germany is happily unhelpful. The atmosphere is as different from Germany’s past as mobile phone aerials are from the 18th-century watertowers that still decorate the landscape. The media and politicians, as well as the Jewish community leadership, remain edgy about the least signs of anti-Semitism. Remarks that would pass virtually unnoticed in Britain fuel headlines for days.

The nervousness came to my own front door at half-time in the World Cup semi-final between Germany and South Korea. Two police cars suddenly parked themselves protectively against the building in which my apartment and the communal offices are housed in case the German team lost and the lively crowd in the nearby market square took out their disappointment on an easy target like the rabbi’s home.

That apprehension was at variance with my daily experience of goodwill and tolerance. A Saturday evening call within two weeks of my arrival was typical. I answered it with an English “Hello”. “Who’s that?” the German voice bellowed in some irritation. “The Jewish Community Office.” “Well, why can’t you answer the phone properly?” I offered due apologies. “And why aren’t you listed in the directory under ‘churches’ where you should be?” I wasn’t sure that that needed an apology. My caller then introduced himself as the retired vicar of Boizenburg where the old disused cemetery had recently been vandalised, some stones damaged beyond repair. He had rung to offer his support. “I want you to know that I am always there for you,” he said.“Get in touch any time you like and,” he added, “please get yourself listed under ‘churches’ where you belong.”

< email | 6/28/2002 11:28:00 PM | link

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