Bnai Brith Magazine Spring 2012 : Page 25

bar or bat mitvahs. Still, nearly 80 percent said they wanted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery, and more than two-thirds said they hoped their children would marry a Jew. In the former Soviet Union, only their pass-ports, which said “Nationality: Jewish,” tied them to their religious heritage, and that distinction gave rise to anti-Semitism and their desire to leave. In Berlin, where 200,000 former Soviet citizens—Jews and non-Jews—reside, this has meant that most Russian and German Jews have little in common. German-born children of Rus-sian immigrants are more assimilated but are “a tiny group,” according to Kessler. Elderly Russian Jews, veterans of the Red Army rather than of concentration camps, actually sought out their German Wehrmacht coun-terparts. “Clubs of the Veterans of the Great Patri-otic War” flourish in Jewish communities. They “run the show, sing patriotic songs, wear decora-tions and tell each other how they liberated Berlin or Budapest,” Kessler says. “Because of the Russian takeover of language and culture, it is now often the non-Russian Jews who feel excluded,” she said in a seminar paper she presented last year. Ronis, 36, who sold insurance before becoming a rabbi in 2010, agrees that “the older [Russian-speaking] people are not so much assimilated. You have to live, work and find your way. The first generation, it’s always hard.” Why did his family emigrate from Ukraine to Germany? “I always say we just want to take a look and we’re still looking. But it’s not really true. We are now really liv-ing here in Germany.” **** Magazine editor Kessler is neither Rus-sian nor Israeli. At the age of 10, she came to Berlin in 1969 with her family from her birthplace, Poland, where anti-Semitism was resurgent. Her mother had survived the war by hiding in a Catholic seminary, and Kessler was born in Lodz, which once had Europe’s second largest Jewish Hermann Simon, director of the New Synagogue Berlin—Centrum Judaicum Foundation accepts the gift of a book. community and now has only a few hundred Jews. So what, she is asked, does it mean to be Jewish in Berlin in 2012? “There are 100 different answers,” she begins. “For me, it is a place where I have lived a long time. It is something like a home place.” Of anti-Semitism, she says, “It is there, but you don’t feel it so much, because I think there is in Germany a lot that has happened but also positive things. So every time I compare this with Poland, I see in Germany a lot happens in a good sense. They try to understand their history and not make the same mistakes.” B’Nai B’rith 25


Using a screen reader? Click Here