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DuBow Digest Germany Edition April 1, 2009 A Newsletter on American Jewish - German Relations GERMANY EDITION April 1, 2009

Dear Friends: Before getting to the “meat & potatoes” of this edition I want to let you know that DuBow Digest has entered the “World of the Website”. DD now has a website, www.dubowdigest.typepad.com The website is called DuBow Digest Denk-Schrift (Think Piece) and both the American and Germany editions can be viewed. In addition, items too long for the newsletter and articles written by people other than me will also be posted. If you have something interesting let me know and I’ll post it. I am also posting on a something called SCRIBD which has a Google connection. So, if you type in “DuBow Digest” in Google – Voila! There it will be! Now down to business… IN THIS ISSUE: HEADLINES *Passover *The New Israeli Government *Jews in Europe: A Study *Get to Know: David A. Harris *Middle East Peace: An Obama Direction? *Durban II *Personal Notes PASSOVER In the last edition of DuBow Digest I was late in getting to you with an explanation of Purim. I wouldn’t want to replicate that error regarding Passover, one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar. It all starts on the evening of April 8th …more of it is explained below. Pesach (Passover) begins on the night of the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan and lasts for eight days. This holiday commemorates the departure of the nation of Israel from Egypt. Pesach marks the birth of the Jewish people as a nation led by Moses over 3000 years ago. It is as much a celebration of Jewish spiritual freedom as the physical liberation from slavery. The highlight of Pesach is the observance of the Seder meal, a unique ceremony performed on the first two evenings of Passover. At the Seder, the participants eat different special foods, tell the story of our departure from Egypt, sing songs and praises, and say special prayers contained usually in a booklet called a Haggadah The Haggadah is a Jewish religious text that sets out the order of the Passover Seder. Haggadah, meaning "telling," is a fulfillment of the scriptural commandment to each Jew to "tell your son" about the Jewish liberation from slavery in Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus in the Torah. There are many varieties of Haggadot (plural) stressing different messages eminating from the Passover story. However, Orthodox Jews use only the traditional text. You can read more about in depth at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggadah . Passover is a family holiday.in which family and friends gather together at home

(normally not in the synagogue) to enjoy the Passover meal with its matzoh (unleavened bread) and sweet kosher wine. The best part is when the youngest at the meal traditionally is called upon to ask the “Four Questions”. Want to know what they are, their significance and their answers? You will have to click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Nishtana Happy Passover! THE NEW ISRAELI GOVERNMENT Der Spiegel recently published an article about the new Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman entitled, The Pragmatic Thug. My guess is that this is the first of many articles to come that will be highly critical of Lieberman and the right-wing Netanyahu government. There will be much criticism in both Europe and the U.S. before they even take office and get started. The American Jewish community, by and large, is liberal and would have, I think, preferred a more centrist government in Jerusalem. But we don’t vote and the Israelis are entitled to elect whomever they wish. We can be uncomfortable (some certainly will be) and hope for some sort of peace agreement with the Palestinians but we don’t live in Sderot which still has to put up with rocket attacks from Hamas and have Hezbollah on our northern doorstep. So, we can have our own thoughts and even be critical ourselves if we wish but we’ll continue to love the world’s only Jewish state and continue to support it the best we can. Any thought that Israel is a totally “free agent” and can do what it wants as far as the Palestinians are concerned doesn’t take into consideration the totality of the political and diplomatic situations. In assessing them one should consider the following: 1. The Israeli government was democratically elected. 2. The cabinet, including the Foreign Minister's post, was filled in a constitutionally approved manner. 3. Lieberman as Foreign Minister must follow the lead of Netanyahu who is known as a pragmatist. 4. Campaign rhetoric is just that - rhetoric. We must wait to see what policies Israel follows before being critical. 5. The fact that left leaning Labor is also in the cabinet will, undoubtedly have a leavening effect on all decisions. 6. Netanyahu has announced that he will continue to pursue the peace process. 7. The pursuit of peace and a two state solution require that there be a solid negotiating partner. The split in Palestinian politics has not produced such a partner. 8. Israel must take the United States and the Obama Administration's view into consideration in any policy it pursues. 9. The EU, the Quartet, etc. will also have an impact on policy. Israel does not operate in a vacuum. My advice is for all of us to take a deep breath and wait a while before making any rash decisions about the new Israeli government. Let’s see how it goes first. There will be plenty of time to raise questions and criticism. In the meantime I must say I liked Pres. Obama’s statement last week about persistence being one of the hallmarks of his administration. In the Middle East we have to adopt the same point of view. John Quincy Adams, the 6th President of the U.S. once said, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish. JQA had it right! JEWS IN EUROPE: A STUDY

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (Yes, another Jewish organization) recently released a study on the attitudes of Jews living in Europe. It found that European Jewish leaders believe that conversion, intermarriage and communal membership should be dealt with more liberally than it is at present. In a survey of 251 Jewish leaders in Europe conducted last fall, 85 percent of respondents felt it was "not a good idea to strongly oppose intermarriage and bar intermarried Jews and their spouses from communal membership." Most European Jewish communities now allow only those with a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion to be counted.” The Gallup Europe survey included respondents from 31 countries. The JTA reported, “In more survey results, fewer than 27 percent of respondents felt that only those who were born to a Jewish mother or who have undergone an Orthodox conversion should be allowed to become a member of the community. Even among those describing themselves as Orthodox or Modern Orthodox, 43 percent believed that those who have undergone conversion under rabbinic supervision from any denomination should be allowed to join. Similarly, 46 percent of Orthodox respondents agreed that one Jewish parent was enough to justify membership in communal organizations. While many younger Jewish leaders expressed pessimism about Jewish life in Europe, the vast majority of all respondents agreed that Europe is a safe place for Jews to live, with only 15 percent of those under 40 and 5 percent of those over 55 disagreeing. Supporting Israel was the third highest priority among respondents, but nearly half said they were sometimes “ashamed” by the actions of the Israeli government. Also, about 75 percent agreed at least somewhat that events in Israel sometimes led to an increase of anti-Semitism in their countries. Respondents, however, expressed strong support for Israel overall. Since the end of World War II most Jewish communities in Europe (Germany included) have been “ruled” by Orthodox religious law, especially when it has come to the question of “Who is a Jew?” In recent years, especially with the large Russian immigration and intermarriage, the lines have become blurred and, perhaps, too restrictive. There are many people (and their children) who do not have either a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion. Liberalization would certainly open membership in the Community to many who would like to raise their children as Jews and be considered full Jews themselves. Certainly, acceptance of a conversion by a non-Orthodox but correctly ordained rabbi seems reasonable. And for small communities who are in dire need of members this sort of “change” may be absolutely necessary. However, these sorts of religious changes do not happen overnight. So, I see a long, probably tough, fight ahead. I’ll keep an eye on it for you. GET TO KNOW: DAVID A. HARRIS On many occasions I quote from the writings of David A. Harris, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee. I do that because he is one of the real thinkers in American Jewish life, is a prolific writer and he’s just plain smart. That fact that he is still, sort of, my boss (I’m semi-retired but no longer draw a salary) might have something to do with it but, on reflection, it really doesn’t. It dawned on me that many of you (most?) do not know anything about the person whose idea it was to have an AJC Office in Berlin and who has been a major “go-between” Germany and the American Jewish community. Let’s remedy that right here! David grew up in New York, in a secular Jewish home, and attended the Dwight School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1971, and did his doctoral studies at the London School of Economics and Oxford University (St. Anthony's College). He began working for AJC in 1979, but left to work for the National Conference on Soviet Jewry. He returned to the AJC in 1984, and has

served as its executive director since 1993. He is married and the father of three children and currently resides in Chappaqua, New York. That’s the short form. There’s a lot more. David’s leadership of AJC has transformed it. From a multi-purpose, multieverything sort of agency, he has sharpened its focus so that it could deal with the most important issues facing the Jews of the world, the international ones. AJC’s “tag-line” (the few words that explain it to the world) has recently been revised to “GLOBAL JEWISH ADVOCACY”. I cannot think of a better way to explain the agency’s role as we near the second decade of the 21st Century. If you want more detail abour David, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_A._Harris MIDDLE EAST PEACE: AN OBAMA DIRECTION? Roger Cohen of the New York Times (He used to be its Berlin correspondent) wrote an article last week noting that Pres. Obama’s trusted economic advisor Paul Volker followed up a letter he sent to the President which included a Middle East peace plan entitled, “Bipartisan Statement on U.S. Middle East Peacemaking, signed by a host of foreign policy “biggies” which may become a template for a new American policy regarding the Israel – Palestine situation. I mention it here for a couple of reasons. First, it commits the U.S. to a 15 year peacekeeping role which is something that will surely trigger much discussion about, yet again, another military involvement. More important however, for our purposes here, I am sure it will be seen as more “balanced” in the American Jewish community which translates out to many as “pro-Palestinian”. I can see the barricades already being prepared. Of course, there are many roadblocks to be traversed before the President even considers going down the “bipartisan” road. However, I thought you should know about it. You can see the “Statement” by clicking above. The Cohen article can be read by clicking here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/opinion/26cohen.html?emc=eta1 DURBAN II Canada, the United States and Israel all boycotting it, the organizers, fearing that many of the EU countries would also decide not to attend, altered the wording of the Conference’s resolution. All direct mentions of The Durban II Conference in Geneva starts on April 20th. With Israel, Israel were taken out but reference was still made to Durban I which was so terribly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, that no boycotting country has yet decided to change its plans. There is currently a battle going on over a resolution sponsored by the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) dealing with “defamation of religion”. Some 200 secular, religious and media groups from around the world, according to Reuters, urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to reject it noting that, “Such a resolution may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters and other independent voices, and to restrict freedom of religion and of speech. The resolution, its critics say, would also restrict free speech and even academic study in open societies in the West and elsewhere. To read the Reuters story click here: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE52O5QY20090325 The Durban II saga is complicated and the outcome of who will attend and who will not as of this writing is “up in the air” and not yet decided. As far as I can tell, Germany has not made up its mind. Of course, the outcome of the conference itself is also a question. However, given the strong backing and presence from the

OIC, I fear no good will come of it. The best way to follow the late breaking developments is to check into http://www.ajc.org/ . It has a Durban II Countdown feature which is updated regularly. PERSONAL NOTES On April 11 Yom HaShoah takes place throughout the Jewish world. It is the holiday in which the victims of the Holocaust are remembered. To learn more about it, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaShoah To all my Christian readers I want to wish a wonderful and happy Easter. I remember my Ostern long weekend vacations in Berlin. Most in the U.S. settle for just a Sunday event. In Germany it was Monday as well and, to be truthful, it seemed that most people were away (at least psycholocially) for a much longer period of time. To my Jewish readers, best wishes for a “Sweet Passover”. I hear that you in Germany have had a tough, cold winter. Well, in the U.S., at least up here in the New York area, it hasn’t been a picnic either. However, our crocus plants are blooming, the heaviest coats are being put away and the sun (when it shines) is stronger and warmer. Baseball “Opening Day” is only a week away. Better times are coming! NOTE: I’ve written a piece entitled American Jewish Diplomacy & Germany. It’s a bit too long for the newsletter so I’ve posted it on my website. Click on http://www.dubowdigest.typepad.com/ and you will be able to read it. As always, I’m interested in hearing from you. You can contact me directly by clicking here: CONTACT See you in mid-April.