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Monday, August 17, 2009

Uncertain Future, Undisputable (and Blissful) Ignorance

Jews in Germany past their peak [1]

I read with wry amusement the following post (see below in italics). In my personal experience, Jewish communities and Jewish associations in Germany - and specifically in Bavaria - are utterly, completely and supremely unwelcoming. The truth is that the Moses-Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam has absolutely no estimate whatsoever of how many Jews who are not members of a community live in Germany. So I would be very curious to hear who in Germany has any “expertise” on the question.

A number of years all sound good: The number of Jews increased from 1989 from 28.000 to some 130.000, what is less than a quarter of the number of Jews living in Germany in 1933, when Hitler rose to power. Several Jewish Communities all over Germany were reestablished, some of them even occupied Rabbis, the first time for 60 years and … worldwide headlines announced a kind of Jewish Renewal in Germany. Only some years ago German newspapers relished that the number of Jewish immigrants from Russia to Germany exceeded the one to Israel. But this was just a snap-shot …

Julius Schoeps, historian and head of the Moses-Mendelssohn Center in Potsdam in view of declining figures of member in Jewish Communities in Berlin as well as Brandenburg suggested to pool them together in order to keep the Jewish Communities “alive”. In Berlin for instance last year there was a decrease of 121 people. 139 arrivals (immigrants, removals and births) contrasted 260 leavings (deaths, removals). The decrease is an underestimated trend for some years. In 2003 the Jewish Community in the German Capital had more than 13.000 members, now at the end of 2008 the figure shrank to mere 10.794 (that is a downturn of 17 % in 5 years). Smaller communities of course are affected by this trend more badly, the more so because there was a trend in recent years that Communities like Berlin advanced there growth by people moving in from surrounding localities.

The situation in Berlin and Brandenburg is representative for the situation of the development in whole Germany. The figure of immigrants decreased to less than one thousand a year – it was at an annual average of 10.000 a couple of years ago. Since a vast majority of the immigrants from former Soviet Union were elderly people, figure of deaths is exceeding nationwide. Especially in smaller communities there are few births, circumcisions or bar mitzvahs.

As few experts predicted the figures of Jewish growth in Germany had reached the point of culmination in 2004/5 and are decreasing since. The high rate of inter-marriages, the increasing leaning towards splitting up into sectarian “liberal” or “reform” communities as well as the current age distribution illustrate that the often acclaimed “normalization” of Jewish life in Germany merely was a kind of flash in the pan. You don’t need to be a prophet to predict that the speed of the diminishment will increase. Maybe as early as 2025 the figures of Jews in Augsburg, Bavaria and Germany again will reach the level of 1990.

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