Jewish Communities Grow

Jewish communities from Boston to Berlin are growing and succeeding despite facing challenges.

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The yearning for a return to Zion is deeply ingrained in the Jewish psyche--and has been realized with the birth of the modern State of Israel. Yet the Jewish Diaspora persists, as it has for millennia. The writer, an experienced reporter and author of Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora uses several examples to argue that the Diaspora is a vibrant and enduring part of the Jewish story..

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism running amuck across Europe. Jews abandoning economically ravaged Argentina in favor of Israel or America. And the curses of intermarriage and assimilation linger. Those are the brow-furrowing themes that dominate the discussion of the Jewish condition worldwide these days.

argentinian synagogue

Sephardic synagogue, Buenos Aires

That image of a people in crisis is compelling. It also is only part of the story, and ignores an equally real and riveting tale of Diaspora renewal.

Europe

Reports from France, Germany, and England of a rising wave of anti-Jewish incidents are distressing. But just as the machine-gun attack at a Jewish community center in California can overshadow the comfort level Jews have achieved in America, so too dramatic reports from Europe should not blind us to their inspired success stories.

Consider the German case. Germany today has the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world, with the deluge of Russian Jews during the 1990s swelling its numbers from 27,000 to well over 100,000. While they make up less than .1 percent of the German population, Jews are consulted by the media on everything from politics to the arts. Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet Union are given citizenship along with benefits substantially more generous than they would receive in Israel or America. The rare desecration of a Jewish cemetery or temple is treated like a crime against the state. Even non-Jews are naming their children Sarah and Jacob, and they are unearthing Jewish grandmothers who, just a half century ago, would have ensured them a spot on a deportation train. Being Jewish is, quite simply, high fashion in today’s Deutschland.

Recent anti-Semitic incidents lead skeptics to rightfully ask whether, after the Holocaust, it is a trap for Jews in Germany to feel as secure, as much like they belong, as German Jews did at the dawn of the last century. But leaders of today’s German Jewish community insist that developments there over the last decade raise a profound hope for them and their co-religionists worldwide: that if Judaism can make a comeback in Germany, in the land of the murderers, it can happen anywhere.

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Larry Tye

Larry Tye is a former reporter for the Boston Globe, and the author of Home Lands: Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora.