Germany’s Jews step out of the shadow of the Holocaust

February 23, 2012

(Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal (3rd R) lights a giant menorah during a Hanukkah ceremony in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, December 20, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

Yitshak Ehrenberg has witnessed a transformation in Germany’s Jewish community during his 15 years as an Orthodox rabbi in Berlin and he is determined to harness a new generation to ensure the religion thrives here.

“After the war, most of the community were refugees, survivors, broken souls who had lost their family and sometimes even their faith,” the 62-year-old told Reuters from a luxurious living room filled with modern art and family photographs.

“Now that generation has gone and the community is twice as big but 90 percent are from the former Soviet Union. If it weren’t for the new arrivals, the synagogue would be empty,” said the Israeli-born rabbi.

Ehrenberg’s experience reflects Jewish life which has been transformed across Germany by the influx of some 200,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union in the last 20 years.

The emergence of a new generation, keen to play a part in mainstream German society, has triggered the opening of bagel bars, Jewish restaurants, schools and synagogues in cities such as Berlin, Munich and Dresden in the last decade.

Berlin, with its trendy image for young people, has also become popular among Israelis, with about 20,000 living here.

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