Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jewish community life takes root again in Germany

Here is an interesting article by Suzanne Fields on the gradual recovery of Jewish identity in Germany, with some interesting observations on religion in Europe vs. North America:
The religious focus here is of an entirely different order than in the United States. No one much cares that Angela Merkel grew up as the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman in Communist East Germany, where being religious was an invitation to official trouble and harassment. The omnipresent Stasi, the government's efficient secret police, lurked behind every cross, a symbol of the free society the communists hated. But freedom of religion was only one among many of the freedoms the Germans were denied in the East.

Germans enjoy neither freedom of speech nor separation of church and state as we know it. Germans are free to say whatever they like, as long as they don't say anything forbidden by the government such as anti-Semitic Nazi slogans. All "official" religious bodies must pay taxes to the state, and in return receive subsidies from the state.

Apparently, Jews are the fastest growing community. While that's partly a function of their small post-Holocaust numbers, the rediscovery of Jewish community life is probably helping as well.

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