A Berlin Jew

I know, I know: shwer tsu seyn a jid (it’s hard to be a Jew). But being a German gentile can’t be that easy either; all they hear growing up is Jewjewjew and are muddled by tales of their murderous ancestors. They weep at The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas; they build memorials to their own guilt and they even pretend to like Klezmer music.

Problem is: There are not that many actual Jews around to satisfy all Hebrew needs – just around 300,000, including the most secular swine-eaters. Most are recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The Lithuanians don’t like the Ukrainians, who don’t like the Russians and so on.

And all of them are vaguely frowned upon by the rest, the old German Jews, who are as Jecke as Jecke can be. They’re grateful for the influx – going from 30,000 to 300,000 in just 20 years is not too shabby – but also suspicious. Depending on who you talk to, the new brothers and sisters are either too secular or too orthodox, too interested in making money or not ambitious enough.

Very little of that is openly discussed in front of non-Jews. Not that those could give a fuck.  Most German gentiles are, beyond their own shame and guilt, not really interested in Jews. They probably don’t even like them all that much.

So, there is a token popular Jew in every cultural field. There’s Author Jew, Movie Jew, Music Jew, TV Jew. They have their place, somewhere between non-threatening folklore and bittersweet nostalgia.

Only the Mighty Maxim Biller has succeeded in establishing himself as a Jewish voice beyond the topics Shoah and Israel, confronting hypocrisies everywhere. Still, the price must be paid: For most people, he’s just a pain in the ass.

Phrases like “Why this insistence on being Jewish? We don’t boast about being Christians,” hover around him, or anyone else claiming Jewish pride. The argument that there might be something more to Judaism than just the religion, especially in a society where cultural polyphony isn’t really extant, is dismissed as scarily reminiscent of the Dark Days. And who could make that call better than the non-Jews?

So, it’s 2011, I don’t fear the gas chambers.  But there is certainly no real sense of Jewish identity in Berlin, that is, beyond religion and nightmarish memory. The Jewish culture is at worst jocular, at best, spectral. It’s painful but, at least, I live.

What do you think?

About The Author

Fabian Wolff

Fabian Wolff was born in East Berlin just before the wall came down and is, sadly, still living there. He writes all kinds of things and desperately tries to out-Jew Leon Wieseltier. Has some funny stories about dead animals, too.

5 Responses

  1. Chajms Sicht » Heeb und Berlin und die deutsche Provinz

    […] Da kommen wir der Sache schon näher, aber wir bleiben im Metabereich. Fabian Wolff, dessen Rezension von »Der gefrorene Rabbi« ich schon angemerkt habe, dass sich da was aufgestaut hat, darf im Heeb Magazine nachlegen und er gibt sich Mühe, auch kräftig auf den Tisch zu hauen, damit man ihm zuhört: But there is certainly no real sense of Jewish identity in Berlin, that is, beyond religion and nightmarish memory. The Jewish culture is at worst jocular, at best, spectral. It’s painful but, at least, I live. von hier – heeb magazine […]

    Reply
  2. Jeff

    Awesome article!! Are there really 3000,000 Jews in Germany today? How many Jews live in Berlin? b’hatzlacha! :)

    Reply
  3. Just a Meenig

    Hey Jeff,

    There live actualy around 105.000 Jewish people in whole Germany.
    Currently there are 108 communitys sprankeld all over Germany.
    You will find it, if you in the on the Zentralrats der “Juden in Deutschland” homepage as followed:
    http://www.zentralratdjuden.de/de/topic/1.html

    with regards

    Detlef

    Reply

Leave a Reply