J.J Gross
J.J Gross

The Bund that Binds? Rabbi Julia Neuberger and Amos Schocke

Or why do some Jews of German extraction have such a longing for their Germann-ness

Today we learned that Rabbi Julia Neuberger the British-born spiritual leader of the liberal West London Synagogue and a member of the House of Lords has decided to claim German citizenship.

Dame Rabbi Neuberger’s decision was prompted by her dissatisfaction with Brexit, whereby a majority of British citizens voted to gain independence from the European Union.

While making it clear that she has no intention of actually decamping from her peerage, pulpit or residence in the UK, Dame Rabbi Neuberger would like to have her cake and eat it too. She wishes to enjoy the benefits of UK residency and the perks of being a Dame, as well as the options available to UK citizens while hedging her bets with a German passport in her purse. She justifies her decision by declaring “…there is some German in me after all and it goes very deep” while brandishing the swastika-emblazoned passport with which her mother escaped the Third Reich in order to enjoy freedom and safety in England.

In so doing, Rabbi Neuberger is accomplishing three things:

  1. She is spitting in the face of the country that gave her family refuge;
  2. She is acknowledging that being German is her true core;
  3. She is showing her contempt for the democratic process and the will of the majority.

Here in Israel, where I live, we know this phenomenon quite well. The number of outright anti-Israel Jewish activists and their less extreme fellow travelers is quite small; nevertheless they are highly vocal and contain a preponderance of Israelis of German–Jewish extraction.

From the ranks of Women in Black who demonstrate against Israeli policies every Friday afternoon in Jerusalem, to the publisher of Haaretz, Amos Shocken and his staff, the common denominator is often Germany, and a nostalgia for German-ness. Even after several generations in Israel, the longing for Germany, the links to Germany, and the allegiance to German Kultur remains overpowering.

Shocken’s inherited newspaper Haaretz is kept alive, in part, by funds from a German fortune made during the Third Reich by a member of the Nazi Party who published newspapers that supported the Hitler Regime. Without this tainted money Haaretz would be out of business. Only 4% Israeli newspaper readers buy it – according to Haaretz’ own numbers. The real circulation is likely much smaller

It comes as no surprise that Mr. Shocken publishes columns by the likes of Rogel Alpher who constantly promises to leave Israel and cancel his Israeli citizenship, or by Amira Hass who reviles Israel and lives mostly among the Palestinian supporters of Hamas, or Gideon Levi who defames Israel at every turn calling the State “evil” and its soldiers “murderers”.

Like Dame Rabbi Neuberger, these German-Israelis spit in the face of the country that gave them refuge, manifest a longing for their inner Germany, and show utter contempt for the democratic process and the will of the majority.

To be sure, there are many Israelis of German ancestry who are proud Zionists. They are disgusted by the attitude and behavior of those who clearly demonstrate a belief in Deutschland uber alles. Yet one has to wonder how it can be that the likes of a Julia Neuberger or an Amos Shocken can possess such a twisted core, that as soon as things don’t go according to their plan, and they find themselves in a distinct minority, their reflexive action is to denounce the democratic will and turn longingly to Deutschland.

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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