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The New Jews
Facing reality of
in Germany, Zionist
unit takes indirect approach.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
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is a bitter pill for some to swal-
low: In 2002, more Jews from the
former Soviet republics immigrat-
ed to Germany than to Israel.
But the Jewish Agency for Israel,
which handles immigration and
absorption in the Jewish state, appears
to be partially swallowing that pill. The
immigration numbers — about 19,000
to Germany versus 18,000 to Israel —
resulted in a high-level Agency delega-
tion to visit Jewish communities across
Germany. The message is that the first
priority, even ahead of aliyah, should
be supporting Jewish life in Germany.
While the ultimate goal remains con-
vincing German Jews to move to Israel,
the Jewish Agency Task Force on
Germany reflects a new approach, offi-
cials say. The argument is that stren
ening Jewish identity in Germany will
lead to increased Zionism, said Shai
Hermesh, treasurer of the Jewish
Agency and head of the task force.
Some Jewish Agency officials are
upset that Germany's attractive absorp-
tion package — far beyond what Israel
can afford — is luring Jews, particular-
ly from the former Soviet Union. But
the Jewish Agency is not about to try
to convince Germany to stop accept-
ing Jewish immigrants.
Instead, the task force traveled
through Germany last month, visiting
seven Jewish communities. The new task
force aims to work with existing com-
munal structures to "encourage Jewish
roots and Jewish Zionist education"
among Jews in Germany, in order to
"create the opportunity that at least the
younger generation will believe that their
place is in Israel, not in Germany."
With that in mind, the agency is plan-
ning to augment its current staff of one
in Germany and to increase the empha-
sis on Jewish education and religious life.
Avi Pimor, vice president of Tel Aviv
University who is a former Israeli ambas-
sador to Germany, said, "I think the
place for Jews is Israel, but I think we
also have to live with the reality that
there are Jews in Germany and Jews in
America and England, not just Israel."
He said the recent drop in immigra-
tion to Israel has more to do with the
Palestinian intifada (uprising) than any-
Spurred by Soviet emigration, the
Jewish community in Germany has
grown threefold since 1990. But, there
are fewer than 30 rabbis available to
serve 83 Jewish communities.
Jewish leaders say it is a major chal-
lenge to meet the immigrants' needs.
The newcomers need language and job
skills in order to build new lives, and
many have little or no knowledge
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Violence returned to Israel this week in the form of a terrorist roadside shoot-
ing that wounded members of a Jewish family near Bethlehem, precipitating
the cancellation of a meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.
BETEIND THE ISSUE
For the past three years, Israel's foreign ministry had been focused on explaining
Israel's defensive actions in response to Palestinian terror. But on Aug. 3, in
response to the "road map" peace process, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom wel-
comed his counterpart, Palestinian External Affairs Minister Nabil Sha'ath, to a
first-ever meeting at the Foreign Ministry compound in Jerusalem.
Following the meeting, both men reported a fruitful dialogue, pledged to cre-
ate joint working committees on several issues, promote tolerance and reconcili-
ation within their communities and ask the foreign diplomatic corps to increase
international support and involvement in the peace process.
— Allan Gale, Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit