Russian Jews in Germany

The World

This man is a Jew from Russia, and one day when he was a teenager in 1990, a couple of Israelis came to visit his town. They said they were from a program called Nativ and Israel wants you. After that, he says, a huge wave of emigration came to Israel. Jews emigrated for many reasons: social turmoil and growing anti-Semitism after the Soviet Union collapsed, and also to find work. Most went to Israel but about 200,000 went to Germany. The man says his family thought employment chances would be better in Germany so they went there instead of Israel. Today he is perfectly integrated into German-Jewish society, but experts say over half of the original immigrants are not. For example, the elderly who only speak Russian or those who have a Jewish father but not a mother because they’re excluded from Jewish Law. Those are the people the agents of Nativ want to reach. Nativ began as a secret program in the 1950s to build links to Soviet Jews and at times to smuggle them to Israel. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the organization all but went away, but two years ago Israel gave it this new mission in Germany. The problem, says this analyst, is that there’s no more Cold War enemy, yet Nativ still paints the situation that way. He says Nativ’s activities could divide the fragile Jewish-German community. The Israeli ambassador to Germany acknowledged Nativ’s presence in Germany, but denied that it’s trying to lure Jews to Israel. But still many question Nativ’s actions in Germany. This professor says Israel’s population is growing older and is trying to recruit younger Jews. Despite the Holocaust, Jews today regard Germany as a country of law and feel as though they won’t be punished there. But still some say it’s good for Israel to have a strong Diaspora.

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