My personal journey into German Jewish history and contemporary life became more public last week with my article in Tablet Magazine on neo-Nazi terror in Germany. Here’s the link: http://www.tabletmag.com/life-and-religion/87460/descendants/ Many readers took issue with my commentary and dished up quite a few insults in their comments. The magazine’s editors chose an ill-suited heading for the piece that made me appear like a country bumpkin from Montana who didn’t know there would be neo-Nazis in Germany. Actually, I was born in New Jersey and spent most of my life in the Bay Area before moving to Montana in 1996.
Clearly, my German Jewish journey makes many people uncomfortable. But doesn’t each of us have an odyssey that we must travel in life? And on that journey don’t we have to step into dark places as well as those suffused with light? This blog is a journal of the dark and the light places that we have encountered on our return to the land of our ancestors. Perhaps those who fear embarking on their own journeys are quicker to render judgment about the pursuits of others. Steven, who posted one of the many comments on the article, said it best: “No Jew deserves shame for re-claiming something that was once theirs.”
American Jews still seem to struggle with the fact that German Jews are German as well as Jewish. “Ha ha” said some commenters, “why don’t you go back home to Montana!” But Germany is also a country that’s moved beyond stale debates over gay rights and “family values”, a country that offers equal access to health care and higher education. My children are on their own personal odyssey, thriving on the chance to live in Europe, attend an international school, and learn German. I actually do feel safe in Germany, but that does not lead me to dismiss the neo-Nazi terror that has taken place here. Nor do I think the Zwickau terror cell, and the government’s failure to take timely action against it, can be compared to the white supremacy movements found in Montana and elsewhere.
I don’t see the U.S. or Germany in black and white terms; I try to see each country as it is, filled with promise and possibility as well as dangers that pose a threat to democracy. As a citizen of both countries, I’m privileged to add my voice to those of others who call out when forces of hate lead us astray from a civil society.