Six years ago, an old, extraordinarily beautiful synagogue was restored to life in Berlin. Recently, a seminary to train rabbis was attached to a new Jewish theological college that itself is attached to the University of Pottsdam. (See the article on page 8.)
How far the world has turned since 1945. How different the Jewish world is today than it was back then.
Jewish life is resurgent in the very heart of the land that once marked it for extinction. It is something to cheer about.
And yet there is evidence that the world has not turned all that much, at least not the European world. Anti-Semitism once again has become part of the European landscape, and not just in Germany.
Scandinavian countries, for example, succeeded in October in securing passage in the European Parliamentary Assembly of a nonbinding resolution that called for a ban on ritual circumcision, which it said was a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”
In the wake of that vote, Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, insisted at a press conference in Berlin at October’s end that “in no way does the Council of Europe want to ban the circumcision of boys. It is a very important part of Judaism and of Jewish life.”
His reassurance is not reassuring, however. Europe’s parliament, after all, did pass the resolution. It did so in the wake of efforts that have been under way for several years to ban the practice in individual European nations – efforts that often have the approval of sitting governments, and from all sides of the European political divide. Earlier this year, a German court banned the practice; in this case, the German government itself moved to counteract the ruling, but that it was issued at all says much.
Ritual slaughter also is under attack in Europe. Last January, for example, Poland issued a new regulation that required all animals to be stunned before they could be slaughtered, effectively banning kosher ritual slaughter. That decision was upheld by Poland’s parliament in July. It is now under constitutional review.
The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.