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‘I Am Very Jewish in Berlin’

Voices from Europe: Talking to young Israelis living in the German capital

Stephanie Butnick
April 09, 2015


Over at Jewcy, our partner site, we’re running a series called Voices from Europe, in which young Jews across Europe share stories of the reality of their day-to-day lives. Guest editing the site for us is Jane Braden-Golay, president of the European Union of Jewish Students, who laid out her vision for the series in her editor’s note. The series, which started in March, has covered the complexities—and mundanities—of everything from explaining why, as a Canadian Jewish expat in Brussels, you’re choosing to stay abroad, the trials of long-distance dating across European Jewish communities, and the “unified, not uniform” state of Jewish life at universities in the U.K. (It’s not, we learn, “all BDS, and no BYOB”).

The latest piece comes from Gina Reimann, a freelance writer in Berlin, who describes speaking to Israelis there about their experiences. As Jamie Kirchick recently warned, the newly popular media trope of “the irresistible story of Israelis choosing to live in Germany” can be more insidious than informative.

Still, Reiman found something interesting when she talked to young Israelis living in Berlin. “‘I am very Jewish in Berlin.’ A sentence you get to hear quite often,” Reimann writes. “Israelis who used to live a secular life at home suddenly become religious once they are in Berlin. They discover their Jewishness and begin to value their religion and spirituality highly.”

The arrangement, Reiman acknowledges, is a mutually beneficial one: “The city, too, profits from the huge attraction that it has on young people from Israel. Berlin needs this diversity to thrive.”

You can read the full post here.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.