The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dr. Josef Schuster, marked the start of the festival year ‘1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany’ in a live online event.
He was joined by Jürgen Rüttgers, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Bundeskanzler-Adenauer-Haus Foundation, and Norbert Lammert, Chairman of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
In his opening remarks, Jürgen Rüttgers emphasized the widespread support for the festival year among the German political class and civil society, as well as among universities and churches. Over 1000 events throughout Germany are planned in 2021 to commemorate 1700 years of Jewish life in Germany.
Rüttgers stressed the importance of countering the growing antisemitism and extreme nationalism and challenges of preserving a culture of remembrance in Germany and Europe. “We have to declare war on antisemites, racists and nationalists early on,” said Rüttgers.
Norbert Lammert addressed these challenges in the context of the current coronavirus pandemic and the vaccinations against the virus that have been available for a few weeks.
“Unfortunately, there is no comparable and similarly effective vaccine against disrespect, discrimination, xenophobia and antisemitism” said Lammert.
In his keynote speech, Dr. Josef Schuster paid tribute to Konrad Adenauer, who was born 145 years ago on January 5th. Among other things, Schuster emphasized the efforts of the then Federal Chancellor for reopening synagogue of Cologne and the rapprochement with the State of Israel.
Dr. Schuster discussed how the Shoah almost completely destroyed everyday culture and practice among German Jews Jewry.
“The story of the Jews in Germany is a story with ups and downs,” said Schuster, referring to the past 1700 years. Ashkenaz, the medieval rabbinical term for Germany, is a cradle of flourishing Jewish culture, which through migration has also strongly influenced Eastern European Judaism.
According to Schuster, the Zivilisationsbruch (‘break in civilization’) during the Shoah not only destroyed millions of people, but also almost completely destroyed everyday culture and practice in German Jewry.
The President of the Central Council emphasized the importance of the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union to the reunified Federal Republic in strengthening Jewish life in Germany: “Without this immigration – that must be said clearly – there would be no more Jewish communities in many cities today.”
Despite many challenges, Jewish life in Germany has long since established itself again, said Schuster. That is not a matter of course. Using the example of the recent antisemitic attacks in Halle, Hamburg and Essen, Josef Schuster complained of an increasingly violent hatred of Jews.
He also criticized the most recent judgment of the European Court of Justice on the ritual slaughter of animals: “This is a serious interference with the practice of religion and endangers Jewish life in Europe.”
Dr. Schuster expressed hopes that Germany and the other EU Member states will continue to make ritual slaughter possible, said Schuster. “This example clearly shows that working for Jewish life in Germany is not a theoretical question, but a very specific challenge,” emphasized the President of the Central Council.
The occasion for the festival year “1700 years of Jewish life in Germany” is the enactment of a law by the Roman Emperor Constantine, which stipulated that Jews were allowed to exercise municipal offices in Cologne’s city administration. The anniversary will be celebrated with numerous online and offline events.