Mr. Ambassador, Honoured Rabbis, Ladies and Gentlemen
Please excuse my weak German, but I wish to address you in the language of the country that has become a welcoming and prosperous home to our people. As you know, we have assembled here to celebrate fifty years of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. Three previous events led to this historic development. The Luxembourg Agreement of 1952 articulated the Federal Republic of Germany’s assumption of responsibility for the consequences of the Shoah. This led to a meeting, in March of 1960, between Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, and Germany’s first Chancellor, Konrad Adenauer. And third, the trial of Adolph Eichmann in 1961 enabled both countries to develop a new, empathic understanding of each other.
These past events bring us to the present day. Here members of the German Jewish community, both those who are native-born and those who have made Germany their new home, find encouragement and support from leaders of government. For example, Chancellor Merkel, attending a rally last September to oppose anti-Semitism, stated that the growth of Germany’s Jewish population
„grenzt an ein Wunder. Das ist ein Geschenk. Das erfüllt mich mit großer Dankbarkeit…Jüdisches Leben gehört zu uns. Es ist Teil unserer Identität und Kultur.“
“is a gift and it fills me with deepest gratitude. Jewish life is part of our identity and culture.”
A few weeks ago, Israel’s President Rivlin accepted Germany’s invitation to make a state visit to strengthen the ties with Israel. In fact, Germany is Israel’s third-largest trading partner, and Israel is Germany’s second-largest partner in the Middle East. The co-operation between these two countries extends from scientific and technological research to tourism, and much more.
Building on these solid foundations, we can look confidently toward the future. Jews around the world are reassured by the German government’s strong stand against anti-Semitism within its borders, and by its defence of Israel in the forum of nations. We are delighted to witness the growth of the Jewish Progressive movement in Germany, which we shall celebrate in the days ahead. And we look forward to the time when all denominations of Judaism will treat each other with mutual respect, and will receive equal status within the larger German community.
Over the next few days, I look forward to learning more about your vibrant community and to adding your voice to the worldwide organization of Progressive Zionists under the umbrella of ARZENU. I hope to explore with you what it means to be a Progressive Religious Zionist. What are the values that we uphold, and how can we put those values into action? How do we rejoice in the religious diversity in the Jewish Homeland, while also recognizing Israel’s unique culture that goes beyond religious practice? How do we defend Israel against her enemies that would wish to destroy her, while also voicing our hopes that her government and her citizens will live up to our highest Jewish ideals?
When we come to the end of reading a Book of the Torah, we say to each other, Chazak Chazak v’Nitchazek – let us be strong, let us be strong, and let us strengthen each other – and then we proceed to the next Book. As we conclude fifty years of friendship between Germany and Israel, we now open a new chapter of our Jewish future. Chazak: let us nurture our identity as a Diaspora Jewish community, and understand the unique gifts that we have to give to the world. Chazak – let us strengthen our bonds with the State of Israel, acknowledging how greatly Medinat Yisrael contributes to our own Jewish spirit. V’nitchazek – and may we come to understand that, through both these aspects of our identity, we give strength to each other.
Sitting together in this historic building with so many memories and many promises to come, with the new chapter of German Jewry open before us and with the support of Progressive Jews around the world, we march forward with confidence into the future.