Publicizing the Miracle of Hanukkah in a Berlin “No-Go Zone”

December 15, 2023 | Rebecca Blady and Jeremy Borovitz
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Yesterday German police arrested three men affiliated with Hamas who were planning an attack on Jewish targets. The news makes especially poignant this reflection by Rebecca Blady and Jeremy Borovitz, two Berlin rabbis who in 2021 moved to Neuköln, generally considered “a ‘no-go zone’ for the city’s tens of thousands of Jews.” Since October 7, they have been even more cautious than usual about public activity, yet have not lost sight of their goal “to make Jewish pride, Jewish confidence, and Jewish visibility a matter of course in Europe.”

Perhaps it was the fear that enabled us to return to our purpose. Although the initial warning to hide invoked memories from the city in its darkest days, we came to see that what we were facing was very different. Ultimately, we realized that although we could no longer be naive, we refused to be afraid of who we are.

While Shmini Atseret feels both like yesterday and a year ago, Hanukkah is now here and one cannot truly fulfill the mitzvah of Hanukkah in hiding. According to the rabbis, an important purpose of the Hanukkah lights is pirsumei Nisa, publicizing the miracle. So this year, on the fifth night of Hanukkah, we’ll still light our massive hanukkiah at the city hall of Neukölln, above the neighborhood’s main square. Despite it all, the Jews are still here, lighting Shabbat candles in Kfar Aza, putting on t’filin in the center of college campuses, and lighting Hanukkah candles in Neukölln.

Do we feel safe? Not as safe as we did on October 6th. But we aren’t going back into hiding.

For a very different perspective, I also recommend this 2019 article on Jewish prospects in Germany.

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