by Elliot Zelmanovits (EUJS Communications Officer)
Last month, I was kindly invited to attend the Jugendkongress (Youth Congress) in Frankfurt, Germany. The weekend-long event brought together over 400 young Jews from across Germany, Switzerland and beyond and was, for me, an incredible example of the commitment and contribution young German Jews are making to the continuation of this thriving community.
Coming from a big Jewish community in North-West London, it is very easy to think that your community; the one that you’ve grown up in, have gone through school with and have known all your life, is the best and therefore any other community that it is “different” simply remains that way.
However, taking part in the largest gathering of young German Jews, the Jugendkongress showed me that differences in size, number and tradition do not hinder the sense of the word “community”. During the Congress, I got to know many members young German Jews, including those of whom were active members of a Jewish youth movement, just as I had been back in the UK. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and were just as interested to know more about me and my life back in the UK as much as I was about them and their life in Germany.
Whilst many of the guests invited to speak at the event gave their address in German, the ones that were given in English were very interesting, particularly those which addressed both the positive and negative aspects of Jewish life in Germany. Sessions were built around what was a remarkable Shabbat, including an even more remarkable Kabbalat Shabbat service accompanied by a three-piece choir. If I ever thought British Jews knew how to do Ruach (spirit), the Germans give it even more!
With the tragic news of the horrific attacks in Brussels still fresh, the event was a pleasant reminder of the Jewish spirit and how Jewish communities, like the warm and enthusiastic community of young Jews in Germany, can shed light in dark times.
I thank those individuals who made my trip so memorable (you know who you are) and look forward to visiting again soon!