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Germany's "Vibrant" and Growing Jewish Community

"Six decades after Holocaust, Jewish life thriving again in Germany," writes USA Today:
According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, an estimated 250,000 Jews now live in the country, with some 110,000 of them registered religious community members. Before 1990, there were only 23,000 Jewish community members in Germany, according to the Central Council.
"In 2005, more Jewish immigrants came to Germany than to Israel," said Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council. "Without immigration, most of the Jewish communities would not exist anymore," he said, adding that about 200,000 Jews left the former Soviet Union for Germany since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Cosmopolitan, affordable Berlin in particular has become a magnet, home to several thousand young Israelis expats and hundreds of American Jews, prompting talk of a "Jewish renaissance" in a place where famous Jews like Albert Einstein or the artist Max Liebermann once lived.
The article writes that the World Jewish Congress considers Germany's Jewish community as "vibrant" and "the fastest growing in the world" and describes also the latest Passover:
"Twenty years ago, this would have been impossible in Berlin," said Jarosch, a real estate agent born and raised in the German capital. "But today we have an amazing Jewish infrastructure with kosher butchers, bakers, Jewish schools and several synagogues."

Some Religious Interpretations Have a Bad Influence in Germany

No religious folks in the former GDR? Think again! "A school in the eastern German city of Chemnitz has taken the Harry Potter books off its syllabus, after Christian parents objected on religious grounds," writes DW World.
The Atlantic Review has written about similar cases in the US: Challenged Books and the "Banned Books Week".

Another uproar: "Politicians, lawyers and migrants' groups in Germany were incensed over a German judge's decision to reject a divorce case, saying the Koran permits husbands to beat their wives," reports DW World.

"Foreign Policy by Report Card" Blamed for "Nurturing Seething Resentment Abroad"

On September 15, 2006, the State Department released the latest International Religious Freedom Report and concludes that a "generally free practice of religion" is possible in Germany, but also has some criticism:
Although the country's religious demography grew increasingly complex, the generally amicable relationships among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom. Important religious concerns included the organization of Islamic religious instruction in schools; social and governmental (federal and state) treatment of certain religious minorities, notably Scientologists and Jehovah's Witnesses; and bans in certain states on the wearing of headscarves by female Muslim teachers in public schools. The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights. The U.S. government placed particular emphasis on support for direct dialogue between representatives of minority religious groups and relevant government officials.
Read the full report on Germany at the State Department. John R. Hamilton, who retired last year after 35 years as a Foreign Service officer, incl. ambassadorships to Peru and Guatemala, criticizes the many annual State Department reports as
"foreign policy by report card," the issuing of public assessments of the performance of other countries, with the threat of economic or political sanctions for those whose performance, in our view, doesn't make the grade. The overuse of these mandated reports makes us seem judgmental, moralistic and bullying.
He argues that these reports "nurtured seething resentment abroad", because "the tolerance of other societies for being publicly judged by the United States has reached its limits." (I don't think Germans pay that much attention to these annual reports, but some newspapers do take notice.) Mr. Hamilton explains in the Washington Post:
Each year we issue detailed human rights reports on every country in the world, including those whose performance appears superior to our own. We judge whether other countries have provided sufficient cooperation in fighting illegal drugs. We place countries whose protection of intellectual property has been insufficient on "watch lists," threatening trade sanctions against those that do not improve. We judge respect for labor rights abroad through a public petition process set up under the System of Generalized (trade) Preferences. We publish annual reports on other countries' respect for religious freedom. And more: We seek to ensure the adequacy of civil aviation oversight and the security of foreign airports through special inspections and categorizing of government performance. (…) We report on trafficking in persons and categorize the performance of every country where such trafficking is a problem, which is just about everywhere. And we withhold military education, training and materiel assistance from countries that do not enter into agreements with us to protect our nationals from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Mr. Hamilton's conclusion "Our public reports have reinforced the view abroad that we set ourselves up unilaterally as police officer, judge and jury of other countries' conduct." explains in part why America is more often criticized than any other country in much of the international media. Fareed Zakaria made such an argument in Newsweek last year:
I often argue with an Indian businessman friend of mine that America is unfairly singled out for scrutiny abroad. "Why didn't anyone criticize the French or Chinese for their meager response to the tsunami?" I asked him recently. His response was simple. "America positions itself as the moral arbiter of the world, it pronounces on the virtues of all other regimes, it tells the rest of the world whether they are good or evil," he said. "No one else does that. America singles itself out."
The State Department does a good and necessary job of criticizing human trafficking, lack of religious freedom and other human rights violations around the world. However, while some countries get punished, some U.S. allies like Saudi Arabia do not. Nobody should be surprised that many of America's critics are not fair and balanced either. That's how the cookie crumbles. (As always, emphasis in bold was added)

Comparing the United States and Germany

In August, the Atlantic Review linked to a US Fulbrighter's list The Best of Both Worlds: What Germany and the United States could learn from each other. Since these comparisions are very popular on both sites of the Atlantic, here is now an interesting and very detailed Comparision of Germany and the United States from Axel Boldt, a German college teacher with a Ph.D. in Math from the University of California, who has been living in the US since 1992.

He compares the US and Germany in regard to these topics: Democracy, Freedom, Nationalism, Technology, Television and the Media, Bureaucracy, Communism and Socialism, Unions, The World of Work, Legal System, Privacy and Access to Information, Educational System, Health, Mobility, Diversity, Discrimination, The Rich, Canada and the Netherlands, Environmental Sensitivity, Charity, Mentalities, Violence and Aggression, Influence of Religion, Selective enforcement of laws, Dress Code, and Annoying Customs.

He points out: "Since I started this page several years ago, I repeatedly noticed that the differences between America and Germany are getting smaller, a result of Germany moving in America's direction." His comments software does not work properly, so please, leave any comment, you might have, here. Click on "Comments" below.

This century's first genocide

The US found common cause with Cuba, Iran and Syra in blocking language in a UN declaration saying that countries have an "obligation" to respond to genocide, complains columnist Nicholas Kristof in the Texas Star-Telegram. (Republished in Darfur Daily News)

He describes how former Marine captain, Brian Steidle, who served in Darfur as a military adviser, apparently got blacklisted from all US government jobs after Kristof published his pictures of children hacked to death and of children apparently burnt alive. Kristof says, he

can't understand why Bush is soft on genocide, particularly because his political base -- the religious right -- has been one of the groups leading the campaign against genocide in Darfur.
Chancellor Schroeder, who used many peace slogans during his election campaign, hasn't done much to bring peace to Darfur either. Or the Arab League for that matter.

The American Dream, blue-collar hearts and minds and Christian values

Fulbright Alumna Arlie Hochschild, a professor of sociology at The University of California, Berkeley, compares the (non-)reaction of the American public towards socially unjust budget policies with a chauffeur who is driving his wealthy boss around in a limousine, watches him get out of the car, steal a loaf of bread from a homeless mother and her two children, and get back into his luxury vehicle. The chauffeur feels real qualms about leaving behind an even poorer family and a baffled crowd of sidewalk witnesses, but drives on nonetheless.
You can read Prof. Hochschild's article in the liberal journal Mother Jones. If you want to read some quotes first that explain the dilemma, describe the role of the American Dream, the successful conservative stratgey to win blue-collar hearts and minds, and the change of Christian values, then continue to read here:

Continue reading "The American Dream, blue-collar hearts and minds and Christian values"

Religious-political Justice Sunday: Justice or Just us?

According to Salon:

The message of Justice Sunday was that the Senate's filibuster of some of Bush's judicial nominees constitutes discrimination against "people of faith." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who delivered a speech by video, tried to distance himself from this inflammatory assertion, but his participation spoke much louder than the wan caveats offered in his remarks. He lent his authority and credibility to the parade of right-wing celebrities who are using the parliamentary stalemate over judges as an excuse to tar Democrats as, essentially, enemies of God. Thousands crowded the megachurch in Louisville, while others watched via satellite in hundreds of churches nationwide. Still more tuned in online and through Christian TV and radio.