The representative body of post-war German Jewry celebrated its 70-year anniversary this week with one eye on an even bigger anniversary next year.
Reflecting on the fact the Central Council of Jews (CCJ) in Germany held its inaugural meeting in Frankfurt on 19 July 1950, establishing what was intended to be a provisional set-up, community leaders said Jewish life in Germany today was once again vibrant.
At its inception, the CCJ’s main task was to support the Jewish families who had managed to survive the Holocaust and to facilitate their emigration, yet CCJ leader Josef Schuster said many families surprisingly wanted to stay in Germany.
Within weeks of the war ending, the ‘Israeli Cultural Community’ was founded in Munich, the first of several steps marking the revival of Jewish communities in Germany, which was divided between East and West during the Cold War.
“For a long time, it was very problematic, also in Jewish circles, to stand up and say that you’ve consciously chosen a life in Germany,” said Schuster, adding that when legendary CCJ leader Werner Nachmann began proudly proclaiming the return of Jewish life in Germany, he faced criticism from Israel.
Next year, Jewish communities in Germany will celebrate a far larger anniversary, marking 1,700 years of Jewish life on what is now German soil. The CCJ said it would seek to strike a tone balanced between past, present and future.