Thursday, November 19, 2009

To go or not to go

By Frum N’ Flipping

"You're going where?!"
A score of faces turn to me in horror.
Maybe it wasn't a good idea to bring this up at the Shabbos table.
"It's a conference. For work."
"You want to go to Germany? Of all places!"
"I don't want to go to Germany. But that's where the conference is going to be. In Berlin."
"So don't go."
"But it's for work. I need to go. You know I'd never go just for a vacation."
"You don't need to go. You want to go. Nobody is forcing you."
"Well yes. OK. True. I could skip the conference entirely. But I really want to give a presentation there. It's a great opportunity ."
"Work. Phuh. IBM also justified being in Germany before the war, they also said it's just for work."
"This isn't the same thing. Germany is the least anti-Semitic country in Europe at the moment." Even in my ears it sounds lame. I feel I'm playing devil's advocate.
'It doesn't make a difference. Their streets are soaked in Jewish blood."
"So is King George street. So is Machane Yehuda."
"For a child of mine to step foot in Germany is as bad as watching her bite into a ham sandwich."

Gulp. Thanks for the guilt trip.

I've always loved my family, for being so open minded, so chilled, laid back.
"As long as you're happy." That was my parents' motto, when I was growing up. Well, add "And marry a nice Jewish boy" to that. But still, not much to ask, after all.
But we all knew the unspoken rule. Don't buy anything German. Not cars, not napkins, nor anything else. When I bought a German produced gluestick by mistake, I had to return it to the store. The best erasers were the ones stamped with "Made in Germany." I'd make do with others.

The ironic thing is that neither side of my family went through the holocaust. My great-great-great grandparents died of either old age, or cold and starvation, in Russia, before the German army reached them. Their descendants, my ancestors, had already emigrated to safer lands, years before.

I sometimes wonder if it's guilt, guilt at being safe, that made my family even more insistent to boycott everything German.

Around me I'd see my peers, grandchildren of survivors, not understanding what the fuss was about. When I traveled to Europe with them, I was the one who refused to visit Austria for a day trip. Instead, we went to Lichtenstein, and that only after I'd researched its WWII treatment of the Jews.
But I never sacrificed anything big for that ideal. Anything that really mattered to me.

And now that I'm asked to, I'm questioning, reexamining the values I was raised with. It could be I'm seeking a logical way to salve my conscience. Simply putting career before principles. I hope not. I'd hate that.

But is the land of Germany, today, still a land that no Jew should tread on? If that is indeed the truth, then why do almost no other Jews seem to feel the same way?

Search for more information about going to Germany at

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