As the year comes to an end, I want to introduce you to my newest friend, Arye Shalicar. Arye is a remarkable young man currently living in Israel. He grew up in Berlin-Wedding, highly conscious of how little he fit in physically and emotionally with those around him. He was called a filthy Jew and was beaten numerous times, often at the hands of German immigrants. A young Turk Arye played soccer with once said, “Jew, I don’t want to see you here again. When I see you the next time, it will be bad for you.”
Life in Germany is different now. Far from “it will be bad for you,” the German-Jewish community is fast–growing, multi-lingual and vibrant. I recently met with a group of young couples in Munich who have a "trialogue" with Israelis from Holon and couples from Brooklyn. The German group had a German native, an American, a Brazilian, Israelis, a Czech, a Slovak, a South African, as well as Azeri and Ukrainian immigrants.
Raising children as Jews in Germany was bringing them close together. I can’t remember ever being with such a disparate group of people who, at the same, time were powerfully united by common interests: advocacy for Israel, Jewish pride in a Europe that has not always been kind to Jews, and the desire to raise children with a strong Jewish identity. It is peoplehood at its best.
Arye Shalicar lived in all those worlds yet decided to leave them for an Israel where he never had to worry that he would hear the words, “I don’t want to see you again.” We all make choices about how to manage our Jewish experience.
My new friends in Germany are banding together from all corners of the world to raise a new generation of Jews. Arye, on the other hand, decided to make his Jewish identity positive and central by making aliyah to Israel to join with other Jews from around the world. The movement of our Jewish world can sometimes feel unpredictable. For me, it has certainly been a year of motion: new job, new city, new challenges and new blessings. And now I have a new friend.
We are blessed to live in a Jewish world where we have choices and use those choices to keep the flame of Jewish life alive. This year, if you make any new resolution, resolve to make a new Jewish friend outside of your normal social circles. It will help you grow. Thanks, Arye.
Shabbat Shalom and “Shana Tova,”
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International