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Unlimited Solidarity Required
Lecture by Oliver Vrankovic on ongoing protests in Israel on May 11th 2023
Weinheimer Nachrichten, 16.05.2023
Weinheim. "As fast as the situation is changing at the moment, it is idle to prepare notes beforehand", Oliver Vrankovic introduced his lecture on the topic "Protests in Israel - two camps face each other irreconcilably". He came to the two-castle town at the invitation of the Weinheim Ramat Gan Friendship Association.
Since 2010, Vrankovic has been working as a nursing assistant in a retirement home in Weinheim's Israeli twin city Ramat Gan. In his lecture, he pointed out several factors of social and political life in Israel as causes for the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned judicial reform.
Three conflicts in society
On the one hand, he said, there were the conflicts in Israeli society - between Arabs and Jews, between the religious and the secular and between Jews living in urban centers and in rural areas. While the conflict between Arabs and Jews had not played a role in everyday life in the past, it was now reappearing in military conflicts.
To understand Israel, one had to know the population structure of the country, Vrankovic pointed out: About 20 percent of the Israeli population were Arabs, 80 percent Jews. Of the 20 percent Arabs, 80 percent were in turn Muslims and 20 percent Christians. "Most Arabs are happy to live in Israel. They compare Israel with the Arab foreign countries and think that they are better off under Jewish rule after all," he explained. Others came to terms, he said and added that the rest of the Arabs were hating Israel. "Those who like living in Israel are straining to become part of Israeli society - especially Christian Arabs, who increasingly even want to do military service. Many, including Muslim Arabs, aspire to good professions," the speaker added.
Sympathizing with extremists
On the other hand, he said, the number of those who sympathized with extremists was growing - for example, in May 2021 during the Israel-Gaza conflict, when there had been serious riots in many Israeli cities.
Complicating matters, he said, was the fact that the current government included right-wing extremists who hated Arabs. As a further factor in the division of society, the speaker highlighted the division of Israeli society into four main groups: secular Jews, national-religious Jews, ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs.
The special position of the ultra-Orthodox, who for historical reasons often did not work or perform military service, striked a chord with the rest of the population. The original few ultra-Orthodox, about two percent of the population, today had become almost 16 percent. In the following, Vrankovic described the domestic political situation since 2011, which he said had been characterized by tactical alliances in order to abolish the privileges of the ultra-Orthodox, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, did not push through. In recent years, there had been repeated elections in which Netanyahu had been able to win a majority for the right-wing nationalist government, but had been unable to put together a coalition, so that the formation of a government had failed.
During the Corona pandemic, Netanyahu had called for unity, had formed a unity government and had split the post of prime minister: first he had been to govern, then former Defense Minister Benny Gantz. "But when the latter was to become prime minister, Netanyahu burst the government," the speaker reported. Again, the country had been paralyzed.
The speaker also reported about very personal experiences. When he had come to Israel 16 years ago, he said, there had been colleagues and patients from highly diverse ethnicities and backgrounds in the hospital he worked at - Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Bedouins, Druze, believers, non-believers. Jews from Iraq, from Yemen, from Persia, Hungary, Morocco, Uruguay, Romania, Russia, Ethiopia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan. All brought their own culture, all had been treated equally without exception. "This mix reflects Israeli society," he pointed out.
Demarcation and discrimination
In the years that followed, he said, the group of Oriental Jews from North Africa, the Mizrachim, had become more segregated. They had felt left out, their culture had not been recognized, their patriarchal Arab system had not been adopted. The result: segregation and discrimination. Today, central cities tended to vote left, while the periphery tended to vote right. This attitude had been passed down through generations.
Finally, in the 2022 elections, Netanyahu did unite the parties on the right by making concessions. New laws followed: Gifts may now be accepted by government members. Prime ministers may not be dismissed unless they are mentally ill. Other plans: The power of the public prosecutor's office had to be curtailed, parliament had to be allowed to overrule courts and influence the composition of the courts.
Do they all have the same chances?
Netanyahu, in particular, wanted to determine the judges who heard his case, he said. "On the one hand, this drives the left into the streets. In the same way, the Mizrachim protested," Vrankovic described. These identify with Aryeh Deri, the founder of the Shas party. Before he had been convicted of corruption and imprisoned, he had been able to win many votes. "Basically, the issue is whether all Jews have the same opportunities," the speaker sums it up. While the dispute over compulsory military service was "on hold," however, the conflicts between the religious and the secular were becoming increasingly heated.
His final conclusion: "We must stand In solidarity with Israel, no matter which government is in power. Because no matter what government is in power, there won't be one less rocket flying out of Gaza." gw/ist (translation bs)
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
A Trip to Jerusalem
Student Paul Keil reports about his year abroad in Israel
Weinheimer Nachrichten, 11./12.03.2023
Weinheim. The siblings Maja and Paul Keil share a passion: Their enthusiasm for the country of Israel. At the regulars of the Ramat Gan Circle of Friends on Thursday evening, the student reported on the exciting journey of the two and on the experiences, they gathered in Israel. Unfortunately, his sister had to cancel at short notice because she had contracted Corona.
To their regret, it had not worked out with an exchange to the twin city of Weinheim, Ramat Gan, during their school time, the student said. But after graduating from high school, the two found an opportunity to travel to Israel for ten and twelve months. In cooperation with the German Red Cross, they found the Israeli organization Alut, whose goal is to accompany and care for people with autism in their daily lives.
Hence, Paul Keil set off on September 1, 2021, and his sister followed him two months later. There are a total of 19 residential homes in Israel where people with autism, affectionately
called "friends," are housed and cared for by volunteers like Maja and Paul Keil. "I was responsible for 12 'friends', " the student said. He lived with four other young people in a shared apartment in Jerusalem, while Maja Keil did her volunteer service near Tel Aviv. As "pocket money" they received 1350 shekels per month - the equivalent of 350 euros. From this, the young adults financed their everyday life and food. "Food was much more expensive
in Israel than here. The first pineapple I bought there cost over ten euros," said Paul Keil.
Seminars in Haifa
For further training, the siblings took part in seminars in Haifa. Among other things, they learned Israeli folk dances there but also what to watch out for in the event of a rocket attack. Life in Israel is full of contrasts. "Neither of us experienced a real rocket attack. But there was one where Maja lived. Fortunately, she was already back in Germany by then," the 21-year- old reported.
In addition, they learned - albeit very poorly - Hebrew. During the entire stay, they had lessons at ten times. "Fortunately, English is widely spoken, especially in Tel Aviv, and there are also many residents who help translate. With the 'friends' we usually only needed to communicate with one word, not in complete sentences," he recounted. During their stay, the siblings also experienced how Israelis celebrate religious festivals. On Christmas Eve, they
attended a service at the Church of the Ascension in Jerusalem, which was even held in German. The siblings also visited Bethlehem during the Christmas holidays. Paul Keil told about other activities outside Jerusalem. For example, a visit to Yad Vashem, the international Holocaust memorial. The young people also went on excursions together with their "friends," for example to the Dead Sea. Looking back, this trip was a very special experience for Maja and Paul Keil.
The student is planning to go to Israel again. He made close friends there and would also like to see his former protégés in the dormitory again. "Working with 'friends' was very unusual at first, but by the end of the trip we really took them to our hearts," said Paul Keil.am (translation bs)
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
Classification of the Protests on Judicial Reform
Schapira and Hafner speak on Israeli politics, 17 February 2023
Weinheimer Woche, 01.03.2023
"I think he is corrupt, vile, criminal, unfit for the job. But he is capable of securing his hold on power," says Esther Schapira about the inconsistency of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who is positioned far to the right and his ability to make compromises that serve him. Since Justice Minister Yariv Levin is a hardliner in the second row who is not willing to compromise, his replacement would not necessarily be a cause for jubilation in her opinion.
The two experts on Israel, Esther Schapira and Georg Hafner, visited Tel Aviv to get an idea of the current political mood in Israel. Photo: ben
Schapira came to the Old Town Hall together with Georg Hafner. For the sixth time, the two journalists and authors have accepted an invitation from Albrecht Lohrbächer, the chairman of the Weinheim-Ramat Gan Friendship Association and the Friends of the Former Synagogue Hemsbach, to give a lecture. They brought along orienting assessments on the future of Israel after the recent parliamentary elections. In this context, they laid the focus on the judicial reform initiated by Netanyahu, which is a serious matter because it could topple democracy in Israel.
Under the reform, majority decisions in the Knesset will suffice for legislation. In the future, vetoes by the Supreme Court could be rejected by parliament with a simple majority. This would severely limit judicial review of political decisions. The composition of the body is also to change. Parliament is to take control over the nomination of judges. A blow to Israeli democracy, which already lacks a formal constitutional separation of powers. "For seven weeks, the public in Israel has been protesting against this," says Esther Schapira. She points to the broad network of protests, which includes settlers and even the business community. The government is facing economic repercussions due to the threat of an outflow of capital from the state. “The enemy” as it is titled later in the discussion this time comes from within. Schapira and Georg Hafner have just held talks on the ground in Tel Aviv with television colleagues. Their assessments have an enormous range. From the depressing "The country is totally broken," to the exact opposite with the idea that the frightening change to one's own democratic system can be reversed if it brings no advantage.
Religion as a concern
Schapira understands the concern from the audience that the current erosion of democracy could be exacerbated by politically religious forces. But she herself assumes that the realization of the "achievement of a society to separate state and religion" will prevail in the long run for Israel as an industrial high-tech location and militarily threatened country from the outside for decades. Even though the separation is particularly difficult in Israel - after all, it was founded as a Jewish state. But Schapira identifies a capacity for empathy among the people of Israel that turns the readily carried out discourse into a "fruitful dispute”. Hafner takes a somewhat more relaxed view of the success of the religious: "There's a lot of bluster involved." Both journalists hope that Israel will continue to assert itself as a liberal state. Its inconsistency and the seemingly eternally unsolvable problem of "peaceful coexistence with the Arabs without having to constantly justify and defend its existence" do not change that.
"Israel. What's it to me?"
As a contrast to the political reality presented and the conversation with the 50 interested people in the audience, Schapira read excerpts from her contribution to the book "Israel. What's it to me?" Her own identity as a child of Jewish parents who grew up in Frankfurt in the sixties. Her impressions of Israel as a country with contradictions. The good feeling of being part of an Israel with visions and the will to assert itself. The conflicts, the stance against external threats that constantly question Israel's raison d'être. Israel's parallel to Ukraine, where solidarity with a people in the struggle for freedom must be measured against the cost to the uninvolved of conflict resolution. Closing, host Albrecht Lohrbächer sums it up for the audience: "We are forced to differentiate if we want to show solidarity in the future." (ben/red)
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Woche -
On the Tracks of Jewish Life and Suffering
Guided tour with city archivist Andrea Rößler meets with great interest - Second date is also already booked out
Weinheimer Nachrichten, 27.09.2022
Weinheim. The Weinheim - Ramat Gan Friendship Association did not expect this great demand. The guided tour along the Jewish traces in Weinheim, which the association organized with city archivist Andrea Rößler, was booked out very quickly. There had already been a similar tour in the 1980s as part of the "Weinheim Walks". Now the tour newly picked up the topic.
t started on Friday September 23rd in the afternoon at the parking lot of the Amtshaus. The administrative building of the Deutscher Orden (Teutonic Order) including a Catholic chapel was located here. Both were dissolved and demolished in 1809. Later, the stones of the chapel were sold to the Jewish community of Lützelsachsen and used for the construction of a synagogue there. A residential building stand at its former location in the Wintergasse today.
First documentary reference in 1298
In 1298, a Jewish community was mentioned in Weinheim for the first time. According to written records, the Frankish knight Rindfleisch moved from Franconia to the Odenwald at that time and killed 79 members of the Jewish community of Weinheim. His function was unclear, but his goal was probably to destroy the Jewish communities with his "crusade". He murdered 4000 people on his way.
From the Amtshausplatz the tour with Andrea Rößler first led to the Judengasse (Jewish alley). Between the houses with the numbers 9 and 13 stand the remains of the Judenturm (Jewish tower). "Since no Jews lived here it is assumed that this tower could have given the alley its name." the archivist clarified. Possibly, the Jews did participate in the financing of the tower and thus acted as the name giver. The tower was one of the wall towers and was first mentioned in 1454. In the 18th century, the upper floors of the tower were removed. Nowadays, only the stump with an arrow slit is remaining. It can be seen from the Grundelbachstraße at the height of the Jet gas station.
A sign at the house Judengasse 15 is supposed to point at the first synagogue in 1391. However, according to Rößler the existence of this synagogue cannot be clearly proven from historical documents. "It may be that the stone with an inscription in Hebrew found came from a synagogue but we definitively do not know where it stood."
For a long time, the relations between Jewish and Christian Weinheimers had not been particularly good. It took until 1862 until Jews could become equal citizens of the town and were recognized as such. Then a period of prosperity followed.
Weinheim's city archivist Andrea Rößler (in purple coat) started the tour on the tracks of Jewish history at Amtshausplatz. Picture: Philipp Reimer
At Sigmund-Hirsch-Platz where the historic Gerberbachviertel starts, Rößler explained the story of Sigmund Hirsch, who initially leased a tannery in Weinheim in 1868 and settled in the Gerberbachviertel. Hirsch was a member of the town council, founded housing estates for workers (Scheffelstrasse and Kißlichstrasse), organized the Bauverein (building associations) which is the forerunner of today's Baugenossenschaft (building cooperative) Weinheim. He was actively involved in the social life of the town in many ways. But it were not only Jewish factory owners who shaped Weinheim. Jewish stores for hardware, flour and grain, household goods, textiles and wallpaper as well as butchers and manufactories settled along the main street and turned Weinheim into a shopping town.
This was followed by a view from Gerbergasse to the site of the third synagogue, which had been built in 1680 above the Gerberbachviertel at today's Hauptstraße 143 (at the Hutplatz) by the Oppenheimer family out of their own financial resources. While from the front there was nothing left pointing to the history, the indicated round arches around the windows, visible from the Gerberbachviertel, reminded of sacral elements, Rößler explained. Later, the house was used as a bakery. Today it is a residential building.
The Jewish community also enriched the cultural life: Through the commitment of Marx Maier and the generous financial support also from the Hirsch family, the town flourished. As its choir director, Maier laid the foundation for the Kammermusikverein (chamber music society) among other things. Together with his sister-in-law, the well-known pianist Pauline Rothschild, they shaped musical events in Weinheim with supra-regional impact. He brought the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, the composer Paul Hindemith and other renowned personalities to Weinheim. "When there was no longer Jewish life in Weinheim, many things were lost in Weinheim," says Andrea Rößler.
Names on the war memorial
Another stop on the tour was the war memorial on Bahnhofstraße. Erected in 1936 to commemorate those who died in World War 1, it was clearly a "National Socialist memorial," Rößler noted. The population contributed to the erection of the monument through donations - Jews also participated. However, the names of the five Jews fallen in World War 1 were not mentioned on the plaques at first. Only in 1945 - at the end of the World War 2 – their names were added including their rank.
Other stops on the tour were the fourth synagogue at today's Volkshochschule in the Ehretstraße and the Memorial to the Victims of Violence, War and Persecution.
Since the first tour was booked up so quickly, the Weinheim Ramat Gan Friendship Association has organized a second tour for 25 people at the beginning of October. ist (translation bs)
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
A new year begins in Israel
Report from the twin city
Weinheimer Nachrichten, 26.09.2022
Weinheim/Ramat Gan. Together with the entire Jewish world, Weinheim's twin city Ramat Gan is also celebrating the Jewish New Year "Rosh Ha-Shanah" today, Monday, and tomorrow, Tuesday. Translated from Hebrew it means: Head of the year. One writes the year 5783 now.
As Albrecht Lohrbächer, the chairman of the Weinheim – Ramat Gan Friendship Association, writes in a press release, though being at first a religious festival, Rosh Ha-Shanah with its special symbols it is also celebrated by less religious people.
The day is celebrated in a large gathering of family and friends and starts with a meal of apple pieces dipped in honey. They are a symbol of the wish that the new year may be sweet. One wishes each other "Shana Tova", "a good year". Of course, this is also what the Weinheim – Ramat Gan Friendship Association wishes their friends in Israel!
A few days later the “Day of Atonement”, “Yom Kippur”, follows on 4th/5th October. Then the Jewish world including the State of Israel stands completely still. This year, the holiday season, typically a time of contemplation and reflection, is overshadowed by the already rather emotionally led election campaign in which the votes for the new Knesset, the Israeli parliament, are at stake. The election is scheduled for November 1st.
Test vote in the high school
Blich High School which is involved in all student exchanges with Weinheim, has been playing a special role in all elections since 1977. At that time, the students were called upon to represent the result of the Knesset election in a model vote. Since the final outcome of the election exactly matched the test vote, the Blich students have always been asked to conduct such a test run prior to a national election from thereon. Therefore, they invite high-ranking candidates in advance of the vote to have them presenting themselves in front of the students. The newspaper "Jerusalem Post" reported on heated arguments: The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Michaeli, and the leader of the "Jewish Strength" party, Ben-Gvir, who is highly controversial because of racist statements had a personal battle of words in front of the students. The result of the trial vote: The ruling center-left coalition under Prime Minister Yair Lapid received the majority.
Ramat Gans Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen paid tribute to "his" students: "For good reasons we are really proud of the amazing young people showing maturity and activism, expressing their opinions despite all the background noise and addressing the entire spectrum of opinions and political currents in the State of Israel."
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
„Our friendship survives”
After a two-year break, the youth exchange between Weinheim and Ramat Gan continues - Reception in the town hall
"No war, no initifda, no pandemic can destroy our great friendship, it outlasts." This is how Albrecht Lohrbächer, the founder and motor of the town twinning between Weinheim and the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, described it at noon on Friday in Weinheim's town hall. After a break of two years due to the corona, young people from Ramat Gan are staying with Weinheim host families again. Already traditionally the Israeli guests were welcomed at the beginning of their stay at the Weinheim town hall. "Visits from our Israeli twin city are always a great honor for us," explained Weinheim's Lord Mayor Manuel Just in the Great Meeting Hall of the castle. The reception was attended by the organizers and stakeholders of the reception from both cities, including representatives of the Stadtjugendring Weinheim, which has closely accompanied the exchange since its beginnings in the 1980s, as well as Weinheim's high schools. Former Stadtjugendring chairman Wolfgang Metzeltin also attended the reception. Together with Albrecht Lohrbächer, he is one of the men of the first hour. "Fortunately, the contact between the students never broke off, even during the pandemic," OB Manuel Just was also pleased. Lohrbächer and the OB pointed out that there has been a very lively digital exchange between the young people. Just also emphasized that personal contacts between people from different countries and cultures are becoming increasingly important in politically unstable times. In his speech, Just focused on the history of the friendship between Ramat Gan and Weinheim, which resulted in an official town twinning in 1999.
The nucleus of this partnership was and is the youth meeting, which has existed for over 30 years; many friendships and even marriages have arisen from it. Albrecht Lohrbächer emphasized this in his welcoming speech. He referred to the close personal relationships that have helped overcome the Corona separation. The responsibles, teachers from the two High Schools, WHG and DBS, has again (together with the Stadtjugendring) put together a program for the young people - for guests and hosts - that covers a mixture of fun and education. This year, the educators accompanying the exchange (Rotem Lezter "No war, no initifda, no pandemic can destroy our great friendship, it outlasts." This is how Albrecht Lohrbächer, the founder and motor of the town twinning between Weinheim and the Israeli city of Ramat Gan, described it at noon on Friday in Weinheim's town hall. After a break of two years due to the corona, young people from Ramat Gan are staying with Weinheim host families again. Already traditionally the Israeli guests were welcomed at the beginning of their stay at the Weinheim town hall. "Visits from our Israeli twin city are always a great honor for us," explained Weinheim's Lord Mayor Manuel Just in the Great Meeting Hall of the castle. The reception was attended by the organizers and stakeholders of the reception from both cities, including representatives of the Stadtjugendring Weinheim, which has closely accompanied the exchange since its beginnings in the 1980s, as well as Weinheim's high schools. Former Stadtjugendring chairman Wolfgang Metzeltin also attended the reception. Together with Albrecht Lohrbächer, he is one of the men of the first hour. "Fortunately, the contact between the students never broke off, even during the pandemic," OB Manuel Just was also pleased. Lohrbächer and the OB pointed out that there has been a very lively digital exchange between the young people. Just also emphasized that personal contacts between people from different countries and cultures are becoming increasingly important in politically unstable times. In his speech, Just focused on the history of the friendship between Ramat Gan and Weinheim, which resulted in an official town twinning in 1999.
The nucleus of this partnership was the youth meeting, which has existed for over 30 years; many friendships and even marriages have arisen from it. Albrecht Lohrbächer emphasized this in his welcoming speech. He referred to the close personal relationships that have helped overcome the Corona separation. The pastor and honorary citizen of Ramat Gan has again put together ith the a program for the young people - for guests and hosts - that covers a mixture of fun and education. This year, the educators accompanying the exchange, Rotem Lezter and Smadar Caspi, will also hold technical discussions on digitization in schools - among others, Mariana Ben Yosef from the Ramat Gan City Education Office is part of the delegation.
Roland Kern (Issued on July 18, 2022)
On the Banality of Evil
Hannah Arendt's great-niece Edna Brocke described the life of her ancestor after whom a street will soon be named in Weinheim.
WNOZ 30. Juni 2022
Weinheim. She will be the neighbor of Ramat Gan. Hannah Arendt, journalist, writer, philosopher and political scientist, Jewish. A controversial thinker and resolute intellectual. When the streets in Weinheim's construction area "Westlich Hauptbahnhof" are named, one of them will bear the name of the Israeli twin city Ramat Gan; the other will be called Hannah-Arendt-Straße. It is a signal of a thoughtful approach to German history.
Quarter of Memory
At the site of the former "Kreispflege," a cautionary artwork will commemorate the fact that the National Socialists operated a "euthanasia institution" on this site. It will be a quarter of memory culture. "This naming was an excellent decision by the municipal council," said Weinheim's mayor, Manuel Just. How Hannah Arendt was like as a thinker and writer can be read. How she lived and felt, at least the approximately 80 listeners of a lecture in the Old Town Hall now know: Dr. Edna Brocke, herself a Judaist and political scientist, awarded several times for research work in the field of anti-Semitism, grandniece of Hannah Arendt, reported about the life of her ancestor at the invitation of the Friends of Weinheim-Ramat Gan and the town. The speaker is a good friend of the Lohrbächer family. Albrecht Lohrbächer, the founder of the partnership, thanked her in his welcome speech for "the service of friends, which we appreciate very much in Weinheim". Edna Brocke, born in 1943 in Jerusalem, where her parents had fled from Nazi Germany, now lives in Krefeld. Hannah Arendt stands for the fact, says Albrecht Lohrbächer, "that naiveté in dealing with our Nazi history is completely inappropriate - and that remains so." But what was Hannah Arendt like? She was born in Königsberg in 1906, emigrated first to Paris in the 1930s, and after the war to the United States, where she died in 1975. With the term "Banality of Evil" she phrased a dictum and was misunderstood and criticized on it. It was the subtitle of the book "Eichmann in Jerusalem", in which Hannah Arendt summarized the reportages and essays she wrote about the Eichmann trial. In 1961, Adolf Eichmann, Hitler's organizer of the "Endlösung", was tried and convicted in Jerusalem. Hannah Arendt reported on it for the "New Yorker." The book and her assessments have shaped the writing of history.
Never without a cigarette
Edna Brocke accompanied her great-aunt a few times as a young student. She knew her as a resolute woman (never without a cigarette) who said "Fröschlein" to her. A controversial debate broke out about the "Banality of Evil," especially in Israel. Since she portrayed the Nazi murderer "not as a bloodthirsty devil" (Brocke), but as "frighteningly normal," as a "conscienceless bureaucrat She was accused of trivializing. But she did not want to trivialize, but to portray how far and why Jew-hatred had permeated German society.
"Her analysis was a political statement," her grandniece explained. But, "The controversy over her book cut her life short," she said. Though maybe the smartest analyst of Nazi anti- Semitism, she was a "persona non grata" in Israel for a while and still is a "stumbling block" today, she says. “Younger people,” Edna Brocke sighs, "mostly do not even know who she was."
"Thank you very much for allowing me to briefly describe Hannah Arendt from my personal knowledge and closeness in the run-up to the two street namings." Edna Brocke wrote in the city's Golden Book after her talk. Mayor Dr. Torsten Fetzner framed the event with two songs he wrote himself - deeply moved after a visit to the concentration camp Gurs in southern France. That is where the Weinheim Jews were deported to. That was 80 years ago.
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
Ramat Gan gets a Weinheim street
Albrecht and Ulrike Lohrbächer are bringing news from their trip to Israel.
WNOZ April 22, 2022
Exchange between Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen (left) and Albrecht Lohrbächer
Weinheim/Ramat Gan. The partnership between Weinheim and Ramat Gan has officially existed since 1999. This soon will be reflected also in the city maps. "A few days ago, the Ramat Gan municipal council voted in favor of a Weinheim street. It is to be built in a new development area," reported Albrecht Lohrbächer during a conversation with the Weinheimer Nachrichten editorial staff after his return from Israel, where he had been on the road with his wife Ulrike for eleven days to revive old contacts and to close new ties in Ramat Gan.
During the visit, it also came to a first-time personal meeting with Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen, who has been heading the city administration since 2018. "The mayor showed great interest in Weinheim and would like to travel to Germany as soon as possible," Lohrbächer reported. He said he also was very pleased Weinheim's municipal council had decided in 2021 to name a street in the new residential development area "Westlich Hauptbahnhof" after the Israeli twin city. "Maybe it will work out Shama-Hacohen coming to the opening ceremony in 2024," Lohrbächer said. He also conveyed personal greetings from Weinheim's mayor Manuel Just, who is also aiming to make an inaugural visit to Ramat Gan. A good occasion would be the 100-year anniversary of the city, which, according to Shama-Hacohen, is planned to be "re-celebrated" in 2023. In 2021, the actual anniversary year, the Corona pandemic did not allow for any major celebrations, even not in Israel.
Albrecht Lohrbächer has been visiting Israel regularly since the 1980s. He is the chairman of the Weinheim-Ramat Gan Friendship Association and the driving force and founder of the town twinning. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary citizen of Ramat Gan. However, the Corona pandemic not only caused a forced break of more than two years for the Lohrbächers, but also for the school exchange program, which could not be carried out as usual.
At least virtually, an exchange between six students from Weinheim and twelve young people from Ramat Gan took place during the winter Lohrbächer reported. In Ramat Gan, he met with these students, who enthusiastically reported him about this kind of encounter. The wish to meet in person will come true this summer, at least for four German and six Israeli young people. In addition, 18 students from each of the two cities will resume the regular exchange.
The Lohrbächer couple also visited "old friends" in Ramat Gan. Among others, they met the harmonica orchestra and the mixed choir of Hannah Tzur, which already performed in Weinheim in earlier years. In addition, the program included a visit to the Pinchas Rozen old people's home for which the Weinheim-Ramat Gan Friendship Association collected donations after the missile attacks on Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan last year. According to the home's management, the money was well used for a joint excursion of the seniors and also for the purchase of new garden furniture.
Overall, Lohrbächer's impression is that Ramat Gan (population 160,000) has recovered well from the pandemic. "The city keeps growing, especially in height," was his impression. In any case, more high-rises had been built since his visit in 2019. Pro, BS (translation)
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
Foreground: Ramat Gan theater; tower in the background: Sapir tower
Many Jews no longer feel safe
Arbeitskreis Ehemalige Synagoge: Lecture on anti-Semitism with Albrecht Lohrbächer / "Intolerable slogans" at anti-Israel rally in Mannheim
WNOZ May 17th, 2022
He is considered a connoisseur of the subject: Albrecht Lohrbächer, chairman of the Förderverein Ehemalige Synagoge Hemsbach, now warned in his lecture in the Leutershausen synagogue against the resurgence of anti-Semitism. Picture: Philipp Reimer
Leutershausen. They want to for the "holy war" against Israel and for killing their enemies: This is what young Palestinians chant at a demonstration in April. They wave flags and wish death to their enemies. "It was similar in Mannheim today," says Albrecht Lohrbächer. Before the chairman of the Friends of the Former Hemsbach Synagogue came to the Hirschberg Synagogue, he joined a rally that wanted to oppose the "Freedom for Palestine" movement. It had been peaceful, also because of the 200 police officers, but: "The slogans were unbearable."
Honorary citizen in Ramat Gan
Again and again during the next hour and a half he comes back to this experience, which fatally fits the topic of his lecture. "Hostility to Jews in the Middle of Society" is the title. After a two-year delay caused by Corona restrictions, Host Michael Penk is pleased that the evening can take place now. The speaker is an excellent expert on Judaism, an honorary citizen of Weinheim's twin city Ramat Gan, and the topic is more important than ever, he says: "There are 55,000 politically motivated crimes, which is the highest figure since 2001."
At 29 percent, the proportion of anti-Semitic offenses is high, he said. The Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution) warns of a radicalization of Islam and societal anti-Semitism, Lohrbächer continues: "There is a statistical increase, but many incidents are not even reported." After the images from the demo, he shows footage of flyers, graffiti, insults against a nine-year-old. When the Hemsbach synagogue was to be used as a music school, a Muslim mother protested. "My child does not go to a Jewish synagogue," she announced and deregistered her offspring.
In public and in the media, there is often a reversal of perpetrator-victim, one-sided reporting, currently in the case of the murdered Al-Jazeera reporter Shirin Abu Akleh or in absurd headlines such as "Israel threatens self-defense". Lohrbächer laments, "No state in the world is more hated, accused and slandered than Israel." Israel gets more UN-resolutions than some dictatorships and is accused of threatening world peace. When Islamists take to the streets, you see signs with texts like "Destroy Zionists." "Heil Hitler" or "Jews belong gassed" was written on a flipchart at Mannheim University in 2018 - a stark contrast to the 10,000 commemorative events held annually at schools or churches.
"What happened?" the speaker asks. His guess: In Germany, many people choose hatred of Israel as a "detour" for anti-Semitism. The causes of the evil range widely: From the statement that Jews crucified Jesus, still heard in evangelical or conservative Catholic circles, to the racist anti-Semitism of the 19th century and even to the Muslim hostility that Hitler helped stir up starting in 1937 and conspiracy myths such as the legend of the "Wise Men of Zion" that originated in Russia. Currents in Turkish-Arab circles, some influenced by Erdogan, are gaining influence. Nevertheless, in the work with refugees the issue of anti-Semitism plays no role, he said.
All this has consequences: In Germany, France and the U.S., there are more and more Jews who are planning to emigrate to Israel because they are afraid conditions might become unbearable. Town twinning could be a way out, but also the project days of the initiative "Meet a Jew", a research and information center against anti-Semitism, like the one he is organizing himself this week with young people for who can also take part in an exchange program. He also asks for critical attention to calls for boycotts like BDS, which target companies with Israeli subsidiaries. "These are virtually all," he explains during the Q&A session during which many of the more than 30 visitors speak up and also ask controversial questions like the one about the settlement policy. When it comes to the international situation, Lohrbächer returns to the speech that then-Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave in the Bundestag in 2020. He said then, "If Jews can't live freely here, they won't live free of fear anywhere in the world." Stk
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
Speech Mr. Lohrbächer to the vigil to the Ukraine war
Source: Translated speech
we are standing here full of anger about the Russian aggressor, but at the same time also full of feelings of helplessness and are moved by a mixture of admiration and the feeling of solidarity for the brave Ukrainians including their president Volodymir Zelenskij.
Volodymir Zelenskij who is under the highest threat to his life these days sees himself and his people exposed to a mania of annihilation and killing by the insane Russian President Putin. As a member of the second generation of Holocaust survivors indelibly carrying the trauma of attempted extermination, it is vital for him to make clear the connection between the actions of the Russian army and the crimes committed during the Nazi era.
Volodymir Zelensky gave a speech early yesterday morning now circulating on the web in which he refers to the targeted attacks against the Babiy Yar memorial site located near Kiev and the Jewish pilgrimage site of Uman.
What was/is Babiy Yar near Kiev? On September 28, 1941, the evacuation of Kiev Jews was ordered. They were to gather near the train station the following day and bring warm clothing, money, and personal documents and valuables. More Jews than expected responded to this call. They were then led to the ravine, where they had to remove their clothing and were systematically shot in accordance with the "Einsatzbefehl der Einsatzgruppe Nr. 101". According to the report of October 2, 1941, 33,771 Jews were killed within 36 hours during the shootings on September 29 and 30, 1941.
Volodymir Zelensky inaugurated the memorial last October.
Under massive protest from the Soviet government, the great Russian Jewish poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko dedicated a moving poem to the events of Babiy Yar in 1961, and Dimitri Shostakovich dedicated Symphony No. 13 in B-flat minor as early as 1962.
The second place mentioned by Zelensky, Uman is a place of pilgrimage for a large number of Orthodox Jews. Every year, tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world come to Uman to pray for salvation and healing at the tomb of the great Rabbi Nachman.
Jewish traces should now be erased once again, Volodymir Zelensky said in his speech yesterday morning:
"The seventh day of this terrible war has begun. A war in which we all feel the same.
We were all shelled last night in Kiev, and we all died again in Babi Yar by a missile attack, although the world keeps promising that it must not and will not happen "Never again."
For the ordinary person who knows the history, Babi Yar is a special place in Kiev. A special place in Europe. A place of prayer. A memorial place for thousands and hundreds of thousands of Ashkenazim, the European Jews who were murdered here by the Nazis.
The memorials of Kiev. Why make such a place the target of a missile attack? They kill the victims of the Holocaust. Once again.
In Soviet times, a television center was built on the site, as well as a sports center. A park was built to erase the special history, to erase the memory of Babi Yar.
This action is beyond human understanding. Such an attack proves that Kiev is completely foreign to many in Russia. They know nothing about our capital, about our history. But still they ordered the destruction of our history, they want to destroy our homeland, destroy all of us.
On the first day of the war, another special place of Judaism was massively shelled. Uman, the place where hundreds and thousands of Jews come and pray every year.
Then they attacked Babi Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were shot.
I am now addressing to all the Jews of the world - don't you see what is happening here? That is why it is important that millions of Jews raise their voices -everywhere.
The world must not remain silent about these atrocities.
Shout against the killing of civilians. Shout the cry of death! Shout Ukrainians!"
So far from Volodymir Zelensky.
In our twin city of Ramat Gan, the streets and roads are now filled with expressions of solidarity, as the city is home to many survivors of the Shoah from Ukraine and those who, as the second generation, carry with them the wounds of the attempted extermination.
To the Ukrainians, to their incredibly brave President Volodymir Zelensky, to the Jewish people who are reliving old fears, and to our friends in Ramat Gan, we extend our sympathy in these hours and days. None of us knows where all this will lead to, what further massacres Putin's henchmen will allow themselves - we stand by with all our powerlessness and at the same time a feeling of togetherness. And we promise at least: We will - with you - not forget!
(the spoken word is valid! 3.3.2022 - Albrecht Lohrbächer, email@example.com)
Finding a connection
High school students of the Dietrich-Bonhoeffer-Schule and the Heisenberg-Gymnasium get to know the Israeli partner school in Ramat Gan digitally
Source: Translated from Weinheimer Nachrichten
Weinheim/Ramat Gan. What is life like for young people in Israel? What moves them, what hobbies do they pursue, what issues determine their lives? The high school students of Weinheim's Dietrich Bonhoeffer School (DBS) and Werner Heisenberg High School (WHG) usually have the opportunity to find out just that in a personal exchange with students from ORT Ebin High School in Weinheim's twin city of Ramat Gan.
For 33 years, far longer than the partnership between the two cities has existed, the school exchange has been maintained. Only once did it have to be cancelled for political reasons; it was simply too dangerous to travel to Ramat Gan, which is located near Tel Aviv. Then the corona pandemic came and ensured that this year, for the second time in a row, no personal exchange is possible. Nevertheless, a group of teachers from both schools did not want to accept the fact that the connection to the partner high school would be interrupted again.
Friendships have long since developed between the colleagues as a result of the mutual visits. They stayed connected to each other and together they looked for an alternative. Thanks to modern technology, they found one. By Zoom, Instagram, WhatsApp and the like Tobias Tempel and Susanne Mußmann from DBS, together with tenth-graders Jana Rauh, Hannah Link and Theresa Mayer, exemplified how the two sides are now getting closer with the help of modern technology. Six tenth-grade students from DBS and two from the WHG's eleventh grade helped design the project together with their teachers. "Digital delegation Weinheim - Ramat Gan" can be read on the whiteboard, underlaid with the flags of the two states. Thus, begins a series of short videos in which students from both countries present various topics.
In her video, Jana Rauh presented the city of Weinheim with its many sights. You can see how she explains in English at different points of the city what is worth seeing and characteristic. Hannah Link presents typical German food. Theresa Mayer explains, also in English of course, the various German holidays and festivals. The same topics - including music, the military and the Holocaust - were taken up by the Israeli students and described to their German "colleagues" from their point of view. After introducing themselves to each other in this way, they first got to talk to each other in groups about the various topics through Zoom meetings.
Getting to know each other
Where are the similarities, where are the differences? The exciting process of getting to know each other began on a personal level. "We didn't just exchange ideas on the actual topic," reveals Hannah Link. She says that the lives of young people in Ramat Gan are very different overall from those here. As one example, Hannah cites the fact that scouting is far more important in Israel than in Germany. Also, as a precursor to later military training. "It's very highly regarded there," she says. The Israeli age mates are very often socially involved, for example for people with disabilities, while the young people in this country tend to pursue sporting leisure activities, Jana Rauh has found.
Contacts were quickly exchanged among themselves, and WhatsApp and Instagram groups were formed. "Every Monday," Hannah Link tells us, "we write what we did on the weekend and also send photos." That way you get a better insight into each other's lives.
Is the Holocaust still a topic among young people? There is a video about it, but the topic has hardly ever come up in personal conversations. At first, it's about the basic exchange, getting to know each other better. Later, the Holocaust will certainly become a topic of conversation, according to those involved. In the presence exchange, the Weinheim students visit the former Struthof concentration camp with their guests; in Israel, a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial is an integral part.
Are the students sad that Corona threw a wrench in their visit to Israel? "It would be nice to be there," says Jana Rauh. "But this way it's also a nice way to get in touch and then, if the situation allows, go to the others, who might even be friends."
"Loose and fun"
The Israelis are "super open, mega warm, easy-going and fun," says Theresa Mayer Jana Rauh and her exchange partner teach each other words and phrases in their respective languages. They have become closer. In March, a joint online games evening is on the agenda. According to Tobias Tempel, there is always a close exchange with the Weinheim-Ramat Gan Friendship Association, which is very interested in supporting the students despite the pandemic. The responsible persons of the city of Weinheim would also be pleased that the schools establish contacts in this way, says Tempel. Awa
- Published with the kind permission of Weinheimer Nachrichten -
WHEN STREETS CONNECT -
RAMAT GAN IS ALSO PLANNING A WEINHEIM STREET
Source: Translated press release of the city of Weinheim
"I was very happy when I received your letter and learned from it about the honor you and the municipal council are paying to the residents of Ramat Gan." So begins a letter that had landed on the desk of Mayor Manuel Just at Weinheim City Hall. The sender is Carmel Shama-HaCohen, the mayor of Weinheim's Israeli twin city Ramat Gan. By the letter, Shama-HaCohen is in turn responding to a letter that OB Just wrote him after the September municipal council meeting. In it, he informs his counterpart that the municipal council of Weinheim has decided to name a street in the redevelopment area "Westlich Hauptbahnhof" (“West of Main Station”) on the former GRN-Pflege site after Ramat Gan.
The street in question is Plan Street A in the residential area, which is also adjoined by a small park. The location was chosen because of its centrality, the high quality of living in the new construction area and because of a park located on the street, fitting to the twin city: Ramat Gan is Hebrew and means "garden height".
Since 1999, the city of Weinheim has maintained a partnership with Ramat Gan, a neighboring city of Tel Aviv. That the street name also has a connection to Jewish history and the Nazi dictatorship is also clear from the naming of the second street in the area. This is named after the Jewish journalist and philosopher Hannah Arendt, who studied and received her doctorate in Heidelberg.
In Ramat Gan, the street naming has been so well received that a street is now also to be named after Weinheim there. In his letter to Weinheim, Carmel Shama-HaCohen announced this being proposed "as a sign of identification" in the next meeting of the city council of Ramat-Gan. This counter gesture is a clear sign of solidarity between the two twin towns. It is planned that a delegation will be present at the inauguration of the road in each case. Carmel Shama-HaCohen writes: "We are looking forward to coming to Weinheim.”
TWIN CITY GETS STREET NAME IN WEINHEIM
Source: Weinheim.de (translated)
In the residential area "Westlich Hauptbahnhof", which is currently being built on the site of the former "Kreispflege" nursing home, the city will express the appreciation for and its solidarity with its Israeli twin city Ramat Gan by naming a street after it. Since 1999, the city of Weinheim has maintained a partnership with Ramat Gan, a neighboring city of Tel Aviv.
The street in question is Planstrasse A in the new residential area, which is also adjoined by a small park. The municipal council just voted for the naming in “Ramat Gan Strasse” during its recent meeting. It is still open whether the park will also officially bear the name of the twin city.
The fact that the street name has a connection to Jewish history and the Nazi dictatorship becomes also clear from the naming of "Planstrasse B". Here, the council followed the city's suggestion to honor the Jewish journalist and philosopher Hannah Arendt by an own street name ("Hannah-Arendt-Strasse").
Hannah Arendt had to flee Germany from the Nazis in 1933. In France, she initially campaigned for Jewish children to emigrate to Palestine. In 1941 she managed to emigrate to the USA. In New York, she wrote regular columns for the German-Jewish emigrant newspaper "Aufbau". From 1944 she worked for the "Conference on Jewish Relations". The political philosopher remained in the USA after 1945 and taught as a professor at various universities. Until she died in December 1975 she repeatedly devoted her work to the fundamental questions of personal responsibility for political action in a totalitarian state on the background of her own experiences under the Nazi dictatorship and in exile.
SOLIDARITY WITH THE TWIN TOWN
Twin cities: Donations from Weinheim do fund the excursion of a senior citizens' home in Ramat Gan
The friendly exchange between Weinheim and the Israeli twin city of Ramat Gan is moving again. Albrecht Lohrbächer, chairman of the Freundeskreis Weinheim Ramat Gan and driving force behind the town twinning, hereby plays a major role.
When news of the armed conflicts between the Israelis and the radical Islamist Palestinian organization Hamas reached Germany in March, it was a matter of the heart for the Freundeskreis to show solidarity. Weinheim's twin town was also affected by the rocket attacks and the association quickly initiated a fundraising campaign within its own ranks. The impressive sum of 750 euros was used to support a home for the elderly in Ramat Gan, which is home to many Jews who fled Germany in the 1930s to escape the Holocaust. The money was used to subsidize a trip by the Pinkhas Rozen home to the nearby national park. “The residents were able to recharge their batteries," reports Oliver Vrankovic. The German works as a nurse at the home and now stopped off in Weinheim on a trip home to thank the residents for their support. After the extreme restrictions caused by the Corona pandemic, Lohrbächer was particularly pleased to welcome the guest to the marketplace.
It was not his first visit. The contact goes back to the connection of the city councils. The friendship has lasted for many years. Vrankovic has just been elected chairman of the German-Israeli Society for the Stuttgart region, although he lives in Ramat Gan. He reported terrible scenes during the time of the shelling. Residents of the retirement home had 90 seconds from the sounding of the sirens to get to safety. "Reaching a bunker was out of the question in that short period of time," the 42-year-old knows. The windowless corridors at least offered protection from shattering glass, one of the main causes of injury in rocket attacks. Six such extreme situations were faced by seniors, caregivers and home management. "That did something to the residents," Vrankovic regrets. Especially in view of the many past wars these elderly people have had to experience - from the flight from Germany through The Great Palestinian Revolt, the Israeli War of Independence, the Six-Day-War to the Second Gulf War to name some of them. Now, their concern is not so much for themselves. Vrankovic: "Most of them are constantly worried about their relatives." The help from Weinheim may not have taken away the worries of the seniors in Ramat Gan, "But it has simply done the residents good." as Vrankovic puts it. Especially, because the isolation during the pandemic also took its toll from the pensioners. According to the German nurse, the seniors were already vaccinated in January, but there is a fear of further illness. At the "Pinkhas Rozen" nursing home itself, there had previously been two deaths. Corona has also slowed down the exchange of the partnership. Albrecht Lohrbächer: "Now it's a matter of giving the network a new push." If it is possible, the student exchange is to be resumed next year. For this November a journey of a delegation from Weinheim to Israel already is planned - always presupposed the infection happening permits it. Then Weinheim’s Mayor Manuel Just could finally get to know his counterpart Carmel Shama HaCohen. And Lohrbächer would of course be there, too, incidentally the only honorary citizen of Ramat Gans without Israeli origin.
By Iris Kleefoot (translated)
Picture: Fritz Kopetzky