lady painting

 

Nov 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

They came in their hundreds, in full force, fighting fit and in fine fettle. The Yekkes were attending an international conference devoted to themselves, held recently in Jerusalem. Its purpose was to examine the heritage of the Jews of Central Europe to various aspects of Israeli society and culture. Jokes were told about Yekkes and by Yekkes and, above all, every session started on time (most unusual for Israel).

The conference, held under the joint auspices of several august bodies, among them the Jerusalem Foundation, various government ministries, the Goethe Institute and the Konrad Adenauer Association, consisted of lectures and symposia on such subjects as 'Was German Jewry a Model of Assimilation?' and 'The Unique Nature of German Zionism' as well as many other equally fascinating topics.

Alongside the conference was an exhibition of photographs depicting the absorption of German immigrants in Israel in the pre-independence period, with professors becoming chicken farmers and physicians building labourers. Many German artists made a notable contribution to the development of art in Israel, and a special exhibition of work by Yekke artists was on display during and after the conference.

The meals at the opening dinner and those served in the restaurant during the conference followed a traditional Yekke menu, and of course there was 'Kaffee und Kuchen' galore. Naturally, the contribution of the Yekkes to every aspect of Israeli life - music, medicine, politics, the theatre and the media was glossed over for lack of time.

Some speakers confessed shamefacedly that they were not 'true' Yekkes but considered themselves Yekkes by adoption, giving rise to a heated discussion as to whether being a Yekke was the result of heredity or the environment. But the general consensus, in true Yekke fashion, was that it was both of the above.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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