New Jewish generation grabs foothold in Berlin
Berlin's Jewish party and culture scene is booming with a new generation of young German Jews.
Berlin is "meshugge" - a bit crazy - in the eyes of DJ Aviv Netter, an Israeli who hosts a monthly disco night titled Meshugge in the German capital.
Women dance to his music under flags bearing the Star of David and menorahs. "I'm kosher, kiss me," read their t-shirts.
The men wear yarmulkes with their baggy pants.
Netter's dance parties are just one sign of the resurgence of Jewish life in Berlin, where merely 8,000 of Berlin's 1933 Jewish population of 160,000 survived World War II.
A government policy inviting Jews from Eastern Europe to settle in Germany since the fall of communism has allowed Berlin to become one of the world's fastest-growing Jewish communities.
"We are happy, loud and satisfied with what we have," Netter said.
Berlin's Jewish party and culture scene is booming with a new generation of Jews in Germany. They are typically 20 to 30 years old.
Unlike their grandparents, they did not experience the Holocaust, nor did they have to struggle with the consequences of expulsion.
"My generation is ready to gradually let go," said 20-year-old Simon Horvath.
The generational change is mirrored in Germany's Central Council of Jews, which is expected later this year to appoint its first-ever president born after 1945, when the incumbent, 77-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, steps down.
"There is no country in the world in which a Jew can live better than in Germany," said Horvath, noting that Jewish culture is promoted in Germany and Jewish organizations receive backing.
For this reason, Horvath wants to be open about his Jewish identity - but says this is not necessarily the case for all Germans with Jewish roots. He was 11 years old when he found out that he was Jewish, something his mother had kept from him.
"I just thought, why should I continue to keep it secret," Horvath said.
He has founded a small Klezmer music group and is an active member of a cultural association for young Jews in Germany.
Aviv Russ, voice of the Jewish radio programme KOL Berlin, is another advocate for his generation. In his talk show, he campaigns for a new and self-confident Judaism.
"What differentiates my generation from our grandparents and parents? We don't use the Holocaust as an excuse," Russ said. "It bothers me that here people always say we have a claim to something because we survived."
The 32-year-old was born in Israel and has lived in Berlin for five years. "There's something in the air here," he said.
Russ believes Berlin has become the showcase of German Judaism because the city attracts people through its liberalism and openness, as well as its past.
"It is the allure of opposites that brought me here," he said.
The Jewish community estimates that about 20,000 Jews now live in Berlin - more than in any other German city.
While other religions have lost their appeal to young adults, it seems that Judaism in Germany is gaining new followers, according to Berlin Rabbi Gesa Ederberg.
She stressed the different aspects of Jewish life - the belief in God on one side, and on the other side a pure life philosophy that need not have anything to do with a church.
In Berlin, Ederberg noted, only a few hundred Jews follow the religion strictly. Most of the city's young Jews identify with Judaism but live it out in a secular way.
In Berlin, the new generation dances at DJ Netter's "meshugge" parties or listens to the Jewish band Jewdyssee - and has the blessing of the synagogue.
"Judaism highly values festivals and celebrations," Ederberg pointed out.