German-Israeli Group Continues to Yearn for Pedant Culture

Marking its 75th year of existence, the Association of Israelis of Central European Origin convened yesterday to deliberate over whether to allow Germany's ambassador to Israel to address the group in his native tongue.

Some said the ambassador should speak in German, understood by the vast majority of association members. Others said the minority of members who don't speak the language should also be taken into account, and the remarks should be delivered in English.

Failing to reach a resolution, the organization brought the question before a vote among delegates to the organization's 41st annual conference. The result was unequivocal - the envoy, Dr. Harald Kindermann, would deliver his address in well-honed High German.

The association is a non-profit group including some 3,000 Israelis hailing from German-speaking nations - Germany and Austria of course, but also the Czech Republic, Romania and others. Yesterday they convened at a Ramat Gan old-age home operated by the organization.

While many Israelis sat glued to their televisions during yesterday's World Cup games, here nostalgia reigned for more meaningful times.

"This yearning is based on the feeling that Israeli vulgarity is crossing red lines," said German-language newspaper editor Micha Limor.

"Being a yekke is a personality trait, the desire to be part of a well-organized, decent society, one that is fair and considerate toward others," he said, using the nickname for German-speaking Jews.

"I have quite a few friends of diverse origins who have declared themselves yekkes. One of them was the late journalist Dan Scemama, who was Tunisian according to ethnic origin, but an avowed yekke by nature," he said.

Facing future

Association chairwoman Dvora Haberfeld told Haaretz that her organization is looking not only to the past but also the future. "We're planning to increase our involvement in society by passing on the fundamental values of the organization. We'll encourage aliyah from Central Europe and continue caring for the elderly from our community, most of whom live in five nursing homes in the country's largest cities. We'll also increase involvement with the younger generation, including through our scholarship program."

At the end of the event, around 70 members voted on the organization's new treasurer and judiciary. Their average age was estimated at 71.

Former Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach, now 83, was reelected head of the organization's judiciary, charged with keeping law and order within the group. In the words of one member, "Yekkes just don't like conflict."