Opening of German-Jewish poster exhibition

Speech by NSW Jewish Board of Deputies President Jeremy Spinak 
Shalom Institute 15.06.2017

Your Excellency and distinguished guests.

It is a great pleasure to be here today representing the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies as we open an exhibit that looks to the future with hope and promise.

German Jewish history has always been fraught. Even before the 1930s. I remember one of the first essays I ever wrote at university was an attack on the so called German-Jewish Symbiosis that supposedly occurred during the years of the enlightenment.

I could not believe the naivety of those who thought such a symbiosis existed..couldn’t the German Jews see that their so called “dialogue” was always one sided….that they were never truly accepted… how tragic that they only awoke from this delusion after Hitler’s rise to power.

But the German-Jewish relationship has always been a complex one.

My polish grandmother not only refused to ever go to Germany, she wouldn’t even get on a plane that would fly over Germany.

But my German grandparents loved the country all their lives. They would return every year from the 1960s onwards for two months at a time. They still considered themselves German and my ailing grandfather, refusing to miss yearly trip, died in Baden Baden in the early 90s. I could never understand how they could have felt this way considering what happened to their family members who weren’t lucky enough to escape.

As the exhibition demonstrates, a new chapter is now being written in the complicated history of German-Jewish relations and it appears there is now so much to be hopeful about. 250,000 Jews freely living their lives in a welcoming and tolerant society that seeks to send a signal to the rest of the world that its history should serve as a warning about man’s capacity for wrong. Just yesterday Angela Merkel spoke at a Jewish synagogue in Argentina and noted that Germany’s past is a reminder of the need to fight against antisemitism and for freedom and democracy. She implored the international community to fight antisemitism where it is present.

This exhibition speaks of reconciliation, of lessons learned, of hope and it shows that it is possible to completely embrace a dark past while still striving for a bright future. The renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany is as moving as it is powerful. What better way to show that the Nazis failed than for berlin once again to become a hub of international Jewish life.

If I was to write that university essay again I would say that, unlike old times, today’s German-Jewish dialogue is no longer one sided, the Jews are not talking to themselves but to nation happy to receive their entreats. The exciting possibilities of the beginnings of a true partnership are there for all to see in this exhibit and we are very proud to be here today to join in its launch.