3 Southern California rabbis discover a different Germany

BONN — When Rabbi Abner Weiss was invited to visit Germany, he gave a non-committal response.

The German consul in Los Angeles then asked him: "Don't you travel abroad?"

"I certainly do," Weiss said. "But when it comes to Germany, I have 6 million reasons for not visiting."

Weiss of Beth Jacob congregation in Beverly Hills, was eventually persuaded to make the trip to learn how Germany educates its people about the Holocaust.

For 10 days earlier this month, Weiss traveled to Germany with Rabbi Lawrence Goldmark, president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and Rabbi Aaron Kriegel of the Conservative Ner Maarav synagogue in Encino.

The three rabbis, representing the board of rabbis, said they had seen no manifestations of right-wing extremism, renewed Nazism or visible signs of hatred against foreigners or Jews. Weiss purposely wore a kippah at all times to see what kind of reactions he would encounter.

After speaking with education and culture officials and reviewing teaching material, the rabbis decided that too little was actually being done to raise the awareness of young people.

One 18-year-old student who just finished German high school told the rabbis that nothing about the Holocaust had been taught in her class.

Weiss added that another student said a single day at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., had taught him more than years of education in the German school system.

Nevertheless all three rabbis found that they were talking about a different Germany today from the one they had imagined back in California. According to Kriegel, many Jews in America "stop at the Holocaust and talk too little about modern Germany."