Newsletter Edited by Rick Landman
JANUARY 1998 NEWSLETTER
First let me wish everyone a Happy Holiday and a Wonderful New Year! I also want to thank everyone who sent me a card, and please permit me to send all of you a card via cyberspace.
If you are going to change your email address, please let me know. Also check out our website from time to time to see what's new. I have been putting magazine articles and movie and book reviews etc. on the site. We have a letter to the Editor in The Advocate this month.
As an idea, I am starting a Photo Album for Children of Survivors from my parents towns. If we want, we too can make family webpages and I can link them to our site. If you are interested, go to the Family Photo Album on the homepage of INFOTRUE.COM and then check up on LANDMAN. It may be a nice way for everyone to write down their family history with pictures. It's just an idea.
Finally, I am writing a bit of controversial news which I am seeing through my eyes. If you have another opinion, or more information please feel free to email me and I'll send it along to everyone in own group.
CAN REFORM JUDAISM RETURN TO ITS GERMAN ROOTS?
This year was the 100th Anniversary of Magnus Hirschfeld's attempt at starting the modern gay rights movements. Most Americans were surprised to hear that Germans were trying to repeal sodomy laws almost 70 years before "Stonewall". But what was started in Germany and killed by Hitler was transported and incubated in America to come back to Germany later on. The same thing seems to be happening with Reform Judaism.
The following was sent to me in May 2000:
just to restate a fact: If you are member of a religious community in Germany as per the government record, you have to pay a tax "Kirchensteuer" - religious tax) of 9 % of your Federal Income tax, not of your income.
If you have an income of 100 000 Euro and pay 40 000 Euro federal income tax, this would be 3600 Euro religious tax - and not 9 000 Euro as stated in your newsletter. If you make 20 000 Euro and pay 3 000 Euro Federal income tax, it would be 270 Euro and not 1 800 Euro.
If you feel you do not want to pay this tax to the community it goes to, you are free to declare that you do not adhere to this community, pay nothing, and make a donation to the community you want to donate to. If it is a recognized (= non-profit) community, this donation is tax-deductable.
Concerning Jews in Germany before the war, many of them before the war were not Orthodox, not wearing traditional clothes or beards. Many of them were not religious at all. Just Hitler made no distinction.
I could not agree more that Germany should welcome all types of Jewish live, as it is true for other religions. The tax I mentioned (introduced by Hitler ..) was to collect the money for the official churches, following the concordat with the Vatican. The second thought was that by this way, many people would declare to leave the church to save some money - which (leaving the church) was Hitler's intention.
The possibility I mentioned is open to anyone. The fact that you declare your religion to the IRS has no influence on the fact whether or not your religion recognizes you as a member.
Johannes Heidecker,Bondoufle (France), http://www.chez.com/johannes
The newspapers are full of stories over pluralism in Israel and America, but something very important is developing in Germany. Namely, some Jews in today's Germany want to start progressive congregations (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc). It is ironic to note that the roots of the Modern Reform Movement started in Germany around 200 years ago, but Hitler killed the German roots of this branch that blossomed in America. When I look at the picture of my grandparents wedding in Augsburg ca. 1918 (it's on the website under Family Album - http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/Strasse/5960) I see that the Jews of Augsburg did not dress in Eastern European styled clothes. Only my greatgrandfather (who came from the Galacia) has a beard. They all appear to be modern Jews. I don't know the affiliation of the Augsburger congregation. But the Augsburger Synagogue had an organ (which was removed during the war and was recently replaced with a menorah) and a chorus (even thought the women did sit separately up on the balcony away from the men). But the congregation was definitely not ultra-Orthodox.
After the war, almost all of the German Jews either immigrated to other countries or were killed by the Nazis. Very few of the German Jews returned to Germany. However, a small amount of Eastern European Jews left the liberated concentration camps and displaced persons camp to move to Germany after the war. These Jews became the people in charge of the Jewish Communities in the various towns as well as the caretakers of the Jewish Community's property. These Jews were mostly Orthodox.
In the 1990's two non-Orthodox groups of Jews have also moved into Germany. The first being secular, non-religious Jews from the former Soviet Union and former U.S. Military Jewish personnel who decided to stay when the Army camps closed. Many of the U.S. soldiers were Reform or Conservative.
A National Union of Progressive Jews is now being formed out of members of these two later groups. They have about 2,000 members out of the 70,000 Jews who are living in Germany today. However, the established Jewish presence in most communities is officially still Orthodox. This gets more complicated when one realizes that Germany (and Austria) has a "9% Religious Tax" which goes only to the official religious groups.
All Germans who declare their religion (or who are determined to be Jewish) must give the German government 9% of their income as a tax. The government then turns the money over to the officially elected religious group, which in almost all cases is Orthodox. While the Catholic groups divide their money in each city with the various Catholic Churches, it is doubtful that the Orthodox will give up funds to help the "Progressive" (Reform or Conservative) shuls get started.
Therefore these people must pay 9% of the income to the Orthodox shuls and then try to raise extra money for space, rabbis, Torahs, etc. Not a very easy task to do.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Does the old German Jewish tradition of Reform Judaism mean anything in today's world? Will the newly immigrated Jews have a say in how they want to express their Judaism? Will non-Orthodox congregations return to Germany? Will Jews be able to co-exist with each other in peace? Stay tuned and I'll try to keep people informed of what happens.
SEPTEMBER 1997 NEWSLETTER
We started out as a small group of New York men, then New York men and women, then we became an American group and finally about 4 years ago we went International. Now I am proud to announce that we are now launched into cyberspace with our own website. We have grown too large for me to print, stuff and mail newsletters to over 100 members in nine countries. I will update our website with new newsletters, articles, and happenings and if you are interested you can visit the website instead of my mailing things to you. I was amazed to see that over 5,000 people have already clicked on to see our webpage without any official announcements of our existence. That means that 5,000 people were interested in searching for the topic of gays/lesbians and the holocaust. But the main reason for this site is for our members to use. So please visit our website… Even if you do not have a computer, you can go to a library, a copy center that offers computers, or even a cyber-café while you dine. Cyberspace is full of Jewish and gay/lesbian sites, so its about time you start surfing the net. Please give me any comments about our site, by just clicking on the comments box and type away. We also need a logo. Do you have any suggestions???
Our site includes such sections as:
New Policy on Dues
It was more trouble collecting dues than it was worth. So membership is now for free. The only other issue left is whether we should continue to belong to the Association of Holocaust Organizations (annual dues are about $150) or the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations (annual dues are about $55). Again, if people feel strongly that our Association should remain members, please let me know with a donation.
GAD BECK VISITS CBST
For this year's Gay/Lesbian Pride Shabbat, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York flew a gay, Jewish Holocaust Survivor over from Berlin to speak, and march in the Pride Parade on June 29th. This was his second time coming to America, but his first time ever going to a gay/lesbian synagogue or marching in such a publicly gay/lesbian event. The Village Voice gave the event a full page of coverage and over 800 people showed up for the Pride Shabbat service.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum now keeps a set of all of our past newsletters on file in its archives. Anyone wanting to study the topic can follow our progress. I will continue to send them one set of a printed version of any new newsletters in the future.
NYC - "Holocaust Museum" sued by 16 Rabbis for including gays. The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Tribute to the Holocaust has been sued for mentioning that homosexuals were persecuted during the Third Reich. Check the website for details.
FEBRUARY 1997 NEWSLETTER
ARE YOU A POLISH-AMERICAN? I was asked an interesting question about a group called "Polish Lesbians & Gays Together. Namely, would the children of Polish Jewish Holocaust Survivors who live in the New York area want to come to a meeting of their gay/lesbian Polish American group. It raises an interesting thought, since I think we always considered ourselves to be the children of Jewish ancestors who happened to live in Germany or Poland, and not really German-American or Polish-American. But in another way, why should that make a difference if the group is opening its doors to everyone regardless of one's religion. What are your thoughts? Please contact me if your are interested in getting together and if enough people are interested, then we can set up a specific date for a meeting.
REVIEW OF 1996 ACCOMPLISHMENTS
ANTI-GAY CONTROVERSIES: STATUS ON MONUMENTS...