The Shmooze

Berlin as Cultural Hot Spot for Israeli Jews

By Josh Tapper

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On first utterance, “Israeli Jews are flocking to Berlin” is a phrase that might draw more than one cocked eyebrow. But as Public Radio International’s “The World” reported last week, a thriving Israeli Jewish community — mostly young, creative types — has found newfangled appreciation in what was once the capital city of the Nazi regime.

The PRI segment profiles Ofri Brin, a 28-year-old, auburn-haired avant-pop singer from the Golan Heights, who followed her boyfriend, also a musician, to Germany. “Berlin has become such a cultural pearl,” she told the country’s international radio broadcaster, Deutche Welle, in February. “That’s what it was before the war — it was always a place that broke all the rules and made things happen. It’s very avant garde and has space for every kind of culture and art.”

Berlin’s cultural rise hasn’t fallen on deaf ears or blind eyes. The city, in its post-occupation revival, has become a trove of artistic capital. The 3,000 or so Israeli artists contributing to the scene, however, are unexpected.

“I had a completely different view about Berlin before I came here,” Brin told PRI. Germany, of course, occupies a less-than-pleasant place in Jewish and Israeli imaginations.

“I was sure that it’s pretty grey and that the people are pretty grey,” she continued. “Because of television, because of the war, because of books, because of what they teach you in school. For us, Berlin was more about the war and the Third Reich than about the golden twenties.”

Descendents of German Jews who suffered under the Nazis are constitutionally granted the right to hold a German passport, a clause that can only increase Berlin’s attractiveness.

Brin’s success can only increase it further: She recently hit 54 on a German radio top 200 list.


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