Despite recent reports that raise questions about whether Jews can feel at home in Germany, Chabad will be opening additional centers in two North Rhine Westphalian cities.
There are some 3- 4000 Jews living in Dortmund, a major city near Dusseldorf, and about 1,000 in Essen.
“There is a lot of work to be done here. Our goal is to work together with the community and the rabbi to enhance the experience of Dortmund’s and Essen’s Jews respectively,” said Rabbi Yisroel Diskin, head Chabad emissary to Germany.
Rabbi Diskin and his wife Chana, Chabad representatives to Germany since 1988, have supervised the opening of some 14 Chabad centers in the country, which has a Jewish population of about 100,000.
According to Rabbi Diskin, Jewish life in Germany continues to grow. This notwithstanding disturbing incidents that have prompted Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and today the head of Munich’s Jewish community, to write a scathing article in a German newspaper asking whether Germany “still wants its Jews.”
A close friend of the Diskins, Knobloch was subsequently interviewed in Der Spiegel, where she expressed concern following the debate threatening a ban on Jewish ritual circumcision in Germany. “We, the Jews who want to feel like an integrated part of this country, need the support and backing of society. And I feel that this has been missing,” she was quoted as saying.
The new Chabad representatives, Rabbi and Mrs. Mendy Vilenkin, will be arriving from Israel this week. Rabbi and Mrs. Shmuel Aranoff will be opening Essen’s Chabad center next month.