In this ethnographic essay, I reflect on the origins and present condition of the new (post-2010) Israeli diaspora in Berlin. Based on 10 months of participant observation, I map out the main sub-streams of this emigration; elicit the economic, professional, and political reasons for leaving Israel; and explore these émigrés’ initial encounter with German society. My observations suggest that many Israeli residents of Berlin (mostly secular) rediscover their Jewishness along diasporic lines and forge ties with the local religious and community organizations. Being a small minority in the German-speaking milieu, Israelis invest in building their own Hebrew-based community networks, including media outlets and cultural and educational institutions. Lastly, I explore these émigrés’ ties with Israel and conclude that many Israelis in Berlin are sojourners rather than immigrants and that Berlin is but one phase in their life journey.
Back to Being Jewish?
What Has Changed after Twenty Years in Israel?
Larissa Remennick and Anna Prashizky
Most former Soviet immigrants who arrived in Israel had a secular or atheistic outlook, with only a small minority leaning toward Orthodox Judaism or Christianity. To understand how 20 years of life in the ethno-religious polity of Israel have influenced their religious beliefs and practices, we conducted a survey of a national sample of post-1990 immigrants. The findings suggest that most immigrants have adopted the signs and symbols of the Jewish lifestyle. They celebrate the major religious holidays in some form, and many are interested in learning more about Jewish culture and history. We interpret these changes mainly as an adaptive response aiming at social inclusion in the Israeli Jewish mainstream rather than actually emerging religiosity. Few immigrants observe the demanding laws of kashrut and Shabbat, and even fewer attend synagogues and belong to religious communities. Their expressed attitudes toward state-religion matters reflect their ethno-nationalist stance, which is more typical for ethnic Jews than for partial or non-Jews.