BERLIN – Two major events – the Conference of European Rabbis semiannual meeting and the Israel Congress – are slated to open in the German capital on Sunday.
The parleys are timed to coincide with a score of events marking 75th years since Kristallnacht – the pogrom organized by the Nazis and ordinary Germans.
Sacha Stawksi, the main organizer of the Israel Congress, being held under the rubric “Connecting for Tomorrow,” expects 3,000 attendees.
Germany and Israel share “common values, economic opportunities and strategic interests,” Stawksi said.
The Israel Congress plans five workshops on topics ranging from politics to business, culture, religion and science. The organizers hope to expand the German-Israel relationship for a broader public.
Tom Gross, an international journalist and Middle East expert who serves on the advisory board to the Congress, said “In an incredibly interconnected world, full of both many opportunities and uncertainties, it is even more important both for Israel and Europe that their relations are put on an excellent level – and for Israel, the key to Europe is of course Germany. And for Germany the key to the Middle East is Israel.”
The Congress is slated to honor Michael Sommer, head of the Confederation of German Trade Unions, with the first Arno Lustiger prize for his work in advancing German- Israeli relations. Sommer has gone to great lengths to oppose trade union boycotts of the Jewish state.
The first Congress was held in 2010 and Sunday’s event is the third such pro-Israel parley.
Meanwhile, 200 rabbis are expected to attend the Conference of European Rabbis event. The agenda includes circumcision and halal and kosher slaughter.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, told the Deutsche Welle news outlet, “We decided the time has come to come back to Germany; for the sake of memory and also for the sake of continuity.”
He added, “We are witnessing today a rebirth, a renaissance of Jewish life in Germany, which we are going to celebrate, along with the memory of Kristallnacht.”
It is the first time the conference, the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe, in meeting in Berlin.