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German Russian-speaking Jews talk Israel at Netherlands confab

THE HAGUE (JTA) — More than 200 Russian-speaking young Jews living in Western Europe gathered in the Netherlands for a Jewish Agency conference about Israel.

Participants in last week’s four-day conference, which the Jewish Agency co-organized with Israel’s Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry, participated in workshops on “fighting the de-legitimization of Israel,” the Jewish Agency said in a statement, and about ways to strengthen the Jewish identity of Russian-speaking West European Jews and their bonds with Israel.      

The vast majority of participants at the conference in Maastricht in the southern Netherlands came from Germany, where more than 200,000 Russian-speaking Jews live in 180 communities, according to Misha Galperin, president of international development at the Jewish Agency for Israel. Approximately half of them are officially registered as members of Jewish communities, according to the Jewish Agency.

“The situation of Russian-speaking Jews in Western Europe and their relationship with Israel is particularly complex,” one of the participants, 27-year-old Katiya Novominski, executive manager of the Jewish community of Karslruhe in southwest Germany, told JTA.

Novominski said that while many non-Israeli Jews think of Israel as a second home, Jews who were born in the former Soviet Union but live elsewhere tend to think of their countries of origin as a second home.

“So we need to find the connection to Israel for them, and that’s the challenge,” she said. 

Novominski, a Ukraine native who immigrated with her parents to Germany in 1997, added that “Jewish life in Germany needs the Russian-speaking Jews to survive.”

According to Novominski, Russian speakers make up 80 percent to 90 percent of her city’s Jewish community.  

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