growing up in new york, jewish culture became an unexpected complement to my own. public schools in new york city have several important jewish holidays off. in elementary school, during the "minor" ones, the black and asian children and the vegetarian of dubious religious background would run amok around the school, while the jewish children stayed home. at that young age, i don’t remember separating whiteness from jewishness.

as we got older, i owned dreidls and some jewish families had christmas trees alongside their menorahs. kids practiced the haftorah on the yellow school bus for upcoming bar and bat mitzvahs. i received hamantashen on purim. i learned the hebrew alphabet in the back of our huge dictionary that sat in the living room. like yiddish words in everyday new york speech, my childhood was infused with the presence of jewish culture.

the little bit of yiddish i knew turned out to be almost identical in german. and that is about all of the jewish culture i encounter in berlin. here, the only associations i have with jewishness are armed guards and trucks, outside of synagogues, schools and cultural centers which i have never entered. memorials. the cobblestone replaced with gold squares in front of houses in memory of those deported.

yesterday started the 19th Jewish Cultural Festival/J├╝dische Kulturtage 2005. it runs until 11 December. one of the highlights is on Saturday, 3 December – Die lange Nacht der Synagogen, an open doors night at Berlin synagogues with a religious service, tours, speeches, and concerts. an interesting opportunity to see jewish culture alive and well in berlin.

or on the same night, check out the line-up silent films.


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