A religious Zionist youth movement is officially reopening in Germany, 79 years after being shut down under the National Socialist regime.
Bnei Akiva Deutschland is one of several Zionist organizations to return to Germany in recent years. In this case, the group’s aim is to encourage Jews to leave Germany for Israel.
Status as a charitable organization was granted in the city of Dusseldorf on August 18 to the German branch of the Jerusalem-based World Bnei Akiva – which already has emissaries in more than seven cities in Germany. It will now intensify its activities.
“Another Jewish organization resurrected in Germany is another little victory over the Nazis and the new anti-Semites,” the movements director for Germany, Eliyos Paz, said in a statement. Several years ago, the secular Zionist Hashomer Hatzair World Movement returned to Germany with youth activities.
Unlike Hashomer Hatzair, World Bnei Akiva reaches out especially to Orthodox communities. With emissaries in 23 countries, it also sponsors Jewish programming especially aimed towards Jews from the former Soviet Union, according to the group’s website.
That target group is plentiful in Germany, where more than 90 percent of the current Jewish population of some 200,000 have roots in the former Soviet Union and came to Germany since 1990. Only about half that number are actually participating members of Jewish communities.
The Central Welfare Council of Jews in Germany reports that about 200 Jews move to Israel each year.
On a similar note, the Jewish Agency for Israel this spring announced its opening of a new “Israel Program Center” in Berlin, with a grant from the Britain-based Ebenezer Emergency Fund International, an evangelical Christian organization that works towards “the worldwide return of the Jewish people to Israel prophesied in Scripture.”
World Bnei Akiva was established in 1910; in 1927, the activities of several Orthodox Zionist groups were united under the Torah and Avodah Fund, which oversaw related youth movements and their activities, such as camps and conferences.
Activities in Germany came to an abrupt end in 1938, when the Nazi regime outlawed most Jewish institutions.