Sunday, April 20, 2014

Are You a Yekke?

Have you ever been asked this question? I have been any time I have mentioned my interest in R' Hirsch or R' Breuer or the Breuer's community or R' Schwab. It's automatic - like clockwork. It's strange even, as if all Ashkenazim share a fascination with Yekkes.

They should. We are all Yekkes in a sense. My great-grandparents are from the Ukraine. But whence came their grandparents? Or their grandparents. At some point the answer becomes Germany.  This is where Ashkenazic Jewry started. Our mutual fascination with the Yekkes reminds me of the mutual fascination my cousins and I have with our grandparents. We gravitate to our roots. Whence came your grandparents? Poland? Lita? We are cousins then, you and me. And our shared ancestors were German Jews.

Is it just a matter of heritage? R' Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger of B'nei Brak established an institute dedicated to protecting German minhagim and reminding Ashkenazim that their roots are in Germany. The rabbanim there kept active contact with those in Eretz Israel. The minhagim in Germany are the truest we know of. Maybe we all sense that. It's like my cousins and I wanting to hold on to the memories of our grandparents and all the wisdom they conveyed. It isn't just nostalgia. It's something much more serious. It's our link to Har Sinai.

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