Criticism of Jewish authors: Who is marginalized here?

Criticism of Jewish authors: Who is marginalized here?

Deborah Feldman polemicizes against Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. She herself is a widely heard voice in the Jewish community.

Deborah Feldman on November 1st on Markus Lanz’s show Photo: Teutopress/imago

Since October 7th, the American-German author Deborah Feldman has been a welcome guest on German talk shows. The dropout from the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect, who has lived in Berlin for ten years, talks about her personal experience as a Jew (“I feel threatened”); Reports that irritate many other Jews (and non-Jews) because they lack factual basis.

Feldman claims that in Germany “you are only allowed to talk about Israel in a certain way,” namely with positive reference to the Israeli government’s right-wing projects. In the Guardian She claims in a much-quoted guest article that anyone who criticizes the German reaction to the Hamas attack will be marginalized. This was written by someone who has received nothing but undivided public attention for exactly this criticism for a month and a half. Feldman also leaves unmentioned the countless open letters published since October 7th that are close to her ideas.

In an interview with the Dutch medium, she once again proved that Feldman seems to live in an upside-down, counterfactual reality NRC. In it, she not only spoke contemptuously about the majority of Jews living in Germany, namely those who immigrated from the successor states of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, but also assumed that they had non-existent privileges, “power and influence.”

And she denied them that they were really Jewish: Feldman did not feel represented by Germans “who actually come from the Soviet Union and have no idea about Judaism, but had to position themselves here as Jews because they only had a passport because of their Jewishness got”.

Invisibilities of Jewish reality

Germans from the Soviet Union who are supposed to have no idea about Judaism but got a passport, huh? One that claims to analyze the Jewish present in detail reveals what it really is like: Feldman has no idea what she’s talking about.

Jews who immigrated to Germany in the 1990s through the so-called quota refugee law were not German. Feldman probably means so-called Russian Germans who immigrated from the former Soviet Union around the same time. The legal framework for entry also differed fundamentally for both groups.

A large part of Jewish reality in Germany can be broken down as follows: prefabricated housing, poverty in old age, war experience, devaluation of life experience. More than 93 percent of Jewish immigrants rely on basic security in old age. Although most of the older immigrants are highly educated, the majority of them work far below their qualifications.

As Feldman claims, a German passport was not given as an entry gift for the former “Jewish quota refugees”. This could only be applied for after a certain period of time. Almost half of the Jews in Germany have Ukrainian roots due to immigration in the 1990s. The Russian war of aggression is very close for them. Although all of these Jews make up the majority of the Jewish community today, they have, in contrast to Feldman, actually experienced marginalization – on a social and economic level – since their immigration began over 30 years ago.

Racist media discourse

By the way, Feldman’s statements are linked to the racist discourse of the 1990s. The “Jewish quota refugees”, it was said at the time, were not “real” Jews and had only obtained their entry documents by fraud. It was said in numerous media that the “Russian mafia” was behind it.

Jewish immigrants and Germans from Russia were lumped together and labeled as Russians – regardless of their actual origins.

Feldman’s statements show ignorance and arrogance. She exposes herself when she speaks of marginalization, but is not above attacking the most vulnerable Jews in this country for her own political agenda. Anyone who calls for a space for debate within the Jewish community cannot simply declare 90 percent of its members non-existent.

The fact that Feldman is courted on talk shows and newspapers, and that so much space is given to her individual experience, makes her position look like a majority opinion. But Jewish life takes place, above all, far away from a comfortable Berlin bubble like the one Feldman has created for himself. Sticking with facts like these would be a first step towards being able to argue with each other.


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