Family Origin: Germany, Kibbutz Dafna, Israel 2007

Family Origin: Germany, Kibbutz Dafna, Israel 2007

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Often framed as a monolithic society, Israel is in fact made up of the many stories of the immigrating families who have built their lives there, united under the values of a shared heritage and history. The Israeli family has a distinct blend of customs from their original home country and the homeland.

Immigration to Israel is known as aliyah (ascent) and a newcomer as an oleh, one who has risen up, as if having attained new heights arriving in the Biblical, historic, and religious homeland of the Jewish people. The elders in these photographs had reasons for aliyah as diverse as their backgrounds.

The reality for new arrivals to Israel was often more harsh than the promised dream of “a land flowing with milk and honey”. These challenges are a reminder of the complexity of building one nation that includes Jewish people from every corner of the earth.


Jewish settlers founded the Ashkenazi Jewish community in the Early (5th to 10th centuries CE) and High Middle Ages (c.1000-1299 CE). In January 1933, some 522,000 Jews lived in Germany. However, following the growth of Nazism and its antisemitic ideology and policies, the Jewish community was severely persecuted. Over half (approximately 304,000) emigrated during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship, leaving only approximately 214,000 Jews in Germany proper (1937 borders) on the eve of World War II. The remaining community was nearly eradicated in the Holocaust following deportations to the East. By the end of the war between 160,000 and 180,000 German Jews had been killed in the genocide officially sanctioned and executed by Nazi Germany.

After the war the Jewish community started to slowly grow again, fueled primarily by immigration from the former Soviet Union and Israeli expatriates. By the 21st century, the Jewish population of Germany approached 200,000, and Germany had the only growing Jewish community in Europe.

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