Atalya and I have visited Vienna recently. Coming from Berlin, Vienna gives me always the impression of being a European Jewish city ‘par excellence’, with Jewish
life in a lot of facets to be found here.
In the morning, heading to the Naschmarkt around the corner for a coffee, we found ourselves inside Neni I, an Israeli restaurant owned by the gastronome Chaya Molcho. We had a wonderful breakfast that we thought could only be found in Israel. A few steps up the lane of this wonderfully colourful and tasty market, we noticed another Israeli stall with Falafel, pickled cucumbers in tin, wine, olive oil and even Mazza packages on offer! Mazza at the Naschmarkt, this feels as if Jewish culture has made it once more into the heart of Vienna!!
Later in the day and further into the centre of the city, in the second district, we sat in a coffeehouse yet again, as one does in Vienna. Its name is simply ‘Tachles’, with no explanation or any apparent deeper meaning and connection to Judaism, Hebrew or Yidisch.
It was short before Shabbat and we observed kids in their Shabbat clothes running up and down the road and their parents nonchalantly getting ready to welcome the Shabbat. A very special atmosphere that seemed to belong to fairytales, or to Europe of many years ago, or Jerusalem. Could this happen now in Berlin? Bukhari Jews with their traditional Kaftans and hats heading en masse through Grosse Hamburger st.??
We have visited the Or Chadash congregation in the evening and were bedazzled by its diversity and liveliness. Brimming with people of varying nationalities and ages, this relatively small prayer room was swelling with excitement and pride as the Israeli embassador gave a speech to commemorate and celebrate Israel’s independence day. For this young community which was founded in 1991 and is affiliated with the World Union of Progressive Judaism, this was a very symbolic and important moment of acknowledgement and acceptance. For us though, it was more the service itself with the very well orchestrated Zmirot, Tfilot and a general good old sing along spirit as well as the beautiful modern wooden ‘Aron Kodesh’ which meant much. All the more, the Kiddush afterwards with the brilliantly herbed Challa, tasty wine and more the engaging people whom we met that will remain in our stomachs and memories for long time!
Judging by the reactions of the young Viennese whom we asked for directions to Tel Aviv Beach Bar, this is another successful project of the ambitious Mrs. Molcho, who slowly but surely plays a major role in integrating Israeli and mediterranean culture into this very European city. It seems that here, similarly to Berlin, there is a very vibrant Israeli community of individuals who are involved in the various aspects of city-life: nightlife and clubs, art scene and galleries, design and fashion shows, music and concert halls. Could that have an impact on our famous European Vienna or on our Jewish Vienna? Time will tell.
In Vienna, the mosaic of Jewish life feels much more “settled” and somehow deeper “implemented” into the surrounding. Taking a picture of the Viennese version of the ‘stumbling stones”, a man approached me and said: “over there, some houses down the street, you can find a map of the whole memorial project” and he went further on to explain it in detail. He had gained that knowledge and interest through his work at the municipal administration. This is already the second time I got a neighboorhoud tour in this area from a passer-by! Vienna – Auf Wiedersehen!