There is a new kosher beer in Germany, but not everything is as kosher as it seems.
The beer, Simcha (Hebrew for “joy”), is produced by Hartmannsdorf Brewery in the former East German state of Saxony, and it carries a rare kosher certification issued by Berlin’s Orthodox rabbi, Yitzchak Ehrenberg. The brainchild of Uwe Dziuballa, owner of a nonkosher “Jewish-style” restaurant in the city of Chemnitz, Simcha has received media attention in Germany and abroad, and has sold more than 30,000 bottles since its introduction in January.
But last week, Chajm Gurski, a Jewish blogger from Germany, raised concerns about the beer’s connection with the Association of Saxonian Friends of Israel — which, Gurski believes, is a missionary group. “When you look at [Simcha beer’s] website,” Gurski wrote on his blog, Sprachkasse (roughly translated as “language bank”), “you will see that they are linked to the Juden fur Jesus,” the German branch of Jews for Jesus.
The Association of Saxonian Friends of Israel has a very Christian character, indeed. Its members are, according to its Web site, “Christians of various denominations” who have “Jesus in the middle of their lives.” The site also has links to various evangelical organizations.
When asked whether the beer is associated with Jews for Jesus, Dziuballa responded that all proceeds go to the brewery and to Schalom, a not-for-profit organization that he founded in 1998 to bring together Jews and non-Jews, and Germans and Israelis. Ehrenberg said that Gurski had informed him of the possible partnership with a missionary group, and he plans to investigate the situation further. When The Shmooze contacted Hartmannsdorf Brewery for comment, a representative referred us to the beer’s official Web site, www.simcha-sachsen.de, for information. The Hartmannsdorf Brewery Web site, which lists 20 different products, does not mention Simcha beer.
Simcha’s official Web site is maintained by Wilfred Gotter, a member of the Association of Saxonian Friends of Israel and the owner of Fischladen, an online Christian bookstore. On the beer’s Web site, visitors can order the libation — a box of 24 bottles costs 30 euros (around $40) including shipping — and there is also a special offer: If you buy two bottles of Simcha and one Simcha glass, you can get (among other items) a free keychain with the word “Jesus” on it.
“Maybe… the beer is kosher,” Gurski told The Shmooze, “but the content of the [beer’s] Web site is definitely not.”