Berlin's Jewish Comeback

Culinary Treats in Germany's Creative Capital

Nouveau Deli: Disc jockeys Paul Mogg, left, and Steve Melzer are the owners of Berlin’s Mogg & Melzer.
Steve Herud
Nouveau Deli: Disc jockeys Paul Mogg, left, and Steve Melzer are the owners of Berlin’s Mogg & Melzer.

By Leah Koenig

Published November 14, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

These new Jewish eateries are not the first to emerge in the city post-Wall; they join a handful of established places like Beth Café, a cozy kosher restaurant that is outfitted with mismatched furniture and antique teapots and serves Jewish standards like gefilte fish and deliciously dense noodle kugel. Founded by a local synagogue in 1991, the café also stocks a variety of kosher-certified products like wine, marble cake and soup mix — imported pantry items that remain difficult to find in Berlin. And yet this emerging crop of restaurants has begun to breathe new life into Berlin’s Jewish cuisine, offering creative and updated interpretations on tradition. “We do not want to copy what came before,” Melzer said. “We would rather reinvent it.” To that point, the pastrami they serve reflects German food traditions, but is actually an updated import of American (and particularly New York) Jewish cuisine.

This urge to innovate is fueled, in part, by the significant influx of new Jewish residents who have moved to Berlin over the past decade. By the end of the Cold War, only 4,000 Jews lived there, primarily to the west of the Berlin Wall. After the Wall came down, a wave of Russian Jews arrived. Their presence swelled the overall Jewish population and fostered the creation of new institutions. Kaedtler, a traditional German bakery, opened in 1935 by a Christian family, responded to the growing Jewish community by getting kosher certification in 2002. Today its breads (including the chal¬lah it now makes on Fridays), as well its flaky apple strudel, cherry-studded cake and several other pastries, are baked under rabbinic supervision.

Most recently, thousands of Israelis have moved to Berlin, including painters, filmmakers and musicians attracted to the city’s thriving arts community, and young people whose grandparents were deprived of citizenship by the Nazis can now apply for a retroactive German passport. According to a recent article in the Jewish Museum of Berlin’s publication, JMB Journal, an estimated “20,000 [Israelis] now live on a permanent basis in Berlin” — more than the Soviet Jews who came in the 1990s.

Like Cohen, many of these new arrivals have opened restaurants, celebrating what the journal called “Israelis’ love affair with eating.” The range includes Middle Eastern-eateries like Sababa and Zula, which serve hummus and shakshuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce. (They join sever¬al hummus and falafel restaurants owned by Berlin’s established Turkish community.) On the other end of the spectrum, there is MANI, an upscale hotel restaurant that focuses on French cuisine containing Israeli and Middle Eastern ingredients, thanks to hotel owner Ariel Schiff’s Israeli background.

Berlin’s residents, both Jewish and not, seem to be excited by the cultural and culinary developments in their midst. While visiting Mogg & Melzer this past October, I observed a table of stylishly dressed Germans chatting with excitement about getting to try “real New York cheesecake” while I snapped photos of their plates. And MANI’s head chef and general manager, both non-Jewish Germans, recently returned from a culinary scouting trip to Israel. “It was incredibly inspiring, and we came back with many new ideas,” manager Ralf Swinley said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.