09/11 Jewish Advocate: Armenian and Jewish groups join together

Newton man is awarded Germany's highest tribute
By Lorne Bell - Tuesday September 11 2007

Obermayer received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit at Temple Shalom

In a ceremony held at Temple Shalom in Newton, a local man received the Federal Republic of Germany’s highest tribute last Thursday. Arthur Obermayer, a 77-year-old American Jew, was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit for his efforts in fostering German-Jewish-American relations.
Wolfgang Vorwerk, consul general of Germany to New England, bestowed the honor upon Obermayer, a Newton resident, on behalf of German Federal President Horst Kohler.
“Arthur has had a significant impact in creating a deeper understanding between Germans and Americans, Jews and non-Jews,” Vorwerk said on Thursday.
The award recognizes Obermayer’s contributions to German culture and his dedication to repairing relations between Germans and Jews. To that end, Obermayer established the Obermayer German Jewish History Awards in 2000. The annual award is given to German citizens who have made significant efforts to bridge the physical and emotional gaps between German society and Jews.
“When I initiated the awards in Berlin, I had three objectives: to honor Germans who’ve done such extraordinary work to preserve the Jewish history and heritage of their own local communities; to have their good works recognized by their families, communities and throughout the country; and to demonstrate to Jews throughout the world that the Germany of today is a very different place than the Germany of Hitler’s era,” said Obermayer.
The recipient in 2005, for example, was Gunter Demnig, a bronze sculptor who installed memorial plaques in front of the former homes of Holocaust victims.
But Obermayer’s work goes beyond the Obermayer Awards. In 2000, he established the Creglingen Jewish Museum in Creglingen, Germany. The building stands in the same village his ancestors lived in almost 400 years ago.
Obermayer first traveled to Creglingen with his wife of 44 years, Judy, in 1998, as part of an effort to retrace his ancestral roots. That trip was a turning point for Obermayer, who said he was overwhelmed by the graciousness of the German people who helped him without asking for – or accepting – anything in return. Their position, he said, was that “Jews had already paid too much.”
“When I came back to the U.S., I encountered many Jews of German descent who had had the same sort of experience in Germany,” said Obermayer. He decided then he would dedicate the rest of his life to eliminating German stereotypes held by Jews and non-Jews alike.
“This prize unfortunately only demonstrates what was lost when Germany and Europe lost almost all of its Jews,” said Vorwerk. “They left behind a gaping void that no one will be able to close.”
Many Americans – Jews in particular – have great difficulty getting past the horrors of the Holocaust, according to Obermayer. But even as Jews continue to mourn their millions lost, he said the German people struggle to deal with deep emotional scars of their own.
Obermayer noted that thousands of Germans volunteer their time to help preserve the German-Jewish past and, through these efforts, are taking steps to remember and honor those Jews who perished, and to cultivate meaningful bonds with Jews around the world.
“The values and actions of Germans today reflect tolerance and respect for others,” Obermayer said. “It is a new Germany.”

Source: http://www.thejewishadvocate.com/this_weeks_issue/news/?content_id=3653