Goodwill Ambassador on Ice: Evan Kaufmann
Evan Kaufmann and Steve Sokol, President World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
Back in February, a portrait of German national hockey team player Evan Kaufmann graced the cover of the Sports section in the Sunday Edition of the New York Times. On paper, Kaufmann, who currently plays for DEG Metro Stars in Düsseldorf, is indeed German, though the story reaches back much further for the Minessota-born athlete. It is front-page material, and not just in the world of hockey.
Kaufmann was born into a family of American Jews, with many relatives who were victims of the Holocaust; his grandfather, Kurt Kaufmann, a native of the German town of Wittlich, survived the concentration camps before eventually coming to the United States after the war. It was Even Kaufmann's hockey playing that brought him to Germany in the first place, but it was his family history that made it possible for him to obtain German citizenship.
Kaufmann is one of DEG Metro Stars' most valuable players, but both at home in the United States and in Germany, he is also a symbol of the future of Jewish-American-German relations and of the growing Jewish community in Germany. His choice to play under German colors has earned him just as much- if not more- publicity than the playing itself. From his interview in February, it was clear that Kaufmann is deeply aware of the significance of his position as an American Jew and a German national hockey player, but that he takes his position in stride.
Now in between seasons, the American-Jewish-German hockey star came to Pittsburgh Enlarge image David Murdoch, Honorary Consul; Rabbi Aaron Bisno; Evan Kaufmann; Consul Elmar Jakobs; David Sufrin, Chairman Holocaust Center Pittsburgh and Joy Braunstein, Director Holocaust Center Pittsburgh (© Martin Schnall) this week to share the personal story behind his widely-covered young career as special guest at the dinner "Reclaiming Heritage: A Question of Allegiance" at Rodef Shalom Congregation, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh Holocaust Center. This special event brought together many members of the Jewish community in the Pittsburgh region, including Dr. Walter Jacob, former Rabbi of Rodef Shalom and head of the Abraham Geiger College in Germany, the first rabbinic seminary in Central Europe since the Holocuast. They were joined by representatives of the German-American community, as well as Honorary Consul David Murdoch and Consul for Political and Scientific Affairs at the German Consulate, Elmar Jakobs.
Mr. Jakobs greeted Evan Kaufmann at the dinner, bestowing him with the title of "Goodwill Ambassador for the Transatlantic Relationship." He also emphasized the importance of attending such an event on behalf of Germany. "Speaking in a synogogue tonight- being German- reminds me that we, American jews and Germans are separated by the past. But what matters today is not what separates us, but what unites us."
Kaufmann also spoke at the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh on the role of sports in cross-cultural understanding, where he also looked back on his four years of playing hockey and living in Germany. At both events, Kaufmann shared the anecdotes of personal encounters with teammates and other Germans that convinced him and his wife Danielle of the resurgence of Jewish life in Germany and reassured them that his decision to play there was a good one. Kaufmann will play next season in Nürnberg, where he signed a three-year contract with the Ice Tigers.