In the wake of recent anti-Semitic incidents in Germany, as well as controversy surrounding a court order deeming ritual circumcision illegal, a prominent German Jewish leader published a scathing article, asking whether or not Germany "still wants" its Jewish population.
The article, written by Charlotte Knobloch, a well-known leader of European Jewry, and former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and published in German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, came after what have been a troubling few weeks for Germany's Jewish community.
Late last month, a German psychologist filed a criminal complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg, the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in the small Bavarian town of Hof, for performing a circumcision. T
The complaint was based on a ruling by a German court in May, which declared all circumcisions illegal, on the grounds that they cause unwarranted physical harm to a child.
A doctor in Cologne also faced criminal charges for performing a circumcision in June – which led to doctors across the country to refrain from circumcising babies, for fear of prosecution.
In addition to the controversy surrounding the practice of circumcision, there have also been two anti-Semitic attacks reported in Germany over the last few days.
Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was one of the first individuals to be ordained as a Rabbi in Germany since 1942, was assaulted on August 28 in Berlin by a group of youths. Alter suffered a fractured cheekbone from the assault, which took place in front of his six-year-old daughter.
The incident led to a rabbinical school, the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam to instruct its students not to wear yarmulkes in public, but rather, "something inconspicuous which to cover their heads."
Just days later, a group of 13 female students from the ultra-Orthodox school "Or Avner" in Berlin said they were surrounded by boys and girls with a "Middle Eastern appearance," who chanted anti-Semitic slurs. Local police said that no one was physically hurt in the incident.
In an op-ed published in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Knobloch claimed that the situation facing Jews in Germany is as severe as it has been since 1945.
Knobloch, a Munich-born Holocaust survivor, served for years as the President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Currently, she is president of a Munich-based Jewish community. In her op-ed, she discussed the recent anti-Semitic attacks that have taken place in Germany, as well as recent controversy surrounding circumcision.
"In my nightmares I never thought that a short time before my eightieth birthday I would ask myself if I'd survived the murder of the Jews, to experience this.
"For six decades I've had to explain why I stayed in Germany – like a sheep amongst wolves. I always carried this burden because I was convinced that this country and its people were worthy," the prominent Jewish leader wrote, adding: " For the first time, my faith is starting wane…. I ask myself seriously, if this country still wants us."
Later in her article, Knobloch wrote that for "sixty years, I've defended Germany, as a Holocaust survivor. Now I'm asking myself if that was justified"
"I am no longer willing to take part in this fraudulent discourse, in which portrays a new, rejuvenated, and blossoming Judaism in Germany, which gives the Germany people that feeling that time heals even the greatest wounds. The fact is, German Jewry never overcame the Holocaust," she added.
Following the attack on Rabbi Alter in Berlin, the city's residents decided to show their solidarity with the city's Jewish community, with Reinhard Naumann, head of the Charlottenburg– Wilmersdorf Berlin district, calling for an immediate response to the incident.
Naumann called on the Berlin newspaper to take action: "Berliners can show solidarity with Daniel Alter and the Jewish community by wearing skullcaps," Naumann told BZ on Friday.
The newspaper decided to accept the challenge, and turned to politicians, celebrities and citizens, who all agreed to pose wearing skullcaps. Sven Schulz, a parliament member from the Spandau neighborhood, explained: "'Berlin wears a yarmulke' is an excellent idea, and is a powerful symbol of solidarity."
Mayor Wowereit published a notice of support for the rally, calling the attack on Alter "violence directed against peace and communality in a multi-religious city… Berlin is proud of its liberal and tolerant heritage. Our multi-national city includes numerous religious communities. Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are all communal centers and carry an important social role."
A Facebook initiative also led to a demonstration which saw 150 people, most of them wearing skullcaps, marching through the streets. "We cannot accept the fact that people can be attacked in our streets only because they [are] identified as Jews," the organizers explained.
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