Berlin Rabbi Seminary Instructs Students to Remove Skullcaps in Public

German Jewish community fears further attacks after youths attacked a Berlin rabbi in front of his young daughter.

Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was attacked in Berlin this week, said he was “shocked at the shameless way” his attackers had assaulted him in front of his six-year-old daughter. Alter, 53, was attacked on Tuesday in Berlin’s Schoeneberg neighborhood by a group of youths, who are believed to be of Arab origin.

He was rushed to the hospital with a fractured cheekbone and underwent surgery on his face.

Alter told the German daily Bild that the attackers approached him and asked, “Are you a Jew?” Then they blocked his way and began hitting him in the face, while hurling anti-Semitic curses. They also threatened his daughter’s life.

Alter was ordained as a rabbi in Dresden in 2006, along with two others – the three were the first rabbis to be ordained in Germany since 1942, when the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin was destroyed by the Nazi Gestapo secret police. His father was a Holocaust survivor.

In an interview with Reuters in 2007, Alter said he was worried about anti-Semitism and wore a baseball hat over his skullcap because he was worried about being identified as a Jew.

Alter’s wife Hana told Bild that she was concerned that the attackers might know where they lived. “I found myself looking right and left as I left the house this morning,” she said.

The Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, currently training 28 rabbis, said it had boosted security around the building as a result of the attack and was checking mail.

“We have also given guidelines to our students on how to behave so that they do not become victims of such attacks,” the college’s rector Walter Homolka told the Berliner Morgenpost.

“We have advised them not to wear their skullcaps on the street, but to choose something inconspicuous to cover their head with,” he said.

He urged the police and intelligence services to deal with violent Muslims. “It would be fatal if we were to see a proxy Middle East war on German streets,” he said.

The Central Council of Muslims said Muslims were shocked by such incidents.

“At this time, Jews and Muslims must stand together and make clear: violence of any color has no place with us,” said the council’s chairman Aiman Mazyek in a statement.

The American Jewish Committee called on Germany’s parliament to act on a report on anti-Semitism which included recommendations on ways to combat anti-Semitism. The report also said that anti-Semitism was entrenched in German society, manifesting itself in hate crimes as well as in abusive language used by ordinary people.

“German lawmakers should not delay any longer adopting a comprehensive plan to combat anti-Semitism,” said Deidre Berger, the AJC’s Berlin director.