September 4, 2012
Berlin police probing second anti-Semitic incident in a week
A second anti-Semitic attack in Berlin within a week has prompted the launch of a state police investigation.
Berlin police said Monday that 13 girls from the Chabad Or Avner primary school were verbally abused with anti-Semitic slogans by four teenage girls fom the neighboring public school before their physical education class was to begin, according to the German news agency dpa. The Jewish school shares the gym with the secular school.
The four alleged attackers, aged 15 and 16, also reportedly photographed the Jewish pupils with their cell phones. Two young men accompanied the attackers.
A teacher tried unsuccessfully to intervene and speak with the teens, but they fled. At least one was wearing a Muslim headscarf, dpa reported.
The incident follows a brutal attack on Berlin Rabbi Daniel Alter, who was beaten by several men after they asked him if he was Jewish. Alter required emergency medical treatment. The attackers also reportedly threatened Alter's 6-year-old daughter.
Reaction was swift from political leaders and the head of the Jewish community in both cases. Following the latest incident Gideon Joffe, the head of the Berlin Jewish community, said that Muslims must confront anti-Semitism within their community.
Some 11,000 Jews officially belong to the Berlin Jewish community, and it is estimated that another 10,000 to 20,000 live in the German capital.
For some Berlin Jews, the incidents are a disturbing reminder of underlying tensions with Arab neighbors.
Ayala Goldmann, who lives in the same neighborhood where Alter was attacked, told JTA that her first reaction was to consider "wearing a silver star of David pendant out of solidarity because I don't agree that Jews should have to hide their identity in public."
"But then I thought about my 3-year-old son, and the fact that I don't want any trouble with the Arab youth who live in the social housing near the commuter train station. I decided not to follow through on this idea because of [my son]. I just don't want to take any risks."
Rabbi Josh Spinner of Berlin told JTA that "Taunts and comments from young people of Arab background are regular in the neighborhoods where they live in considerable numbers." Spinner said he advises his yeshiva students to "exercise caution" in what they wear in certain neighborhoods.
Violent attacks such as on Spinner's friend Alter are "thank God exceedingly rare," added Spinner, who is executive vice president and CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.
The real problem is not "German-ant-Semitism but ... Germany's ability to integrate immigrants from Arab countries. In this respect, Germany is in a better situation than much of the rest of Western Europe," he said. "The problem is the same, but the will to find a response, prompted by the special moral responsibility of Germans to ensure that Jews are treated decently, is far greater than in France or Sweden, for example."