VIENNA – With Oskar Deutsch slated to be elected president of Austria’s Jewish
community on Tuesday evening, a new generation will take over the
Deutsch will become the first president born in the country after
World War II of the roughly 8,000-member community. The departure of his
predecessor, Dr. Ariel Muzicant, who was born in Haifa in 1952 and served as
president for 14 years, has brought a mix of transition and
Seated in a Vienna restaurant, Deutsch told The Jerusalem
ahead of the election that he “it is very important for me to maintain the
unified Jewish community.” Austrian Jewry encompasses members from Central Asia,
Georgia, Russia, Israel, Hungary and Western Europe.
Deutsch has served
the community for the past 14 years as vice president, and has been active in it
for 20. He played a key role in organizing the 2011 European Maccabiah Games in
Vienna. “There were 2,000 athletes and 3,000 attendees” at the event, he said.
“We sang ‘Hatikva
.’ An Israeli flag hung over city hall.”
sports event was the first to take place in a German-speaking country since the
destruction of European Jewry. Spectator turnout culminated in the largest
Jewish presence in Vienna since the end of Nazi era.
“We are here. Hitler
lost. I can feel Jewish religious life in Austria,” Deutsch said in reference to
the success of the Maccabiah games. The Austrian and German Nazis eliminated a
flourishing Jewish community of 200,000.
Asked about the platform of his
party, Atid, for the Jewish community, Deutsch said he “want[s] to engage the
membership and make folks more active in the Austrian Jewish
community. We aim to organize a targeted immigration program. We want to
bring people to Vienna who have a chance to work. For example, as nurses or in a
kindergarten. We do not want new immigrants to depend on the Jewish community or
social welfare for support.”
Deutsch said that “recently, Dr. Muzicant
was in Hungary. The situation is bad in Hungary because of the policies of
Jobbik [the far-right party]. Some Jewish families have immigrated to
The 48-year-old Deutsch was born in Vienna. His father was born
in Romania and his mother is from Galicia, in present-day Ukraine. Deutsch
operates a successful coffee company in the Austrian capital.
discussing the community’s infrastructure, he rattles off that “70 percent of
all community children are in a Jewish school.” The community has 1,500 youngsters.
“There are 14 synagogues in Vienna” and an array of kosher
supermarkets, he adds. Deutsch continued that “the Jew who looks like a
Jew is not attacked. That is not the norm.
“We used to receive
anonymous threat letters, but today we receive threatening letters with names...
that we should leave Austria and comments about a Jewish conspiracy. This type
of thinking is spread from the FPÖ [the Freedom Party of Austria].” FPÖ head
Heinz-Christian Strache recently said protests against his party meant “We are
the new Jews.”
Deutsch said that “a large part of FPÖ voters are from
right-wing extremist fraternities and they are xenophobic and
He criticized Strache’s visit to Israel last year. “He
wore his Burschenschaft [fraternity] cap in Yad Vashem. That is a way to
ridicule Jews. FPÖ is a protest party. A large part of the party’s electorate is
not Nazi or anti-Semitic,” Deutsch said.
Austrian and German fraternities
are associated with extremist thinking and have a long history of
Deutsch also slammed the FPÖ for its use of what he called a
,” or court Jew; David Lasar, a FPÖ politician, has a seat in the
Vienna City Council.
“I hope the FPÖ will not be part of a new
government. If they are part of a new government, we will not deal with the
ministers, rather only at the civil servant level, as we did” when the party,
then under Jörg Haider, was part of the government.
The governing Social
Democratic Party has said there will be no coalition with the FPÖ.
anti-Semitism is not different from today’s anti-Zionism. Anti-Zionism comes
from anti-Semitism,” Deutsch said. “In terms of Israel there is no other country
that is so frequently mentioned in the press. There are many other problems in
the world but Israel is always mentioned, and very often in a negative
“The head of the Jewish community is not only involved in protecting
and defending Jews but also Muslims and foreigners against this type of hate.
The Jewish community cannot be the spearhead but should voice its opinion,” he
Deutsch said that to stop the Iranian bomb Austria has to work with
a united EU front to pressure Tehran with economic sanctions. In short, a
collective approach is necessary to penalize Iran.
Deutsch ends the
interview by saying about Jewish life in Austria, “We have a good future.”
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