German Jewish leader calls on Muslims to tackle issue after assault on Berlin rabbi and his young daughter.
By BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
BERLIN – After a Berlin rabbi and his young daughter were assaulted, the president of Germany’s Jewish community on Friday called on the country’s Muslim associations to tackle anti-Semitism within their communities and urged Jews to continue wearing kippot in public.According to the Berlin police, four young Arabs punched Rabbi Daniel Alter several times in the face on Tuesday because he was Jewish and wearing a yarmulka, and threatened to kill his six-year-old daughter. Doctors performed surgery on Alter’s fractured cheekbone.Dr. Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews, told the Berliner Zeitung on Friday, “I would be pleased if the [Muslim] associations would finally deal decisively with anti-Semitism in their own ranks.”Observers of Germany’s response to Islamism have long argued that the media and the political class often display a blind spot toward Islamic-animated anti-Semitism among segments of the country’s more than four million Muslims.The Frankfurter Rundschau daily wrote regarding the attack on Alter that rightwing extremists were mainly responsible for anti-Semitism in the country. In response, US writer Sam Schulman wrote on his Twitter microblog that “Germany lies to itself.”Schulman tweeted that his concerns were with authorities and media that deny the threats stemming from Muslim communities in Germany.A telling example, according to columns in the B.Z. and Haaretz newspapers, that reinforces Schulman’s criticism was the lack of politicians at a pro-Israel event held to criticize the calls for the destruction of the State of Israel issued at a pro-Iranian regime rally in Berlin last month. The pro- Iran rally attracted a mix of more than 1,000 German Turks, Arabs and Iranians.AdvertisementB.Z. and the Berliner Zeitung are different newspapers.According to the Berliner Zeitung, Aiman Mazyek, head of the Central Council of Muslims, said in connection with the attack on Alter that “such acts cause deep disgust.”Responding to Mazyek, Graumann said, “Words and sympathy are nice and meant to be honest, but deeds would also count.”In an interview with Alter, the B.Z. daily quoted him saying “I do not know whether we can continue to walk on the streets of Berlin without fear.”The 53-year-old rabbi said one of the four Arab-looking youths who attacked him first asked him, “Hey, are you a Jew?” Alter said the youths threatened him and his daughter with such statements as, “I’ll f*** your daughter... your wife and I’ll f***... your God.”Alter said preachers of hate were responsible for inciting the youths.B.Z. wrote that Alter’s wife, Hannah, and his two daughters were being treated by a child psychologist in connection with the trauma of Tuesday’s attack.Paul Hirschon, a spokesman at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, called the attack a “brutal act of racism,” adding that “we hope and believe that Germany will bring those responsible to justice.”He noted that Israel assumes that the German state will implement the necessary measures to prevent “such an act of violence from repeating itself.” An estimated 150,000 Jews live in Germany.Graumann and a prominent Berlin Orthodox rabbi, Yitzhak Ehrenberg, rejected the call of a reform rabbi to not wear kippot in public and for religious Jews to shield their identities. According to a Die Welt article on Saturday, the Israeli-born Ehrenberg dismissed the statements of the Potsdam-based rabbi, Walter Homolka, as “not good advice.” Ehrenberg explained the importance of wearing a kippa and urged Jews not to make themselves invisible in public.The Central Council of Jews has had extremely tense relations with Homolka – who converted to Judaism – over the years because of his views on modern Jewry.The assault on Alter has filled Berlin’s local papers with coverage on anti-Semitism, and prompted a flash mob kippa march on Saturday in the main shopping district. B.Z. titled its front page “Berlin wears a kippa,” and 150 demonstrators appeared at the rally to protest the outbreak of anti- Jewish violence. A mix of Jews and non-Jews sported kippot to express their solidarity with the victims of Tuesday’s attack and make a statement against anti-Semitism.
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