German Jewish group launches ‘Meet a Jew’ program to combat the rise in violent antisemitism


According to the German newspaper Tagesspiegelauthorities have reported at least 2,275 antisemitic crimes in 2021—many of which were violent crimes—and the number has been steadily going up since 2018. 

President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster tells that much of the anti-Jewish sentiment is based on conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19. 

“In view of the numerous anti-Semitic incidents at the coronavirus-denier protests last year and the conspiracy myths online, it was, unfortunately, to be expected that the number of anti-Semitic crimes would rise again,” he told the Tagesspiegel. He adds that the spike in crime reveals “the radicalization of society is progressing and respect for minorities is declining.”

Meet a Jew introduces Germans to Jews in cities throughout the country. The program has about 350 volunteers, some secular and some devout, who visit schools, universities, sports clubs, churches, and mosques, offering an open forum for Germans to ask volunteers questions about Judaism.   

According to a recent study from the World Jewish Congress (WJC), out of 1,300 Germans, 27% agreed with a range of antisemitic statements and stereotypes about Jews. About 41% agreed with the statement “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to Germany,” 20% of respondents said they believed Jewish people “had too much power” over the economy, and another 22% said “people hate Jews due to the way they behave.” 

The survey was taken prior to the antisemitic attack targeting a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle.

After failing to break into a synagogue on Oct. 9, 2019, far-right extremist gunman Stephan Balliet, 28, shot and killed a female passerby and a man at a nearby kebab shop. 

It was only thanks to a heavy, bolted door that Balliet was kept from firing at the 52 Jewish worshippers marking the Yom Kippur holiday inside. 

The attack was Germany’s worst antisemitic atrocity since the Nazi era, BBC reported

“The worrisome thing is that the cultural and political forces pushing antisemitism could become stronger,” Alex Sagan, a professor at Harvard specializing in the experience of Jews in modern Europe, told Slate. 

Although Germans are required to learn about the Holocaust, Sagan tells Slate, that doesn’t mean Germans have actually met any Jewish people. Only learning about Jews as the victims can paint a sort of inhuman picture. He says Meet a Jew is “important” for that reason.

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