German Jews fear rising antisemitism during Mideast refugee influx

BERLIN (Reuters) – When Judith G. helped out at a refugee center near Frankfurt last October and identified herself as Jewish, she was spat on and insulted.

German Jews say the case of Judith G., a 33-year-old optician who asked not to be fully named, isn’t isolated and underlines concerns many have about the record arrivals of asylum seekers, largely from Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Official figures show German-born far-right supporters commit the vast majority of antisemitic crimes in the country, and Muslim leaders say nearly all asylum seekers – who can be targets of hate crime themselves – are trying to escape conflict, not stir it up.

Nevertheless, Jews across Germany are hiding their identity when volunteering at refugee shelters for fear of reprisals, adding another layer of complexity to a social, economic and logistical challenge that is stretching the fabric of German society.

“Among the refugees, there are a great many people who grew up with hostility toward Israel and conflate these prejudices with hatred toward Jews in general,” Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews, told Reuters in an interview conducted in October.

Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed last week that antisemitic attitudes among some young people arriving from countries where “hatred toward Israel and Jews is commonplace” needed to be dealt with.

The safety of Jewish communities is particularly sensitive in Germany due to the murder of over 6 million Jews by Hitler’s Third Reich, which is marked on Wednesday by the international Holocaust Memorial Day. Today, the German Jewish community numbers around 100,500.

According to a 2013 study by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 64 percent of German Jews avoid the public display of symbols that would identify them as Jewish. It also found that only 28 percent of them report antisemitic incidents.

Such incidents, as recorded by the Interior Ministry, dropped in 2015 but Jews still remember chants by young Muslims proclaiming “Jews to the gas” on German streets in protests against the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian Gaza War.

Concerns rose earlier this year when two suspected asylum seekers from Syria and Afghanistan attacked and robbed a man wearing a skullcap on the northern island of Fehmarn, a crime the local prosecutor treats as antisemitic.

“We don’t approach the issue of refugees with negative expectations in general,” said Walter Blender, head of the Jewish community in Bad Segeberg, a town on the mainland about 60 miles from Fehmarn. “But we are very worried and skeptical, and anecdotal evidence so far showed that we have reason to be scared.”

Preliminary Interior Ministry figures show that far-right supporters were responsible for well over 90 percent of the antisemitic crimes recorded last year up to the end of November. People with a foreign background were blamed for little more than four percent, although this category does not reveal their country of origin or immigration status.

Starting from this month, however, the ministry will produce a breakdown that includes a refugee category.


Germany, which took in 1.1 million asylum seekers from mainly Middle Eastern countries last year, saw crimes against refugee shelters quadruple to 924 incidents in 2015 and Muslim advocacy groups warn against finger-pointing.

“The vast majority of people coming here are fleeing war and terror themselves,” said Aiman Mazyek, president of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims. “All they want is peace and quiet.”

There is little research on the scale of antisemitism in Arab countries, but a Pew poll from 2011 shows a large majority of people there hold unfavorable opinions of Jews.

Researchers say too little effort is put into teaching Western and German values to asylum seekers, including the country’s relationship with Jewish communities.

“There is a lack of a deeper understanding of the culture in many Middle Eastern countries and this results in Western stakeholders being taken by surprise over the fervent antisemitism there,” said Wolfgang Bock, an expert in Islamism and Middle Eastern politics.

In Germany, refugees with recognized asylum claims learn about the country’s history and values alongside language tuition. But some experts say there is nothing about contemporary political issues, such as relations with Israel.

“Education can’t just be about the Holocaust and the Third Reich. Schools also need to talk about the Middle East conflict, antisemitism based on religious argumentation and conspiracy theories,” said Ahmad Mansour, an Arab-Israeli researcher with the European Foundation of Democracy.

But communities across Germany are overwhelmed with processing the hundreds of thousands of asylum applications and are struggling to provide shelter and food to the arrivals.

Some Jewish groups, such as the Berlin-based “Friends of the Fraenkleufer Synagogue”, have taken the cultural exchange issue into their own hands with around 40 volunteers helping out at a local refugee center.

“We want to send a message to all the Jews who sit at home and build big fences around their synagogues that it’s possible and necessary to approach one another, because if we don’t try, things can only turn for the worse,” said Nina Peretz, head of the initiative.

(Editing by David Stamp)

Man Shouts Death Threats At Miami Beach Jews

A man has been arrested on charges of assault and stalking after yelling death threats to members of a Miami Beach synagogue.

Diego Chaar accosted two members of the Ohev Shalom Congregation shouting “Allahu Akbar” and then threatened to cut off the heads of the synagogue’s members.

“That’s called assault. Threatening to kill,” said Rabbi Phineas Webberman. “His attitude was that this is his religious responsibility of carrying out killing infidels.”

The synagogue’s members rushed inside and called 911.

Charr denied saying anything and has been released on bond.

“It’s terrible,” Joe McCormack, a retired officer and longtime friend of Rabbi Webberman, told CBS Miami.  “How would you feel if I said ‘I’ll cut your head off you Jew.’ It shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be allowed.”

The synagogue has hired extra security in the wake of the incident.

“How to Kill a Jew” Video Goes Viral

If you were to check the top video on social media networks in Palestine, you would find the top video is step by step instructions to kill a Jew.

A group that calls themselves resisters of occupation in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem produced the video called “How To Stab A Jew”.  The report in the Jewish Press says that video shows two men in attire that was made popular by the late Yasser Arafat.

The “teacher” in the video then instructs the viewer on how to walk up to a Jew and stab them in the most efficient manner to kill them.

The video’s discovery comes after a wave of stabbing attacks against Jews in Israel by Palestinians.

This is not the first production by Palestinians aimed at encouraging or teaching Arabs how to murder Jews.  A video game was released in October called “The Liberation of Palestine” that encourages users to “liberate Palestine” through violence rather than diplomacy.

“The language of weapons is the most effective with the Israelis,” the game’s creator said.

Anti-Semitism Rising In France

Jewish leaders across France say that a “new anti-Semitism” is growing within the country.

The group cites four main factors in what they call an enhanced atmosphere of fear for French Jews.  The rise of far-right nationalist groups with Nazi sympathies, a deteriorating relationship between black Europeans and Jews, hard economic times and the soaring population of Muslims in France who carry traditional anti-Jew beliefs.

France, the home to the largest Jewish community in Europe, has seen an increase in violence against Jews.  Earlier this month, two Jewish youths were jumped and severely beaten as they were heading to synagogue in an eastern Paris suburb.  The man who launched a deadly attack on a Jewish museum in Brussels was French and had recently been in Syria with Islamic extremists.

Jewish citizens have been subjected in recent weeks to intimidation from residents who told “dirty Jewesses” that they have too many children and the homes of Jewish residents have had Stars of David spray-painted on the sides of their homes.

A 13-year-old girl told the Washington Post the atmosphere is enough to scare her from being alone with friends.

“I’m afraid that what happened in Toulouse will happen at my school too,” Michele said.  (The girl’s last name was withheld for security reasons.)  “I hear what people say about Jews. And I am scared.”

Jewish Students Targeted At DaPaul University

Jewish students at Chicago’s DePaul University say the campus is no longer a safe place for them because of a group that is demanding the University withdraw from any companies that work with Israel.

The anti-Semitic group, Students for Justice in Palestine, has been running a campaign called “DePaul Divest” and is trying to get students to vote for a non-binding resolution calling for the University to disconnect with anyone connected to Israel.

“This entire campaign and entire sit-in going on in the SAC (Schmitt Academic Center) is totally unsafe for Jewish students and I have had a lot of Jewish students text me and call me today and tell me they are not comfortable walking through that part of our campus, which is really disheartening,” a student called Rachel told reporters.  (Her name has been withheld because of threats.) “About two months ago when SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) started the ‘DePaul Divest’ campaign, I no longer felt safe on this campus and I no longer felt I could be a proud Jewish student.”

Another student said that she feels targeted and is always having to defend her Jewish faith.

“I do kind of feel as a Jewish student that I am being targeted on campus. I feel that a lot of questions are being directed to me and I am constantly on the defensive on campus,” she explained. “I have to defend myself, my Judaism, my pride in Israel every day and it’s getting a little bit exhausting.”

“I’d like to live and go to a university where everybody can have their own opinions and have a diverse community and feel safe.”

The Students for Justice in Palestine has been found to have conducted anti-Semitic actions on campuses across the U.S.  At New York University, they slid “Eviction Notices” under the doors of Jewish students and a similar incident at Northeastern University led to SJP being suspended from campus.

SJP would not respond to reporter questions about harassment of Jewish students.

School Textbook In Tennessee Called “Anti-Semitic”

The Jewish Federation of Nashville has joined with a group of parents to protest a textbook that compares a suicide terrorist bombing to the land disputes between Israel and Palestine.

The offensive question reads: “If a Palestinian suicide bomber kills several dozen Israeli teenagers in a Jerusalem restaurant, is that an act of terrorism or wartime retaliation against Israeli government policies and army actions?” Continue reading

2012 Shows Surge In Anti-Semitism

Israeli researchers have released a report showing a significant increase in anti-Semitic attacks in 2012. The report was released on the eve of Israel’s memorial day for the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis.

The report from Tel Aviv University says that anti-Semitic violence increase 30 percent in 2012. The report showed 686 attacks in 34 countries. 273 of the attacks, 40 percent, involved violence against people. Continue reading