Open letter

Open letter to my fellow Jews in Germany

 

Shalom mispacha!

There‘s been a lot of heated – and in my opinion – hysteric – talk about a rising wave of anti-Semitism in Germany. So I think it‘s time that we all take a cool-headed look at the facts:

2000+

The number of days that I have been wearing a kippa everywhere I go in Germany – and in Europe as a whole – since December 1, 2012.

0

The number of bad experiences that I have had.

Quite a few

The number of amusing, even heartwarming comments that I have received while running around Germany – even such supposedly no-go areas as parts of Berlin – with a kippa on my bald head.

Absolute disinterest

The way nearly all people respond to me and my kippa. Germans obviously don‘t think there is anything unusual about seeing a Jew with a kippa on his head.

I think that‘s great. I think it shows that Judaism is a normal and accepted part of daily life in Germany.

500 meters.

How far away I was from the non-Jew who recently put on a kippa to see if Jews are safe in Berlin.

Within a few minutes, he was attacked by a belt-wielding anti-Semite. As a person who grew up in an anti-Semitic country – the USA of the 1950s – I know how painful – both physically and mentally – anti-Semitism feels.

This man has my complete sympathy and support.

32.

The number of Jews who suffered any form of physical harassment – including slaps and shoves – in Germany in 2017. None of them was seriously injured, thankfully enough.

Somewhere around 300,000.

The number of Jews in Germany.

99.9%

The percentage of the German Jews who will never personally experience anti-Semitism in their lives.

Zero.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents that we will accept. None. Nada. No Jew will ever again live in fear in Germany. Not if I have anything to say about it.

16%

The percentage of Germans who are anti-Semitic. This is a horrible figure. It means that one sixth of the people passing me on the street hate me. Equally horrible: this figure is the lowest of any country in the world.

163

The number of Jewish congregations founded and refounded in Germany since the Holocaust. These congregations are joined by a profusion of Jewish cultural, athletic, theological and social groups in the country – and by Jewish youth groups, summer camps, hikers and bikers associations and many more. The list is long, growing and overwhelming.

Every day

The frequency of events featuring Jewish culture in Germany, which has become this culture’s prime source of support in the world. Jewish artists from Israel and the rest of the world live from performing at the festivals of Jewish literature, music, dance, film, humor, cuisine (whatever that may be) held regularly in Germany. This frequency is due to the Germans’ being passionately in love with Judaism in all its manifestations.

This holds especially true of our religion. Tours of our synagogues are often booked up months in advance. Non-Jews (often with an amazing command of Hebrew!) beat down the doors to attend services at “my” congregation of Beth Shalom Munich.

Every week

The frequency of the ecumenical services, Holocaust commemorative events and inter-confessional dialogues staged by the many, many societies for understanding between Christians and Jews and by similar organizations in Germany. Nowhere else in the world do leading figures in the religious communities work so hard and well to build bridges among the faiths.

70,000

The number of Stolpersteine in Europe. Each of these “Stumbling Stones” commemorates a victim of the Holocaust: Jew, gay and others. Each is found in front of the buildings in which the victims of the Nazis lived before being dragged off to their deaths.

These 70,000 Stolpersteine are found in 1,600 cities in 21 countries. The Stolpersteine are thus the largest project of commemoration that the world has ever seen.

Of these 70,000, more than 60,000 Stolpersteine are found in Germany, where the project was launched two decades ago by Gunter Demnig, the German artist who has devoted his life to the commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust.

Thanks to the Stolpersteine, Germany’s cities now “map Jewish life and suffering,” states Dr. Galit Noga-Banai of Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Stolpersteine, in turn, are one component of Germany’s exemplary culture of commemoration, one that has become a widely-emulated role model for the entire world.

12%

That’s the percentage of votes received by Germany’s recently-founded, ultra-right AfD at the country’s last election. The AfD is a haven of Stolpersteine-haters and Jew-baiters. The party thus represents the first real threat to Germany’s 70+ years-old tradition of working to commemorate the Holocaust and to make Jews and other minorities safe and appreciated in the country.

0

The number of laudable motives possessed by the politicians rushing to stoke the hype about anti-Semitism in Germany. Their actual reasons for expressing their concern: they want to win elections. And the way to do this is by proclaiming the need “to protect our Jews against the (Muslim) anti-Semites”.

In view of these facts, dear mispacha, my pleas:

Please don’t let yourself by used by these unscrupulous politicians.

Please don’t let yourselves be intimidated by their self-serving, panic-inciting pronouncements.

Please don’t be scared into hiding your Jewish identities when in public.

Here’s the truth.

If we Jews are in fact threatened by a rising tide of anti-Semitism – as claimed by these politicians – then it is really high time to show the anti-Semites that we are determined to fight them tooth and nail, that we are not – and never ever ever will be – cast again in the role of being victims.

Here’s the truth.

The only way to defend what we have built up in Germany over the past 73 years is by putting on our kippot, our stars of David and other signs of Judaism, and by going out on to the streets of this country.

Let’s show Germany and our many many friends and supporters in this country how many of us there are, how strong we are, how determined we are!

I am ready to do my part.

I am a Jew who refuses to be a victim.

I am a Jew who is not afraid.

I am a Jew who lives unafraid – with a kippa on his head – in Germany.

The times have changed.

The times in which Jews were victims.

Long gone.

So join me on the streets of Germany.

Don’t worry. I have plenty of kippot for you – more than 80 in my collection.

Kadima! Kadima!

With all my love

Terry

Terry Swartzberg

P.S. We will never forget. Never. Ever.