Wednesday, April 05, 2017

The Renewed Normalcy of Being a Jew in Germany

"They [school authorities] told us this is normal for adolescents from this background, that they're just trying to find their identity."
"But it shouldn't be normal. I've never experienced such direct anti-Semitism before in all the years I've lived in Germany."
"The next day [after informing fellow students he was Jewish] was his birthday. He was looking forward to going to school -- he had this friend and they were planning to rap together."
"It was natural for him to tell them. It wouldn’t occur to him to hide it."
"He [son's school friend] said, 'Listen, you're a cool guy, but I can't be friends with you. Muslims aren't friends with Jews."
Mother of unnamed 14-year-old Jewish student

"In some German mosques, anti-Semitism is being actively encouraged."
"The question is whether, in areas with a large proportion of Muslims, it is sensible to be recognized as a Jew by wearing a skullcap or if it isn¹t better to wear some other form of head covering."
"It is a development that I did not expect five years ago and that's a bit shocking."
"[A new anti-Semitism is concerning] combining views from the political far right with anti-Israeli sentiment and hostility from young Muslims."
Josef Schuster, head, Central Council of Jews in Germany

"Teenagers from Arab countries who have been raised to believe that Israel should be destroyed need to learn that we don’t tolerate anti-Semitism in Germany."
Kerstin Griese, federal commissioner for religious communities
Outrage as Muslim students 'bully Jewish classmate out of Berlin school'
A lesson in the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule. Photo: DPA
 
The Jewish boy, born in London, with a German father and a British mother, lived in Berlin since he was a baby, and has continued to, ever since. His family enrolled the boy in the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule school, impressed that the school had an emphatic ethnic mix of students. That kind of cosmopolitanism, they reasoned, would influence their son positively, meeting other young people from diverse backgrounds.

At the school, the majority student population happens to be Muslim.

There was a class on religion one day, and during the discussion the boy revealed to his fellow students that he was Jewish. Up to that point the Jewish boy had been treated no differently than any other student at the school. Once that revelation had been made, the student with whom the Jewish boy had forged the closest personal relationship as a friend with common interests, was incredulous that his friend was a Jew, and informed him they could no longer be friends.

A campaign of intimidation and belligerent hostility ensued with Muslim pupils informing the Jewish boy that "Muslims hate Jews. All Jews are murderers." The boy found himself an outcast. He was bullied and he was exposed to taunts, threats and low-grade violence. His mother brought her son's situation of incessant bullying to the attention of the school's administration, but the school appeared disinterested and did nothing to put a halt to the situation.

This was all occurring in a general atmosphere of growing hostility facing Jews living in Germany where on the streets of Berlin Jews identified through their wearing of skullcaps or other ethnic/religious identifiers have been beaten. Leading to a growing awareness among the general population of the anti-Semitism nestled deep within the growing German Muslim population. And the admission within the Jewish community that they are under siege and would be best advised to no longer wear clothing or accessories identifying their Jewish identity.

When an older pupil at the school confronted their son with a replica gun, it led the Jewish boy's parents to finally resolve to remove him from the school and enrol him for attendance to another school. For its part, the Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule issued a statement to assure anyone interested that it is genuinely invested in "regret and horror" at the unfortunate episode in oppositional relations in a supposedly forgiving pluralistic society.

Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule school in Berlin, where the incident took place.
Friedenauer Gemeinschaftsschule school in Berlin, where the incident took place. Google Street View

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