Against hate and exclusionFor a new co-existence
A couple of weeks ago I, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, and my child were spat at in the street and abused in Arabic because we are Jews. Precisely a year ago, a neo-Nazi mob raged outside the "Schalom" restaurant in Chemnitz, throwing stones and shouting hate-filled slogans.
Shortly before Christmas 2017, a well-dressed elderly man harassed a Jewish restaurateur in Berlin-Schoneberg with the words: "What is there for you here after 1945?" Followed by the intolerable sentence: "You should all get back to your damned gas chambers." Not long ago in the Berlin district of Prenzlauerberg, a Syrian refugee used a belt to whip a Jewish man because he was wearing a kippa.
All these incidents were horrendous and elicited a public outcry. There was thorough reporting, candlelit vigils, minutes of silence, declarations of solidarity. Then nothing until the next incident occurred. We need to be wary of not falling into a predictable cycle.
In a democracy, it is of course important and absolutely essential that society takes a stand and shows its disapproval. It did a lot of good that the German President had a clear message in response to the terrible occurrence of last week. He is right when he says that any form of extremism is toxic for our open and libertarian society. But words alone are simply not enough.
In Germany at the present time, attacks are taking place daily on people because they are perceived to be different. By anti-Semites, racists, xenophobes, homo- and Islamophobes. Just like the Jews, Muslims are also being continually harassed, marginalised and abused everywhere. Kippas and headscarves are being torn from heads. Because of deep-seated prejudices. Enough is enough. We need more than declarations of solidarity reeled off regularly and left without consequence.
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We need an uprising of the upstanding
We need a strategy on how we want to deal with increasing levels of rejection of those perceived to be different and unfamiliar. We need a daily uprising of the upstanding. In workplace canteens, in soccer clubs, in conversations after church services, on the tram, in the beer garden. Whenever someone tells a crass joke about Jews, Muslims or refugees, tipping out his offensive prejudices like a bucket of manure, when the Roma boy begging on the street is threatened, or the woman sitting next to us on the bus is abused because she's wearing a headscarf, when Jewish boys are mobbed for wearing a kippa, then the only response can be to stand up and contradict such actions.
The agitators will only feel bolstered if they believe someone is following them. Should they encounter a headwind, they quickly fall silent. It is always easy to single out individuals from a group for abuse. But if an entire train carriage stands up and shows that the hatred and the attacks will not be tolerated, then this will have an effect. Yes, such actions require courage. But we must finally summon up that courage.
The spitting and the insults just a few days ago in Berlin was not an attack on the Jewish father with his child – it was an attack on our open society. It was an attack on the gay couple, on the Muslim imam, the paraplegic in a wheelchair, on the vibrantly-coloured punk, the black female soccer player, the homeless Roma family, the little refugee boy without parents living with a foster family.