Letter from Berlin
The recent International conference on anti- Semitism, held here in Berlin, my current home city, knocked me off balance. What was I to make of Jews from around the world convening In the German capital—the very city where the Nazis mapped out their planned genocide of European Jewry—to ask for help In combatting the menace of “new anti-Semitism”?
Clearly, anti-Semitism brings Jews together. But the reasons to come here are far more profound. Germany opened Its doors to Jewish Immigrants after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then Its Jewish population has more than tripled, now numbering about 105,000. Even If right-wing extremism remains a problem in Europe, anti-Semitism Is such a taboo In Germany that politicians risk losing their careers over it. No one believes this scourge can ever be fully removed, but Germany’s determination to remember the Holocaust and protect Its strong democracy are exemplary, and American Jewish leaders know it.
That is why It was most appropriate that German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer offered Berlin as the venue for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) second conference on anti-Semitism in less than a year. But the “Berlin Declaration” that emerged from the conference—calling for better monitoring of anti- Semitism and condemning the abuse of Mideast politics for anti-Semitic purposes—needs to have teeth. For example, how does one confront the problem of anti-Semitism among young Muslims, a group that is subject to discrimination across Europe themselves?
Still, I feel optimistic. I see a growing Jewish community In Germany gaining selfconfidence and unpacking their suitcases at last, feeling safe despite ever-present threats. Sadly, I too have become accustomed to high metal fences and armed police outside Jewish venues, to going through a metal detector before Sabbath services. But, Ironically, and not only because of these protections, Germany may today be one of the safest havens for Jews.