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German Jews to Merkel: Concerned over anti-Semitism among refugees

Refugees crowd at the Hungarian-Austrian border in Szentgotthard, Hungary, as thousands of migrants wait for their departure to Germany on September 19, 2015
Attila Kisbenedek (AFP)
Head of Jewish community stresses importance of quick integration, reiterates support for open-door policy

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, fears an influx of Muslim refugees with anti-Semitic attitudes.

In his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, he voiced his concern over the fact that many of those seeking asylum in Germany come from countries hostile to Israel, and might strengthen anti-Semitic views among the Arab community.

Schuster told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag that his words, directed at Merkel and her staff, created an awkward silence in the room, after which the Chancellor took notes and promised: “We must address that.”

He noted that this concern is common among German Jews, “and I share this feeling and therefore see a need to integrate the refugees in our community of values as soon as possible.”

Daniel Roland (AFP)Schuster, who supported Germany's open-door policy since the start of the immigration wave, reiterated his concerns in a series of interviews since his meeting with Merkel.

“Many Syrians and immigrants of Arab descent have grown up in an environment in which hostility towards Israel and anti-Semitism are a common practice,” he explained last week in a radio interview with Hessischer Rundfunk.

Talking to the Juedische Allgemeine, he also stated that those brought up in such an environment tend to “transfer their resentment to Jews in general,” as was seen in the demonstrations which broke out in Germany during Israel's 2014 Gaza offensive "Protective Edge." In many of these demonstrations, protesters chanted “Hamas, Hamas, Juden in's gas!” (“Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!”).

“Our communities are concerned that we might see such anti-Semitic riots more often,” he added, and reiterated the importance of a swift integration of the refugees.

“I see the rejection of all forms of anti-Semitism and the solidarity with Israel as the basic consensus of the Federal Republic.”

So far, Schuster stressed that the Jewish community in Germany stands behind Germany's decision to open its doors to those in need, and also condemned the xenophobia reflected in the repeated attacks against refugee shelters.

He also criticized Horst Seehofer, Bavarian Prime Minister and head of Merkel's sister party CSU, for suggesting Germany's asylum law is abused, particularly by refugees from the Balkans.

“These comments risk promoting a mood which can provoke attacks,“ Schuster warned in an interview with Sueddeutsche Zeitung in July.

“Germany should apply a deep understanding of refugees due to its history and its experience with flight and expulsion,” he noted.

“We also continue to be a prosperous country. Therefore, we should welcome people who are fleeing civil war in their country, as now do the Syrians.”

The Central Council of Jews also announced last week that Germany's Mitzvah Day, an annual day of faith-based social action, will be dedicated to aiding the thousands of refugees, whose arrival “has increased significantly the number of those in need in our country.”

Schuster declared that thousands of volunteers are expected to take part in the activities on November 15th.

“We will specifically assist refugees on Mitzvah Day and thus strengthen the new culture of welcome in Germany.”

Polina Garaev is the i24news correspondent in Germany.


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