What slogan would you have chosen for a massive rally against anti-Semitism? Does the phrase “Nie wieder Judenhass” (Never again hatred of Jews) effectively guide us toward a stronger German society that celebrates and protects Jews and other minority groups? I would have preferred a more positive slogan, but I was still moved, along with thousands of others, to “steh auf” (stand up) for yesterday’s rally at the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin. I stood with the crowd to protest anti-Semitism and to affirm that Jews belong here.
The rain held off, the mood was calm and peaceful, and the minor disturbances at the fringes were easily halted by the police. It was my first chance to hear Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit and Chancellor Angela Merkel speak in person. Their words were firm and came across as sincere as they spoke of the shame that anti-Semitic acts have brought upon Germany and the injury that such hatred causes to all Germans. It was Merkel who said that Jewish life belongs here and is a part of German identity. Most of the speakers also affirmed that not just anti-Semitism, but other forms of prejudice such as racism and homophobia have no place in Germany. In just a little over an hour, Germany’s top political and religious leaders said what the people came to hear.
But the perennial question after such unifying moments is “Where do we go from here?” If it is true that “around 20 percent of people in Germany have anti-Semitic views,” what is being done and what further things must be done to change attitudes and behavior? I’ve been looking for the best way to make my own contribution to this cause, hoping my background as an educator and a repatriated German citizen can be of value. Stay tuned for future updates.