The German foreign minister and the rabbi of the Jewish community of Berlin discussed ways to tackle radicalization among Syrian refugees last week.
This conversation took place as Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel took Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal on a tour of his birthplace, Goslar. They visited several Jewish sites, including the ancient Jewish cemetery, where they recited a chapter of Psalms in Hebrew and German.
Gabriel had invited Teichtal on the tour after the two met several weeks ago at the government- sponsored International Conference for Religious Leaders, which dealt with the subject of “Responsibility of Religions for Peace.”
The pair discussed the issues pertaining to the country’s Jewish community and Teichtal told the minister about plans for the first Jewish campus in the city since the Holocaust.
Gabriel’s father, Walter, was an active member of the Nazi Party and remained faithful to its ideology until his death some five years ago. The foreign minister has spoken publicly about his family history, relating that he only learned the truth about his father’s past at the age of 18, which opened a deep, irreparable chasm between them that was never resolved.
The rabbi conveyed to the minister some concerns among German Jewry about radicalism in the Syrian refugee community in the country.
German officials have said that more than a million asylum seekers arrived in the country since the beginning of the refugee crisis in 2015, with the highest number coming from Syria.
Teichtal emphasized that the Jewish community sees great importance in governmental cultural integration initiatives for the immigrants, as well as in Holocaust education.
Gabriel and the rabbi discussed several potential policies that would facilitate such programs and enable Jewish communities to continue to flourish and expand.
The German government runs obligatory integration courses for immigrants to educate them about German culture and values.
A recent poll of nearly 800 refugees conducted by the Hanns Seidel Foundation found that more than half the asylum seekers in Bavaria subscribe to classic antisemitic views about Jewish power.
Their countries of origin of those polled were Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Interior Ministry officials told The Jerusalem Post last week that politicians would closely examine the study.
But according to government statistics, these views have not necessarily expressed themselves, as there has been no rise in antisemitic crimes since the large wave of refugees came to the country in 2015.
Following his discussion with Rabbi Teichtal, Gabriel posted on Facebook: “It’s clear to all that faith is a powerful motivating factor in all realms of life. It’s not uncommon for people to blame fanaticism and aggression, and even terror, on faith. Yet those who profess this fail to understand the true power of religion or its aspirations for peace. I believe in the great potential for peace among all nations.”
Teichtal added: “I was glad to escort the Foreign Minister on a tour of his birthplace and discuss with him not only the past, but also a shared future together. Hard times have come upon Jewish communities in Europe due to the perilous security situation.
Specifically now, there is significance in the fact that government officials are in frequent contact with the communities and have established an open, practical dialogue with them. We are all hopeful that, together, we shall grow past this crisis to rebuild a safe future for Jews throughout Europe.
“This hope is likewise expressed in the chapter of Psalms that I read together with the Minister, in which King David expresses, ‘Even if I walk in the shadow of the death, I shall not fear evil for You are with me. Your staff and your stick give me comfort.’”