German rabbi: it's unsafe to look Jewish here

By Jennifer Lipman, January 6, 2011

A German rabbi has cautioned Jewish residents not to wear kippot or other overt Jewish symbols in public out of concerns for their safety.

Rabbi Shaul Nekrich, who was born in the Soviet Unionis the chief rabbi of the east German state, which is home to around 1,300 Jews.

In an interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper he said he felt it was dangerous to display himself as Jewish in Brandenburg and the surrounding area. He also said there was a problem with antisemitism in the state.

He said: “I hear the stories from the communities.“

Pointing out that the synagogue in the town of Bernau has been attacked and defaced with swatikas several times, he said: “They are wary of being recognised as Jews on the streets. The only way we announce events now is by e-mail.

Rabbi Nekrich, 31, said the situation in Berlin was better but that in Brandenburg it was unsafe to be obviously marked as Jewish unless you were “versed in martial arts”.

He also told the newspaper Märkische Allgemeine that there was insufficient police protection for communal events in the state. But he also said: "Today, you can live very well as an Orthodox Jew in Germany. We have the possibility and the freedom to practice our faith.

“The question is how the people of Brandenburg will deal with a growing Jewish community and a growing presence of Jews on the streets.

“That will show whether or not Jews are welcome here."

Rabbi Nekrich’s comments follow a call by the newly elected head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann , for German Jews to focus more on the future than the past.

Last updated: 5:35pm, January 6 2011