Germany’s Jewish community fears anti-Semitic bullying in schools

After reports of abusive behavior toward young Jewish girl in Berlin, group urges keeping track of religious bullying on the playground

Illustrative: A classroom in a primary school in Germany. (Wikipedia/Martin Kraft/CC BY)
Illustrative: A classroom in a primary school in Germany. (Wikipedia/Martin Kraft/CC BY)

BERLIN, Germany — Germany’s Jewish community on Tuesday urged schools to keep track of religious bullying among pupils amid concern about a possible spike in anti-Semitic abuse on the playground.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, told German broadcaster ZDF he backed a proposal by a police union for nationwide statistics to be kept on religious bullying.

He said he wanted teachers and students to have a way to report “anti-Semitic or other acts of violence without bureaucratic hurdles, in order to get a clearer picture of what is going on.”

The plea comes after Germany was shocked by reports that a young Jewish girl was bullied by Muslim fellow pupils at a Berlin primary school and even allegedly received death threats after she said she didn’t believe in Allah.

The incident, recounted by the girl’s father in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper this week, revived fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany, more than seven decades after the Holocaust.

“This is not an isolated case,” Marina Chernivsky, the head of an anti-Semitic watchdog in Berlin, told the DPA news agency.

Teachers in Berlin have long complained that the word “Jew” has become a common playground insult, with some critics saying anti-Jewish sentiment has been exacerbated by the migrant influx of 2015 — which saw more than a million mainly Muslim asylum seekers flood into Germany.

Chernivsky said the problem could not just be blamed on Muslim newcomers.

But at the same time, she told DPA, “we have to acknowledge that a lot of these people experience a religious and political socialization in their home countries in which anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes are influential.”

“If Jewish students can no longer go to school without fear of anti-Semitic abuse, there’s something wrong in this country,” Schuster told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

But the head of Berlin’s association of school administrators, Astrid-Sabine Busse, said she doubted that religious bullying was prevalent among pupils.

“We don’t often hear about these types of anti-Semitic incidents,” she told Tagesspiegel.

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