Protestant, Catholic churches in Germany launch campaign against antisemitism

(Photo: REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch)German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of the Roman Catholic Church, Nikolaus Schneider, President of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder , German President Joachim Gauck, Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Daniela Schadt partner of President Gauck and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit (L-2nd R) pose on stage after an anti-Semitism demo at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate September 14, 2014. At right is TV presenter Cherno Jobatey.

Germany's main Protestant and Catholic churches have announced plans for a campaign to be launched to encourage Christians to take a clear stand against increasing antisemitism, recognizing it also has Christian roots.

The motto of the campaign is "Jewish and Christian – closer than you think" and it will launch in January and it comes at a time of rising anti-semitism in Germany and other European nations.

"It must be made clear that antisemitism is a sin and contradicts everything Christianity stands for," said Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, the chair of the council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), according to the World Council of Churches.

He spoke in a video message at a press conference in Berlin on Nov. 11 November presenting the campaign.

"It is so important, especially now, for us to take a stand against antisemitism which is on the rise again," said Bedford-Strohm

One year after an attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle, the head of Germany's domestic security service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Hd warned that Germany is experiencing a "steep rise" in anti-Semitism, DW reported.

"In the past two years, criminal offenses, including acts of violence, against Jews and Jewish institutions in Germany have increased significantly," BfV chief Thomas Haldenwang said in an interview Friday with the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

On October 9, 2019, an armed 27-year-old man attempted to shoot his way into a packed synagogue on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism. A well-secured door prevented him from carrying out an attack inside. The man then killed two bystanders before fleeing and later being taken into custody.

Last week, a man dressed in military fatigues attacked a Jewish man outside a synagogue in the coastal city of Hamburg.

Haldenwang said that attacks at synagogues were especially disturbing because of Germany's dark past with National Socialism or Nazism.

"Germany has a special responsibility for Jewish life," he said, adding that Jews in Germany have reason to be worried about facing violence and hostility while in public.


While the Jewish population in nearly all countries of the Diaspora declines, the Jewish population in Germany boasts an unprecedented boom, the site My Jewish Learning says.

In the past 15 years [since about 1988], the number of Jews in Germany roughly tripled, to reach an estimated 150,000. This would make Germany the home of the fourth-largest Jewish community in Europe.

"It is so important, especially now, for us to take a stand against antisemitism which is on the rise again," said Bishop Bedford-Strohm.

The motto of the Protestant Catholic campaign is "Jewish and Christian – closer than you think."

The central element of the campaign will be posters for each month, based on festivals and traditions, that will point to similarities and differences between the two religions, and which can be displayed in churches and church institutions, the EKD stated in a press release about the initiative.

"I think it's a good idea for such a poster series that presents what's Christian and what's Jewish alongside each other," said Rabbi Andreas Nachama, chair of the General Rabbinical Conference of Germany, who has been involved in developing the campaign.

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