“I would be pleased if (Muslim) associations would finally deal decisively with anti-Semitism in their own ranks,” President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dieter Graumann told the Berliner Zeitung daily, after police said Arab youths were suspected of the crime.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims, Aiman Mazyek, expressed his “deep disgust” on behalf of the community after the 53-year-old rabbi was punched repeatedly in the face in front of his six-year-old daughter.
“Words and sympathy are nice and meant honestly, but deeds would also count,” said Graumann.
Jews in Germany have been up in arms since Tuesday’s attack when a rabbi wearing a traditional Jewish head covering was stopped in the Schöneberg area of Berlin and attacked by four youths who first asked him if he was a Jew.
One youth punched the rabbi in the face several times after asking him if he was Jewish, apparently because he was wearing a traditional head covering, police said. The assailants fled, but not before aiming death threats at the young girl, according to authorities, who have launched an investigation into the Tuesday attack.
The victim, named in the media as Rabbi Daniel Alter, told the BZ local daily: “I am not sure whether we will be able to walk the streets of Berlin without fear again.”
Another Berlin-based rabbi, Walter Rothschild, told German radio: “I have been spat on in broad daylight in (the central Berlin square of) Wittenbergplatz and had slogans linked to the Middle East shouted at me.”
The attack came amid a fierce row over a ruling by a court in the city of Cologne, that circumcision of young boys for religious reasons was tantamount to grievous bodily harm and therefore illegal.
The ruling has prompted fears that religious freedom is being restricted in Germany and has brought Jews and Muslims together in condemning the judgement.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said the ruling risks making Germany a “laughing stock” and diplomats admit privately it is “disastrous” for the country’s image abroad, given its Nazi past.
Other religious leaders also condemned the attack on the rabbi, with Catholic group Pax Christi saying it was an “attack on Jewish life in Germany.”
However, the spokesman for the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism, Levi Salomon, sought to downplay the problem, saying: “We are shocked (by the attack), but we do not feel unsafe” in Germany.
The Jewish community in Germany has undergone a renaissance since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 with a flood of immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, who were often victims of anti-Semitism in their home countries. They were automatically awarded German citizenship.