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Anti-Semitic Incidents Rise in Germany, Most from Far Right

By Israel Hayom

Anti-Semitic crimes in Germany last year reached their highest level since the country started keeping statistics, amid an overall strong increase in right-extremist criminality that is a cause for "great concern," Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday. Overall, politically-motivated crimes were up 14.2% in 2019 over the previous year, which is the second-highest level since authorities began tracking such crimes in 2001, Seehofer told reporters in Berlin. Crimes by the extreme left rose the most, increasing 23.7% to 9,849, but the majority of politically motivated crimes were from the extreme Right, with 22,342 cases and an increase of 9.4%. At the same time, crimes linked to a foreign ideology dropped 23.7% to 1,897 and those motivated by a religious ideology fell 27.5% to 425. "The largest threat, as in the past, is the threat from the Right," Seehofer said. "Extreme-right politically motivated cases make up more than half of all of such recorded crimes – it is an order of magnitude that causes us concern, great concern." Nearly 40% of all political crimes were classified as "propaganda crimes" – such as displaying banned symbols like the swastika. Violent crime dropped 15.9% to 2,832 cases. Of particular note was a 13% increase in anti-Semitic crimes to 2,032, more than 93% of which were attributed to the far Right. Similarly, anti-Muslim crimes rose 4.4% to 950, more than 90% at the hands of a far-right perpetrator. Seehofer said right-wing extremists had left a "trail of blood" across Germany in recent years, noting the attack on a synagogue in Halle last year in which the gunman was prevented from entering the building but killed two people on the street, a February attack in Hanau in which a gunman killed nine people of foreign background, and the murder last June of a regional politician who supported Merkel's welcoming policy toward migrants. "We have every reason to continue with the greatest vigilance here," he said. Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and German Jewish leader, said the increase in anti-Semitic crimes was "no longer surprising" and that she was particularly worried about how visible it had become in recent years. She suggested it was being fanned by the success of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, which is the largest opposition party nationally with seats in every state parliament – although it has seen support slip below 10% in recent polls. "Various extremist groups have played their part in making this anti-Semitism socially acceptable," Knobloch said in a statement. "Above all, the so-called Alternative for Germany." She said the coronavirus pandemic has created a new platform for anti-Semitism, and called on authorities to crack down on conspiracy theories being spread over the internet. Seehofer said authorities, accused in the past of downplaying right-wing activity, are not "blind in the right eye" and have taken action to combat the trend. He noted that the country's domestic intelligence last year increased surveillance of the Alternative for Germany, particularly focusing on its youth arm and a faction known as "The Wing," which has downplayed the country's Nazi past and suggested it might pursue "revolutionary" means to achieve its political aims. He said the decision has been "highly effective" but has not "wiped the ideas off the table."

Security services have also turned more attention to followers of the so-called Reich Citizens movement, whose philosophy rejects the current German state order and overlaps with far-right extremist groups. On Wednesday, police raided more than two dozen homes tied to 31 suspected members of the movement, believed to have been involved with forged passports, driving licenses and citizenship certificates, prosecutors in Stuttgart and Karlsruhe said. Seehofer said officials were also systematically checking out movement members who have permits for weapons – revoking 790 since 2016, including 380 last year — and would continue to do so. "According to our information there are still some 500 Reich Citizens permitted to hold weapons," he said. "I'm saying here that every weapon allowed is one too many."

Anti-Semitism Examined as a Social Virus in New PBS Documentary

By The Jewish News of California

Any person who follows the news knows that anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world. As it has spread, so has our insight that this is a hatred with many faces, a many-headed monster fed by myths about Jews that will not die. Its more violent manifestations — defacements of Jewish cemeteries, street attacks, armed assaults on Jewish institutions — are often referred to as "outbreaks," as if anti-Semitism were a disease. Indeed, the phrase "virulent anti-Semitism" is often used to describe the manifold expressions of that ideology. And as with a contagious disease, humanity must marshal all its informational resources to have any hope of defeating it. That is the concept of "Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations," a probing new PBS documentary. "Our thought was that much of anti-Semitism spreads on the internet — it goes viral, in that sense," director-producer Andrew Goldberg said recently. "But illness as a metaphor for anti-Semitism has been used for a long time." The film opens with a black-and-white animation of what looks to be virus cell activity under a microscope. "It started long ago … with a lie about the Jew," the voiceover by actress Julianna Margulies explains. "The lie said the Jew was evil … conspiring … the enemy of God. The lie evolved and spread like a virus … and still does. Many don't know they're infected. Others don't care. Some define themselves by it. The virus has endured for so long and spread so far because of its power to adapt and deceive. Of its thousands of mutations, this is the story of four." The film then launches into the first of four segments, looking at the American strain. In Pittsburgh, Goldberg examines the significance of the assault on the Tree of Life synagogue, then heads to North Carolina, where he engages with Russell Walker, an open racist and anti-Semite who got 37% of his district's vote when he ran for the state House of Representatives in 2018.

Other segments examine state-sponsored anti-Semitism in Hungary under the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban; the rise of anti-Semitism in England within the leftist Labour Party under past leader Jeremy Corbyn; and beliefs about Jews among some North African immigrants in France. In the latter case, those beliefs have conjoined with growing disaffection with global capitalism among the French Left, resulting in an atmosphere harshly inhospitable to French Jews. Goldberg travels to each of these locales to interview victims, witnesses, anti-Semites and experts — with his low-key, seemingly neutral style eliciting inside knowledge, alarm and, sometimes, acute pain. A number of commentators are called upon to add information and perspective. This list includes former President Bill Clinton, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, and journalists Fareed Zakaria, George Will and Yair Rosenberg of Tablet. "Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory," Lipstadt says of the penchant for anti-Semites to blame Jews for just about everything based on "the notion that there are forces more powerful than you." Based on his own experiences as a former white supremacist, Arno Michael agrees. "If I'm looking to recruit, I'm going to look for white kids who have something going wrong in their life … and find a way to blame that on the Jews," he says in the documentary. But after 90 minutes of examination, one is left with the sense that the film has but skimmed the surface of a bottomless black hole. In "Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations," Rabbi Elisar Admon shows the hole where a bullet pierced his prayer book during the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. "It went right through the word for God," he said. Goldberg, 52, has pursued the subject of prejudice throughout his career, from his Emmy-winning "A Yiddish World Remembered" in 2002 (a look at the world of Eastern European Jews before the Holocaust) to a well-received documentary about the Armenian genocide. He also wrote, produced and directed "Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence," which covered the history of anti-Semitism in Europe. It aired on PBS in 2017. In the British segment of "Viral," Goldberg visits Paul Marmot, an English cousin whom he had never met. Marnot recounts how, after a lifetime as a leftist British Jew, he tore up his Labour Party membership card when Corbyn was chosen as its leader in 2015. Critiques of Israeli policy are acceptable to most British Jews, he says, but Corbyn enabled criticism that crossed over into anti-Jewish sentiment. Meanwhile, on our shores, Goldberg, who lost extended family members in the Holocaust, takes note of how anti-Semitism in the U.S. has been getting worse over the past dozen years. By the time 11 Jews were gunned down in October 2018 in a synagogue in Pittsburgh — "the most anti-Semitic act I'd seen in this country in my two decades as a journalist," he said — this film project was already underway. In his view, anti-Jewish sentiment in the non-Jewish world is always "only a couple of centimeters below the surface" at any given time, though social forces may push it down. "The biggest mute button on anti-Semitism was the Holocaust itself," he said, adding that it led to "better behavior" toward Jews in most of the Western world for more than 50 years. "And the precursor [to those prejudices surfacing] is societies becoming more polarized." Another factor, he said, is that fewer Holocaust survivors are around to give firsthand testimony about how unchecked anti-Semitism branches off into utter horror. In the France portion of "Viral," Goldberg interviews a brother of the shooter in the 2015 assault on the Hyper Cacher kosher grocery in Paris. Asked to describe the motivations of his jihadist brother, Abdel Ghani Merah describes the North African immigrant milieu of their parents, who brought to France a post-colonial belief that Western nations, Israel and global Jewry were allied against the Arab world. "Hatred of Jews was legitimate in my parents' eyes," he says, while distancing himself from that view (in fact, he has committed his life to countering anti-Semitism). "If they failed at something or were rejected, right away it was somehow a Jew's fault. They owned the world." A final word is given to the widow of Philippe Braham, one of four French Jews killed in the attack on Hyper Cacher, a kosher supermarket in Paris. "We don't walk in the streets easily like we used to," she says. "I won't let my sons wear the kippah. I won't say their names out loud." Valerie Braham then adds: "For me it's just pointless hatred of the Jews. There are no real reasons." For those who see it, will this film provide some kind of vaccine, so to speak, against anti-Semitism? That is the perennial hope — the panacea we are all wait

Matchmaking in a Time of Corona

By Israel Hayom
If there's any good news that the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it for the ultra-Orthodox sector, it's in the world of matchmaking. The virus, and the economic crisis that came with it, has lowered the "prices" of eligible Orthodox bachelors by hundreds of thousands of shekels, and according to experts - that drop in prices is here to stay. "In the Orthodox matchmaking world it is widely accepted to 'pay' well for an eligible groom," says Chaim, 22, a student at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, himself of matchmaking age. "The thing most of the serious prodigies ['iluim'] in the yeshivas want is a 'full deal', an all-encompassing arrangement. Meaning, a new apartment in a good location - Jerusalem or Bnei Brak - furniture and everything, without the groom needing to worry about all the economic stuff, so he can just study Torah quietly. The numbers skyrocketed, and of course only the wealthy could afford such a prodigy at those numbers." Those days ended when the pandemic started. Nowadays even the wealthy Orthodox are finding it difficult to spend more than a million shekels for a prodigy groom. "The grooms' market has witnessed a sharp economic downturn of hundreds of thousands of shekels a groom," says Eli Tsoran, 37, a veteran Orthodox matchmaker. "I believe this downturn won't be reversed any time soon. Once the prices went down, I'm not sure they'll go back to what they were." According to Tsoran, many in the Orthodox community are happy with this apparent trend brought on by the virus. "The demand for huge amounts between the sides has become more balanced. Many families that asked for NIS 800,000 for an eligible groom are now talking about NIS 500,000. People understood that the sector needs to be more logical if they want to marry their kids. "The virus has given hope to many families of lesser means to get a good match. The public understood that the world is fighting a pandemic that is hurting families and taking people to another world, so all the financial management and demands have changed. And once the demands were lowered - they won't go back to what they were before the virus so fast. Many matches that are beginning now have started with more reasonable prices than before." Just like in the secular dating world, the Orthodox matchmaking world has seen many changes during the pandemic. But in the case of this conservative sector, these are extreme changes that no one saw coming. "The matchmaking market has changed in so many ways," says Sarah Pachter, who owns an ad agency in the Orthodox sector and is a mother of 11 children. "I'm not a professional matchmaker, but I meet with people in the sector and occasionally do some matchmaking. I've made 18 matches so far, including my son," she says. Q: So what has changed since the pandemic began? "The Orthodox matchmaking world was very rigid," says Pachter, "there was a certain way how each match advanced, how it progressed, where they met, etc. The virus shook that up, changed things, changes that, I hope, will remain for a long time. For example, the first meeting between young Orthodox people usually took place in the girl's home. During the pandemic no one wanted to enter a stranger's house, so the youngsters went alone to a park for the first date, and only after they were matched - their parents met on Zoom or talked on the phone. "If not at a home, matchmaking meetings occurred before the pandemic in hotel lobbies, in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. Now, without any other option, they meet in nature, open parks. There are many boys and girls who met this way in the past few months, and it only did them good. Even now, as restrictions are eased, this has remained. The market isn't as rigid as before." According to Pachter, the most significant change recently has to do with what happens after the match is sealed, when the couple agree to marry. "Up until the pandemic, usually a race began that would last for three to four months to secure a large hall with at least 400-500 guests, and usually much more, a big band, a camera crew, decorations and everything. "Suddenly now people have learned you can have small modest weddings in the yard of a home, or somewhere green, and it's just as pretty as a huge and crowded wedding - and also saves thousands of shekels if not more. Today I see people getting their children engaged, when there are already fewer restrictions, and they still aren't planning on huge weddings like before the pandemic. I hope it stays that way. It's a significant financial relief for many families with a lot of children." Reuven Paul, 50, a well-known figure in the Orthodox sector and a veteran volunteer in the Hatzalah organization, get his son engaged three weeks ago during the peak of the virus. The whole matchmaking process took place during the pandemic. "The custom is to have the first date in a hotel lobby, but since the hotels are closed, the dates were held in the home of an American family in Jerusalem, with a large garden, and there the couple felt free and relaxed. It was a good solution for all, they felt at ease in the garden," says Paul. Paul says he's been speaking over the past few days with Orthodox friends, who like him are about to marry their children. "I have quite a few friends who got their kids engaged in recent weeks. I see some of them have internalized the virus and some haven't. Some still live in a bubble and think that the bigger the event they have - the more they will be 'worth.' Those kinds of people haven't changed, but I think most of my friends have. They're happy the Orthodox have realized that you can have different weddings, much more modest ones." According to Paul, there's a sharp drop in wedding budgets, a result of the financial crisis the pandemic has caused. "The million-dollar question is will it stay like this next year and beyond. Personally, I think the economic shift in how events are held will remain. Even if the virus will disappear completely, people will continue to look, like me, for smaller and more familial places, to hold beautiful events in. "Usually, when you have a huge wedding and forget to invite someone - he's insulted. You're always under pressure, who did I forget to invite? But when you have a 'corona wedding', it's not relevant anymore. Everyone knows why you didn't invite them, because you're having a small wedding with less family, and that's it. I think these weddings will catch on. There's something nice about a small wedding in a more relaxed setting. "The virus simply opened up new channels in the brain. Up until the pandemic, even people who didn't have money would say 'I need to have a big wedding.' Today, even wealthy Orthodox say 'What do we need all of this for?'" Tsoran the matchmaker agrees: "The financial crisis, in the current reality, has left many families with no income. Suddenly I'm hearing families tell me 'Let's do modest weddings with 50 people, what's wrong with that?' A wedding with a singer and keyboard instead of a band with seven horns, and in a marque or on a roof instead of a ritzy hall. "What did one mother say to me? The young couple only need themselves at the wedding. The guests and all the hubbub around don't add a thing, it's just so the parents feel good. So it's better to have a small and modest event.'" Dalia Kurtzweil, 43, is a Chabad emissary together with her husband in Dnipro, Ukraine. From there she works in matchmaking, mostly inside the Chabad community, with a resume chock full of matches. Now she believes the changes in the Orthodox matchmaking market during the pandemic will be the new norm. Kurtzweil's job, especially these days, is more difficult than the usual Orthodox matchmaker, since a large part of matchmaking in the Chabad community is between Chabadnik families in various countries, when at times the young couple will be sent as emissaries to a third country. In the past few months, with international flight halted, the mission became even more challenging. "And despite everything, it happens. There are match offers, and there are meetings between young Orthodox people from different countries - by Zoom or WhatsApp videos. True, it's not easy, and many would prefer a real meeting, but that's what we have right now, and many are doing it. Others ask to wait until this period is over. In Israel it's easier, because there were solutions for a real meeting during lockdown, as well. If one of the couple was, for example, an essential worker he could go to another city to meet, in the permitted fashion, of course." Kurtzweil mentions another surprising advantage that appeared during the pandemic: "When everyone was locked up in the house and many didn't work, the young ones had more time to choose and check the match offers they got. It's a change that permeated because of the situation, and I hope it stays." Q: Did families seal matches only through Zoom meetings? "No. I don't know any couple who sealed a match only through Zoom. No one is expected to make a life-changing decision on a computer." Q: Did you manage to "seal a match" during the pandemic? "I got a few couples connected over the past few weeks, also from different countries, and they are in a process. But there are a lot of calls, certainly. People have changed their lives because of the coronavirus, they're less in the rat race, and they're more available to hear about match offers. That was a big problem in the past, that people were so busy with work and career, they couldn't hear. Now, after sitting at home for so long, alone, they understand it might be time to hear some offers, to see what's out there. "These times changed a lot for me. Until today I couldn't really meet the people I try to match, because of my living abroad, and it was all done by phone. Think about it: I barely knew who was on the other end of the line, and I was already offering matches. Since the pandemic, the Zoom calls for matchmaking became something reasonable, and now I meet every evening on video people who talk to me, tell me about themselves, their dreams and wishes of who to marry, and I feel them up close. "I definitely feel the pandemic brought a lot of change to matchmaking: less technical name-sharing between possible candidates, and more emotional bonding between the matchmaker and the candidates, in a way that makes it easier for them to find a match. Even the candidates have more time to think about who they want to meet. They had a lot of time to feel lonely and in need, and I believe this will bring many of them to think differently, to agree to things they probably wouldn't have agreed to compromise on before when it comes to a partner. Now they look at things differently, they understand they're being offered lovely people, and it's a pity to be stubborn." Chaim Scheller, a known matchmaking consultant in the modern Orthodox sector, which includes the national Orthodox and national religious, says the virus actually stopped the matchmaking in the public he works with. "This group is basically more open and relaxed, and the virus blocked them. You tell a yeshiva boy to meet by telephone or on an app, and for him it doesn't really work. "So I waited for things to return to normal, so I could organize face-to-face meetings. I believe in real, in-person courting, and less so in phone calls or Zoom, which I believe lead to nothing. The possibility for a first meeting between humans doesn't happen in Zoom, just like learning through Zoom is nothing like it is in normal life. In matches like that the sides are just 'floating', they don't feel like it's a real meeting. "But I did make a match during the pandemic, it started before, and was on solid footing. There was also another match I offered, who wanted to meet, but couldn't find where. So I organized especially for him a certain ice cream parlor to open up in Tel Aviv, so he could meet." Q: If I understand correctly, there is a huge bottleneck of candidates in the modern Orthodox community that will open immediately when everyone gets on the market after the virus. "That's an issue that bothers me, but don't forget that people are looking for the best, and it's a process that takes time, so there might not be a gridlock of Orthodox people waiting to get married. And I won't start to suddenly organize meetings now, after the virus, 900 couples at once. For me the pandemic was a time that let me get to know my clients better, to try and make matches and organize meetings that will take place now - with the return to normal." Another innovation that came with the pandemic: "balcony matchmaking." During the lockdown when meetings were forbidden, the Orthodox mind came up with creative solutions such as matches between neighbors in the same building. According to the Orthodox matchmakers, it's a trend that might continue after the pandemic. "People understand they don't always have to look far," says Pachter, "sometimes a match is on the other side of the door." Pachter thinks the sector will see many more similar matches, even when things go back to normal. "Matches between neighbors were once less acceptable amongst the Orthodox, but the pandemic made us get used to quite a few new things." Kurtzweil: "I also know a couple who live close by in Kfar Chabad and met in one of the grandparents' homes, in a quiet room. It was lovely. And there was another time two young neighbors, also from Kfar Chabad, that for some reason no one thought to match them, but now, after the pandemic opened people's minds, their acquaintances said: 'Why are we looking far?' - And they offered each other. And they sealed the match. "The pandemic created a situation where people are willing to hear offers they may not have heard before. The young want to marry, and they have learned now to look for the more positive things in each other, and not the drawbacks. The fact that people are there and aren't being told whether they can or can't make aliyah is a disgrace. This insanity has to stop," the activist said. The criteria for aliyah include the applicants being descendants of Jews, confirmation from community elders or religious leaders, membership in a recognized community made up of people who were forced to convert to other religions or who suffer from anti-Semitic persecution, and a desire to return to Judaism and undergo conversion.

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