Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Judaism"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

A mutilated rendering of the Star of David (Credit: Flickr)

When one thinks of Antisemitism in Europe and particularly in Germany, the first images that are likely to come to mind are those of skinheads or Nazis, or even individuals who regard themselves as bio-Deutsch (ethnically German – whatever that means). These people represent a valid threat to those of Jewish background. What many neglect to realise is that they are not the only ones who hold Antisemitic views: Antisemitism among people with an Arabic or Muslim background is generally overlooked. It may be difficult to grasp the notion of a minority oppressing another minority as it contradicts many popular historical narratives, but this does not mean that the critique of such intolerance and hatred should be silenced. It is becoming increasingly important to voice these concerns today as Europe sees the rise of populist right-wing parties that target Jewish, Arab, and Muslim minorities.

The fear of being seen as ‘Islamophobic’ by the liberal left or having one’s stance instrumentalized by the far-right to promote an anti-migrant rhetoric is preventing a discourse on Antisemitism among Arab and Muslim communities, further marginalizing those with a Jewish background. In order to address this, one needs to understand the difference between European Antisemitism and that enacted by Arab and Muslim people. While both have brutal histories of victimizing, persecuting and marginalizing Jewish groups, the atrocities committed during WWII against the Jews in Europe generated historical guilt and shame that lead to hyperawareness, a nation-wide condemnation of Antisemitism, and Germany’s culture of remembrance. This culture of remembrance is  criticized by AfD’s senior member Björn Höcke when he references the Memorial of the Murdered Jews in Berlin, stating that “Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital”[*1].  The implication of such a statement is that no remembrance or shame is necessary. This opinion, shared among party members and right-wing Germans demonstrates that, sadly, Antisemitic sentiments are still held by the supposed bio-Deutsche.

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Symbols of Faith (Credit: Sara D. via Flickr)

My grandfather was not a Jew by choice. In 1930s Europe, being a Jew was a curse, and one that promised death. Born in the Jewish ghetto of Vienna, he was given the name of Erich Christian Schwarz, a triumphant effort at masking the family’s heritage through words. My grandfather escaped Europe by hope, beautiful coincidence, and profound vivacity, so that I could be born an American shiksa: a gentile girl devoid of the Jewish burden. Now, 18 years later, I choose to spite him. I proudly call myself a Jew, and it has allowed me a greater understanding of my family and our people than I ever had before.

I will not be the first to say that discovering religion has done me a service. Even now, years after beginning my new immersion into Jewish culture, the words sound saccharine and cliched. I want my experience to be an original one, but I know it has never been. The faith has a power that, regardless of our willingness to admit it, has ensnared and enraptured countless people since the dawn of time. This may be for good reason, as I have learned.

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