Rabbi Subjected to Antisemitic Abuse in German City of Offenbach Praises Witnesses for Intervening
A German rabbi warmly praised his fellow citizens in the city of Offenbach for rushing to his aid when he and his family were subjected to antisemitic abuse on New Year’s Day.
Rabbi Mendel Gurewitz was walking home from synagogue with his children last Friday when they were confronted by a man screaming antisemitic invective. Several witnesses to the assault immediately called the police, while others followed the assailant as he left the scene. Police officers later arrested a 46-year-old man for sedition, hate speech and displaying symbols of far-right organizations banned under the German constitution.
Rabbi Gurewitz, who has faced antisemitic abuse on previous occasions, wrote in a post on Facebook that the experience on Friday had been “traumatic,” but that the response of witnesses to the attack had been exemplary.
“People intervened from every window, shouted at the aggressor, defended us, and notified the police,” he wrote. “Some left their homes and followed him on foot or by car. It was a sudden explosion of love and support.”
Gurewitz’s sentiments were echoed in a separate statement from the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference in Germany.
“Every attack on Jewish life, whether verbal, physical or fatal, is always a shock for the Jews living here in Germany,” Rabbi Avichai Apel, a board member of the Conference, told the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung website. “What makes us happy despite this sad occasion: the citizens of Offenbach have shown moral courage and loudly put the attacker in his place.”
Uwe Becker — the antisemitism commissioner for the Hessian region — condemned the attack on Rabbi Gurewitz and his children, saying it was a worrying indication “that Jews cannot openly display their faith in public.”
Becker added that the witnesses who came to the rabbi’s assistance showed a determination “to protect their Jewish neighbors and not just allow hatred of Jews to manifest.”
“This is an important sign that everyone can do something against antisemitism,” Becker said.
Antisemitic attacks in Germany in 2019 increased by 13 percent on the previous year, with more than 2,000 incidents reported. Antisemitic conspiracy theories relating to the coronavirus pandemic mushroomed during 2020, leaving the Jewish community vulnerable to abuse and violence in both online environments and in the physical world.