Leading German Catholic Bishop Warns Against Antisemitism in Rosh Hashanah Message
The head of the Catholic Church in Germany has urged renewed efforts to combat “everyday antisemitism” in greetings to the Jewish community ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, which begins on Sunday night.
In a letter on Friday to Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of German Jews, Dr. Georg Bätzing — president of the German Bishops’ Conference — highlighted his concern at growing levels of antisemitism in Germany.
Bätzing said the presence of antisemitic and viscerally anti-Zionist works of art at the Documenta festival of contemporary art in the city of Kassel had “rightly given rise to a broad public debate.”
Both the Indonesian curators and the management team of the festival — one of the most art world’s most anticipated events — have been severely criticized for allowing the display of images that invoked crude antisemitic stereotypes, as well as several pieces that glorified terrorism against Israel.
However, Bätzing emphasized, it was important “not to lose sight of everyday antisemitism, for example in schools.” He praised the educational project “Together Against Antisemitism,” which will launch in Catholic and Protestant schools in the state of Lower Saxony later this year.
According to data released by the German interior ministry in February, there was a 30 percent increase in antisemitic crime in 2021, with more than 3,000 incidents reported. The police registered 63 violent assaults in 2021 — six more than in 2020. Nearly half of the incidents (1,306) occurred in the second quarter of last year, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip that witnessed antisemitic violence accompanying “Free Palestine” demonstrations around the world.
Bätzing also took the opportunity to praise the Jewish community’s humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine. Nearly one million refugees from the Russian invasion have arrived in Germany over the course of this year.
“I am impressed by the wave of willingness to help that passed through the Jewish communities just a few days after the war began, and I am pleased that in several places Jews and Christians are organizing this help together,” he wrote.
Bätzing ended his letter expressing the hope that “the coming holidays will give you courage and hope for the new year, and that you will continue to trust in God’s faithfulness and justice, even in these difficult times.”