«You have to find solutions»

Young man with kippa © Paul Zinken

It is considered the largest German forum for young Jewish adults: the Youth Congress of the Central Welfare Office of Jews in Germany. This time, 400 participants discussed terror and interreligious dialogue.

At first, the mood was exuberant: 400 young people celebrated the Purim festival together, a kind of Jewish carnival. But the topic of the get-together, which ended on Monday, was serious: The youth congress of the Central Welfare Office of Jews in Germany was titled "Terror Danger — Islamic Fundamentalism."The conclusion of the participants: exchange instead of fear.

Congress topic chosen carefully

One participant from the Rhineland said he knew some people who were considering emigration. But: "It makes no sense to emigrate from here to Israel for fear reasons." A young woman from Bavaria added: "I see Germany as my country. When the country is in a bad way, I don't want to just leave. One must find solutions."

The theme of the congress was carefully chosen. It is not a matter of making young people insecure, explained the president of the Central Welfare Office, Abraham Lehrer. But one should not close one's eyes to the growing problems: "I don't know if they have to deal with it more than non-Jews. But I think Jews have a better sensitivity, a greater sensitivity to these things, because Jews have been persecuted and attacked throughout their history."

Terror experts gave a lecture

Many high-ranking terror experts spoke about the burning ie. The president of the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), Holger Munch, spoke about the current danger of attacks in Germany. The aim of the terrorists is above all to spread uncertainty, he emphasized: The militia "Islamic State" (IS) also uses the refugee ie specifically for this purpose.

According to its president, the BKA currently knows 471 dangerous persons who pose an immediate threat; there are about 320 individual indications of a concrete terrorist threat. The problem, however, is that targeted disinformation is often disseminated, Munch said, because terror also takes place in the social media.

Salafist groups also tried to recruit sympathizers among refugees. However, their vulnerability is "not very great so far". Rather, there are "many people who have experienced disruptions in their lives, who are looking for a connection, a foothold," Munch explained. "All of this is also a breeding ground for radicalization.".

Reminder to integrate refugees

Peter Neumann, terrorism expert at King's College London, nevertheless urged the integration of refugees. Typically, it is not the first generation of immigrants who are susceptible to radical ideas, but their children. "If things don't work out with integration in the next five to 10 years, there will be a frustration that can be steered toward Salafism or jihadist Salafism," Neumann warned.

Among young Jews, too, there is a great willingness to stand up for refugees, stressed Benjamin Fischer, president of the European Union of Jewish Students. They often have good access to Arab and Muslim refugees — and they know a lot about flight, displacement and integration.

Volunteering in Germany

Last year, the Central Welfare Office launched a pilot project in which Israeli young people do voluntary service in Germany. Syrian refugees in particular had grown up in their homeland with anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish schooling and propaganda, it was said. Now they want to help break down these stereotypes, explained Laura Ester Cazes, who coordinates the volunteer service.

For example, "Arab Israelis could do volunteer service in Germany and help refugees integrate. At the same time, they could provide a diverse picture of German-Israeli relations," Cazes explained. She pointed to commonalities: "There are also Muslims in Israel who live a life in a democracy."


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