German Jews are subject to an increasingly hostile environment and I believe the Catholic Church in Germany could play a much more prominent role in protecting their Jewish countrymen (as many Catholic clerics did in World War Two). Hence, I contacted His Excellency Bishop Ulric Neymeyr of Erfurt, the German cleric responsible for Jewish-Catholic affairs, to ask him if the Church was prepared to become more proactive in addressing the difficulties and discomfort affecting Germany’s Jewish residents. The Bishop was kind enough to reply to my inquiries by providing links to a number of articles in the German press detailing how the Church was reaching out to the Jewish community. Unfortunately, virtually all of the Church’s initiatives were low-key, uncontroversial acts such as donating a Torah or facilitating dialogue between the two groups. Bishop Neymeyr also stated that the Church would not involve itself in any issue with a political dimension. This left me wondering whether the Catholic Church in Germany is truly committed to playing a meaningful role in stemming the tide of anti-Semitism that is washing over Germany’s Jewish community. Hence, this open letter to the Bishop.
An Open Letter to His Excellency Bishop Ulric Neymeyr
Bishop Neymeyr, I am very grateful for your responses to my numerous messages and I know that you are a man of good faith as evidenced by your outreach to the Jewish Community in Germany. My concern is that the actions of the Catholic Church with respect to your relationship with your Jewish neighbors consist mostly of symbolic gestures and passive dialogue at a time when German Jews face a number of near-existential threats. I appreciate that some of the especially troubling issues affecting the Jewish community have political connotations and the Church is loath to publicly assert political positions. However, just as so many Catholic clerics in World War Two were prepared to defy the political leadership of the era, risking death by protecting their Jewish neighbors, I am pleading with you to set aside your concerns about the Church’s normal political neutrality and allow moral imperatives to guide your decision-making.
Let me begin with the problem of guarding Jewish institutions against possible attacks from far-right neo-Nazis and Islamists. I believe the Church could easily muster the manpower to help guard Jewish schools, synagogues, clinics and any other venues that have a prominent Jewish profile. Surely, there is no political faction that could be offended by people of faith protecting other people of faith.
Then there is the matter of Holocaust education. According to recent surveys, 4 out of 10 German youths claim to have no knowledge of the Holocaust, a very poor reflection on Germany’s public education system to be sure. Could the Church not fulfill an important role by ensuring that the subject is exhaustively covered in your own educational activities? Additionally, and this is one of those cases where some political involvement may be required, can you not utilize the Church’s considerable resources and influence to lobby the government to address this shortcoming? A population that truly understands the scope of the Nazi-era atrocities and inhumanity is a population far less likely to repeat them.
Next, it is necessary to put aside political correctness for the moment and address how Jews have been negatively affected by Germany’s quickly growing, poorly-integrated Muslim population. There are entire areas of your country where Jews cannot walk down the street wearing any identifying clothing and assaults on Jews are not even newsworthy anymore. I believe the Church could play a helpful role by liaising with Muslim leadership to address the issue and hopefully formulate some concrete action to alleviate the situation. Politics intrude here as well because the laudable goal of rescuing these refugees from Middle Eastern conflicts should not have blinded the government to the very real downside of welcoming millions of people who’ve been taught since birth to hate Jews. It seems that your government gave no consideration to this reality and it is Jews who are paying the price for their willful ignorance. I can only beseech you to use your formidable influence to encourage your government to devote much more attention and resources to the assimilation of Muslim refugees and ensuring they subscribe to the values of their adopted homeland.
Next, and this is a political issue that has enormous repercussions for your Jewish community. That is the German government’s attitude towards Israel. Despite its vocal declarations of support for the Jewish state, your government has not acted as a friend of Israel, and it should not surprise anyone that this anti-Israel bias seeps into the general population (or more ominously, is the converse true, i.e., is the government simply reflecting the sentiments of the majority of voters?).
Germany continues to vote consistently against Israel at the United Nations. Germany only recently declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, years after virtually every other western nation recognized that reality. Germany sends hundreds of millions of dollars to Palestinian authorities, knowing full well that much of that money will go to rewarding terrorists. Germany continues to fund anti-Israel NGOs. Germany is home to hundreds (maybe thousands) of Islamists who seem to operate unhindered by any serious constraints or surveillance.
Finally, and most concerning of all, Germany continues to be a shameless ally of Iran, a state that has made no secret of wishing to complete Hitler’s plan to liquidate the Jewish people. Germany has provided Iran with much of the materiel and technical expertise required for Iran’s nuclear program, Germany created the “Special Purpose Vehicle” to circumvent the Americans’ economic sanctions against Iran, Germany was silent when Iran seized ships in international waters and Germany has refused to participate in meetings of western nations to formulate plans to thwart Iran’s terrorist sponsorship.
Germany’s inexplicable and immoral support of Iran is not a political issue. It is a basic question of right and wrong, and I call on Germany’s Catholic Church to hold accountable the politicians and opinion-influencers in Germany who are apparently untroubled by Iran’s genocidal ambitions.
Your excellency, the Jewish community in Germany is besieged and tormented unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 75 years. I have faith that you will do everything in your power to show your Jewish countrymen that they are not alone.