Class­mates turn from friends to at­tack­ers af­ter boy re­veals he is Jewish

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY TOBY AXELROD

A JEWISH fam­ily in Ber­lin has pulled their teenage son from a state school af­ter nearly four months of an­ti­semitic ha­rass­ment, both ver­bal and phys­i­cal, the boy’s mother has told the JC.

Emma, who is British, said her son, Phillip (not their real names), 14, had been moved to an English lan­guage high school in Ber­lin .

Emma said she and her hus­band had orig­i­nally been at­tracted to the school, Friede­nauer Ge­mein­schaftss­chule, which has a large pro­por­tion of Arab and Turk­ish chil­dren, by the fact it was so mul­ti­cul­tural.

She said it had never oc­curred to Phillip to deny his Jewish­ness, and one day he men­tioned it to his class­mates.

One of them re­sponded: “Lis­ten, you are a cool dude but I can’t be friends with you, Jews are all mur­der­ers.”

The ver­bal abuse es­ca­lated to phys­i­cal vi­o­lence, un­til ear­lier this month, “when he was at­tacked and al­most stran­gled, and the guy pulled a toy gun on him that looked like a real gun. And the whole crowd of kids laughed. He was com­pletely shaken.”

“It was ter­ri­ble,” Phillip said, “but I didn’t have time to think what’s hap­pen­ing at the time. Now when i look back, I think, oh my God.”

Emma said she de­cided then and there that “I am not send­ing him to this school any more, and that was it.”

She had spo­ken to the prin­ci­pal, Uwe Runkel, about in­tro­duc­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tion to the school that could work with chil­dren to ed­u­cate them about an­ti­semitism, Is­lam­o­pho­bia and other forms of xenophobia. Her in-laws, who are Holo­caust sur­vivors, have talked to pupils there.

The prin­ci­ple “made all the right noises” but did noth­ing, she said.

When con­tacted by the JC, Mr Runkel said he re­gret­ted the an­ti­semitic bul­ly­ing of Phillip. He added he had hoped to help the stu­dent feel safe and also to make per­pe­tra­tors face the con­se­quences of their ac­tions, but that ob­vi­ously “for the par­ents it wasn’t fast enough”.

He said “a gen­eral ap­proach in the school to an­ti­semitism” was clearly needed, and was be­ing de­vel­oped.

The case un­der­scores con­cerns that ed­u­ca­tors and par­ents have ex­pressed for years in Ber­lin about the an­ti­semitic ha­rass­ment of Jewish pupils, par­tic­u­larly by Arab and Turk­ish chil­dren.

Ber­lin’s Jewish high school re­ceives be­tween six and 10 ap­pli­ca­tions a year from par­ents who want to move their chil­dren away from schools where they are be­ing sub­jected to an­ti­semitic ha­rass­ment, said Aaron Eck­staedt, prin­ci­pal of the Moses Men­delssohn Jewish High School in Ber­lin.

The re­quests gen­er­ally are “in re­ac­tion to an­ti­semitic state­ments com­ing over­whelm­ingly from Ara­bic or Turk­ish class­mates,” he said, adding that “in most cases, the fam­i­lies com­plain about the rel­a­tive lack of re­sponse from state schools” to the prob­lem.

There are sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions in Ber­lin that work with schools in an ef­fort to com­bat an­ti­semitism and xenophobia, in­clud­ing the Kreuzberg Ini­tia­tive Against An­ti­semitism and the Salaam-Schalom ini­tia­tive, a loose group of vol­un­teers.

A co-founder of the lat­ter group, Ar­min Langer, said his group “al­ways sends a Jewish and a Mus­lim mem­ber to the classes. If there is a case of an­ti­semitism, we rec­om­mend to get in touch with lo­cal Jewish groups and in­vite them over. Break­ing the walls be­gins with per­sonal en­coun­ters,” he said.

Some stud­ies have shown that an­ti­semitic views are more com­mon among young Mus­lims than among other groups in Ger­many. In 2007, re­searchers Ka­trin Bret­tfeld and Peter Wet­zels in­ter­viewed 500 Mus­lim pupils in Ger­many and found that 17.5 per­cent be­lieved that “people of Jewish faith are ar­ro­gant and greedy”, com­pared to 7.4 per cent among non-Mus­lim im­mi­grant chil­dren and 5.4 per cent in the non-im­mi­grant Ger­man pop­u­la­tion.

As for Phillip, he would not nec­es­sar­ily rec­om­mend that other chil­dren re­veal their Jewish­ness to class­mates un­less it’s “a nice, quiet school.”

You are a cool dude but I can’t be friends with you, Jews are mur­der­ers’

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