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I Stood Up Against Anti-Semitism in Berlin

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BERLIN
Cherno Jobatey
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A large demonstration against anti-Semitism was held here in Berlin. The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, called for action, and a broad coalition from state and society responded, gathering at the Brandenburg Gate: in addition to Chancellor Angela Merkel, representatives of major church organizations also spoke, including Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Evangelical Church in Germany Chair Nikolaus Schneider, World Jewish Council President Ronald S. Lauder as well as German President Joachim Gauck, First Lady Daniela Schadt, and the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit. I was asked to moderate this event.

In the days following the demonstration, I was asked the question, "Why?" Here is my answer:

It was really just a report. However, it was one that you simply could not ignore or put aside, no matter how long you have been working as a journalist. It was this figure: 159 anti-Semitic crimes were reported in the second quarter of this year between April and the end of June.

I thought of Sarah, the daughter of a friend who recently told me that you no longer needed politics because all the great mistakes of human history had already been made. We had finally learned from our mistakes! At first I wanted to leave her in her naivety, but then I tried to convince her that politics are taking place constantly and that we have new challenges to face. Sometimes we even need to be quite pro-active!

When I was asked if I would be at the Berlin rally "Stand up! Never again anti-Semitism!" I answered immediately with "yes."

However, there is more to this than just that, it's something personal that sits deep within me...

My mother, a piano teacher, somehow managed to make ends meet for my three siblings and me. We never had enough money, but in walled-in West Berlin and its hippie-influenced culture that lack of money was never apparent at school where the teachers had long hair and wore tattered jeans. That changed when I was about 15. The three-room apartment suddenly became too small for the five of us.

Partly raised in a Jewish family

I moved out relatively quickly and moved in with my best friend, David, and his family. David was Jewish, and that changed my life. The best thing was that I celebrated both Christmas and New Year's twice a year. I learned the word "Chrismukkah," a happy combination of both celebrations. Their family somehow functioned differently than other families that I had met before. And so I suddenly had several cultures within me.

But I also realized that these changes brought others along as well. I had to defend my best friend because of things that I had never even thought about before. We happily snuck out to student parties. David's big sister took us. There were always young people from all over the world and it was fantastic.

Once, during a conversation, David was suddenly accosted over something having to do with Israel's politics. I stepped in as it became more heated. At some point, pushing and shoving occurred and suddenly we were back-to-back. Fortunately, we were able to talk our way out of the situation.

Of course we were scared! But I simply could not understand that you have to worry just because others might hold you responsible for the policies of a far-off country.

I was there for my best friend, David, back then and that has not changed. It can't be that people who live among us must do so in fear "simply" because they belong to a minority.

That is why I stood up at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin! And I will do so over and over again!

2014-09-25-KardinalMarxEKDChairSchneiderWJCPresidentLauderPresidentGauckDieterGraumannChancellorMerkel1stLadySchadtMayorWowereitChernoJobatey.jpg
Left to right: Kardinal Reinhard Marx, EKD-Chair Nikolaus Schneider, WJC-President Ronald S. Lauder, President Joachim Gauck, Dieter Graumann, Chancellor Angela Merkel, 1st Lady Daniela Schadt, Mayor Klaus Wowereit & Cherno Jobatey