Thursday, November 29, 2018

Germany: 'The word Jew was not a common insult when I went to is now.'

Via CNN:

Rachel always thought it was best to hide her religion from her high school students. The trouble started a few years ago when she let slip to a student that she was Jewish.

"I found swastikas scribbled in their textbooks, they drew penises around my name on the blackboard, and they'd yell like 'Hey, Jew' at me during class," said Rachel, a teacher in Berlin. "It became harder... to do my job."

Rachel, whose name has been changed because of safety concerns, went to her headmaster, and then to the police, but she said neither took her complaint seriously and would not intervene.

She said things got worse. The students saw Israel as a menace, an oppressor of the Palestinian people and viewed her as a stand-in for the Jewish state, she said. They took out their frustration by screaming anti-Semitic slurs at her.

Last year, she decided to switch schools for her own safety. She has not told her new students she's Jewish.

In a country still haunted by the Holocaust, anti-Semitic incidents in the classroom offer clear evidence that deep wounds haven't healed. Some Jewish teachers and students say they are caught between a surge of traditional right-wing anti-Semitism and threats from Muslim immigrants angry at Israel.

Unsure of how to deal with anti-Semitism in the classroom, Jewish teachers very often keep incidents to themselves to avoid tipping off their own religious identity, according to Marina Chernivsky, the head of the Berlin-based organization Kompetenz Zentrum für Pravention und Empowerment (or Competence Center for Prevention and Empowerment), which provides counseling to individual and institutions after anti-Semitic and discriminatory incidents.

She recently held a workshop to help Jewish teachers deal with anti-Semitism in their classrooms. Around 20 Jewish teachers attended the session; Chernivsky said it was the first time many of them opened up about the problem.

"It's not normal to be Jewish in Germany so anti-Semitism is not normal to talk about," Chernivsky said. "It's very taboo."

It took history and politics teacher Michal Schwartze years to reveal her religion to her students.

The Frankfurt based 42-year-old said she didn't feel comfortable teaching about the Holocaust, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or anti-Semitism in Europe without being transparent with her students.

"I don't say hey I am Jewish, but I make it clear that I am personally affected," said Schwartze.

A few years ago, Schwartze penned an article in her school's newspaper encouraging students to stop using the word "Jew" as a slur. She said she took a risk writing the piece, but it raised awareness around anti-Semitism at her school.

"Fortunately, I have colleagues who are sensitive and a headmaster who has an interest in preventing anti-Semitism," says Schwartze. She cautioned that Jewish teachers who don't have similar support need to "hide their identity."
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