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Meeting Jews in Germany

Jews make up only 0.2% of the population in Germany. Since most people in Germany don’t have personal interactions with Jews as a result, their knowledge about modern Jewish life is not based on real-life experiences.

“Meet a Jew” is a project of the Central Council of Jews in Germany under the patronage of the Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and supported by the “Live Democracy!” program of the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Launched in 2020, the initiative travels throughout the country to introduce Jews and Judaism to non-Jewish people. Over 450 volunteers regularly visit schools, universities, sports clubs, and other groups to talk about their daily life, their Jewish identity, and answer questions about Jewish life in Germany today. By meeting people face-to-face, they aim to debunk stereotypes about Jews, replacing them with actual experiences. During the pandemic, many of the encounters occurred online.

The initiative comes at a sensitive time, as antisemitic incidents have been increasing across Germany over the last years. In 2019, a far-right shooter tried to break into the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur while worshippers were inside. During the coronavirus pandemic, anti-vaccine and other conspiracy myths often intertwined with anti-Jewish stereotypes.

Being a minority in Europe and having the awareness of the Shoah, Jews understand and value the importance of fundamental democratic rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and the protection of minorities,” Dr. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, explained to the NOA project.

“Jewish volunteers with Meet a Jew therefore see their involvement not only as a service to the Jewish community, but as a contribution to Germany’s and Europe’s societies as a whole. They are sensitive to antidemocratic developments, which try to attack the core values of free societies and often come along with conspiracy theories and antisemitic tropes.”

Jewish volunteers with Meet a Jew encourage dialogue, introduce Jewish people as individuals in contrast to abstract and generalizing representations of Jews as a presumably homogenous group, and help debunk stereotypes. They also strive toward building allyships between different minority groups and encourage young people to speak up. “My motivation [is] that we can finally start focusing on what unites us,” Alexandra, one of the young volunteers relates. “Instead of frantically searching for what makes us different.”

For more information please visit www.meetajew.de.

A NOA profile on Jews creating a more inclusive Europe www.noa-project.eu