Germany - Survey showing that nearly half of German citizens have never had contact with Jews causes worry among Jewish leaders


A survey commissioned to mark the 1,700th anniversary of the Jewish presence in Germany has discovered that nearly half of German citizens say they have never had any contact with Jews or Jewish life.

Published on Monday, the survey polled 10,000 German citizens aged 18 and over. Conducted on behalf of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, a conservative research institute, and the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany (ORD), a national forum composed of more than 50 rabbis, the purpose of the survey was to gauge awareness among non-Jews of Jewish religion and culture, as well as Jewish contributions to German life.

Close to one in two respondent, 46 percent, said they had never had any personal contact with a Jewish person or with Jewish life more broadly, with just 16.6 percent saying that they had Jewish friends or acquaintances. About 100,000 Jews presently live in Germany.

Only 18.7 percent had learned something about Judaism at school, while 17.9 percent had visited a synagogue, the survey found.

For 55 percent of those surveyed, their perceptions of Jewish life were predominantly shaped by political and historical events. Nearly 20 percent of respondents cited the Nazi Holocaust as their frame of reference, with 14.2 percent citing the present rise of antisemitism in Germany and nearly 22 percent citing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. By contrast, just under 12 percent mentioned Jewish contributions to German arts and culture or science as their frame of reference.

Regional differentiations in the survey were significant, however, with city-dwelling Germans much more likely to count Jews in their social circle than those in rural areas. Thirty-three percent of respondents in Berlin, 35 percent of respondents in Frankfurt and 29 percent of respondents in Munich said that they personally knew Jewish people.

In a statement on Monday, the ORD called the results of the survey “sobering.”

The organization urged that stronger emphasis be placed on educating schoolchildren about Jewish life in Germany, arguing that this was an “elementary building block” to reducing prejudice. It would ensure that “ignorance or fear of foreigners no longer turns into antisemitism, Israel-hatred based on a false Middle East narrative, or even violence against the Jews living here, who have been an inseparable part of Germany for 1,700 years,” the ORD said.

Philipp Hildmann, a researcher at the Hanns Seidel Foundation, observed that the survey “shows that Jewish life in Germany remains abstract for many.”

“By concentrating more on the Middle East conflict than on the Jews in Germany, one does not do justice to the Jews living here in any way,” Hildmann said.

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