German Jewry is 'sitting on their suitcases'

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Gabriel Goldberg, a member of the Zionist Fed in Germany and an attendee at this month’s WZO conference in Belgium, shares through a speech he delivered to a rally in Cologne on 17 Aug exactly what it feels like to be a Jew in Europe, and, specifically Germany, in 2014. Goldberg was a delegate the WZO’s conference on “Tactics of Countering anti-Semitism in the Face of Ongoing Media Incitement and Worldwide anti-Semitic Incidents.” While traditionally held in France, this year’s conference was in Belgium in solidarity with a community under severe distress.
by GABRIEL GOLBERG | Dec 17, 2014

Speech by Gabriel Goldberg to a rally in Cologne on August 17 2014
Translated into English by Prof Dr Ralf Schumann

A&F brandHonoured guests,

Thank you very much for so many of you who have attended this event.

I also thank the "Bündnis gegen Antisemitismus" ("Alliance against anti-Semitism") Köln, a recently founded organisation, an organisation consisting of young idealistic people that made the decision to take charge of their own fate.

I was asked to speak about the feelings of a Jew in Germany in the summer of 2014. Let me start by saying that I cannot speak for all Jews in Germany, but I will speak for myself.

This summer 2014 has a longer previous history:

Each Jewish congregation in Germany can issue volumes of collected letters addressed to them containing, at best, anti-Semitic insults. These letters have been written and sent for many decades, letters that offend, letters that intimidate, letters that tell us that we are not wanted here. While these letters previously have been mailed anonymously, they carry now the full address of the sender. These senders frequently carry a doctor´s title.

Are these just a 'few isolated cases'?

In 2010 stones were flung against a Jewish dance company while performing at a local block party in Hannover. Nobody intervened, and only when a dancing girl was injured and the group concluded their performance, things were calming down, and the party continued.

During my employment as Director for Youth Issues of the State Organisation of Jewish Communities of the North-Rhine region, I spoke to children that insisted on keeping their Jewish identity concealed. They did not only keep quiet about their identity, no, they concealed it in terms of "Are you Jewish?" – “No, I am Russian-Orthodox"

Children told to hide their identity

In 2014, before the Gaza operation, a weekend youth camp was held in Frankfurt. Young children just developing access to their Jewish identity, having fun in a Jewish group, etc were told by the security officers of the congregation not to walk the streets of Frankfurt recognisable as Jews.

How much money the State Organisation has spent on security issues when I held a youth meeting, and how much money is spent for security by the Jewish congregations…

Because of these security concerns - and I say this loud and clear: because of these legitimate security concerns – now we have to explain ourselves why we separate ourselves from society. As if we would enjoy having police, security officers, and metal detectors with us "just for fun" – this leaves a very bitter aftertaste.

The fact that my adorable niece, whose name I do not reveal for security reasons here, went every day to her Jewish elementary school here in Cologne, passing a safety locker and spending her recess time on the school yard behind blinds – is there an escalation to the word "bitter"? Meanwhile she proceeded to high school…

Sitting on 'packed suitcases'

How do you explain to your children that they are hated because they are Jewish, but that they are wonderful people? In Germany, 2014?

There is the famous quote of the German Jews that sat on "packed suitcases", which have been unpacked nowadays. Well, I have never felt like I sat on packed bags…

…up to 2012. Up to society’s response to the so-called “circumcision debate”. I do not want to talk about circumcision here, everybody may have their own opinion on this. However, what was posted and said on Internet platforms, newspaper articles, and in TV talk shows, the morally raised accusatory finger, the condescending nature, the dictum that we Jews abuse our children – this was the first time I have ever had the thought: I enjoy living in Germany – I am born, raised and socialised here – but probably I would not die here. I won´t let people ban me to fulfil a several thousand years old command – not tradition! Then I rather leave.

So I pulled out my suitcase from the attic...

I was a participant of a "Bertelsmann Leadership Programme for Young Leaders of Migrant Organisations" in 2012. We were two Jews, the vast majority were participants from Arab and Turkish descent. I noted that we should not only talk about discrimination by the majority society, but that migrant subcultures also discriminate against each other.
When I gave the example of the Jewish and Muslim communities, I was interrupted by two politicians of Turkish descent with the words: "This is nonsense!", “This is not right!". When I addressed one of them later face-to-face and asked her: "Do you seriously think this does not exist?", she answered me silently and evasively that “on the institutional level everything is fine”… Meanwhile she is a member of the national parliament.

Shoes into the suitcase...

What is happening today, in Germany, my land of birth, 2014… I am speechless to describe this.

My beloved mother looked at me after the murderous attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels plaintively, and asked: “Where shall we go? Again we do not know where to turn to?”

These words sent chills through my spine. I will never forget them. Never before I saw my brave and life-affirming mother like this, never before had I heard her voice like this. I told her: Mama, there is a place we can go to. There is a place.

Underwear into the suitcase...

Then operation "Protective Edge" started in 2014.

„Jude, Jude – feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein“ ("Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, get out and fight for yourself"), Hitler Greetings, "Stoppt den Judenterror“ ("Stop the terror of the Jews").

I was participating in an Israel solidarity rally in Essen – organised by the "Bündnis gegen Antisemitismus (Alliance Against Ant-Semitism"), Duisburg". The aggressive, violent mob got as close as 20 metres (60 feet) to us. Over the heads of the policemen glass bottles, firecrackers, knifes, and cigarette lighters were thrown at us. For hours we had to hold out within the circle of police cars. Although among the 150 participants there was only a handful of Jews, we all were cursed as "Jews".

In July I organised three Israel solidarity rallies in Düsseldorf and I spent very much time to calm the Jewish attendees: "Yes, there will be sufficient police power, and yes, the Jewish community will also participate in security, yes, I informed the local police about the previous violent attacks."

Many have not attended – out of fear. Children were not present – out of fear for them.

Do we want to live in a country where we have to hide our identity, conceal our political views, and deny ourselves? For fear for our safety, for our lives? Within a democratic, a constitutional state?

Is anti-Semitism only a problem of the Jews? Is it only our problem? Our fear? Our concern?

Pants and shirts into the suitcase...

I do not want to live in such a country, I do not want to die in such a country.

However, the fact that so many people join in here, to rally for me – for yourself! – for the fight against anti-Semitism, is valuable for me. Very valuable for me.

Maybe I will unpack my underwear.

Conference logo

  • Goldberg explained to Jewish Report’s Ant Katz at the conference that in Germany the term “sitting on one’s suitcase” referred to people who were still undecided as to whether to leave the country or not.


WZO Conference reads on SAJR.CO.ZA

of German Fed – on how it feels like to be a Jew in Europe in 2014

, Survivor& head of Belgian Jewry, tells how tough it is on European Jews

Introduction to series on December conference of WZO attended & written by ANT KATZ


  1. 13 Choni 17 Dec

    Choni - there are at least 120,000 very determined Jews living in Germany. Insulting their country or your pet-hate religious school of thought is certainly not called for, counter-productive and trolling in a space where anti-Semitism - or as the Baron would have it anti-Judaism - is under discussion. Your comment has been removed.  -ED

  2. 12 Choni 17 Dec
    I hope the incoming editor of the Jewish report, as well as lay, and especially religious, leaders of the Jewish community take note to advise all in the community that we should all seriously consider the urgent necessity of Aliyah, especially for the younger generation.
  3. 11 Choni 17 Dec

    Sorry Choni, most of Germany's Jews, among the largest in the world, were born there. You are NOT going to be able to have this conversation in the way you are trying to. If you have something positive to contribute, please do.  -ED

  4. 10 lammie 18 Dec
    The time has come for European Jews to make Aliya. Israel is the only place country Jews have an army and police to defend them.  Here we stand a chance  - elsewhere antisemitism grows like a fungus - ugly. unstoppable, unhealthy and dangerous.  The Europeans - and let's admit it - most of the world in general -  were so very happy to get rid of 6 million Jews.  They replaced them with Muslims.  Let us see how that turns out.  I bet it was a bad deal - to put it mildly.  Will they admit it?  Never, they hate us too much.   Come home people. Koem Aheim. 
  5. 9 Denis Solomons 18 Dec
    Once again Germany is the hot spot of anti-semitism !
    Is neo-natziism or natziism rearing its ugly head again.
    France is a hot spot of anti Jewish sentiment.
    If the writing is on the wall Jews must get out of Germany and make Aliyah.
    Perhaps Israel is the only solution.
    We  definitely don't need another Holocaust 
  6. 8 Choni 19 Dec
    The irony of these circumstances now taking place in Germany, and Europe is the similarity of the situation now and in the 1930's.
    Chabad, and other  religious leaders  advised their communities to remain where they were even four months before the outbreak of WW2.
    Today groups like Chabad are doing exactly the same thing. In every European country Chabad are strengthening their hold on the Jewish community, making it more 'comfortable' for them to live in these exilic 'cemeteries'.
    We all know the tragic consequences of misjudgements of past Jewish religious leaders.
    The most tragic part is that in those days there was no Israel to flee too. Now that we have Jewish sovereignty over Israel after 2000 years of exile, it is incomprehensible that Jewish Torah leaders in the Diaspora cannot get themselves together to urge their communities to come Home to the greatest gift that God bestowed upon His People -ERETZ YISRAEL.
    (One highly influential Jewish Chassidic group have erected a 100sq.meter replica of the Kotel in Berlin to show the continued presence of Jews in the dreaded exile).

    Choni: It would be nice if you were to substantiate the highlighted and italic sentence - or is it purely an speculative hold?   -ED

  7. 7 Gary Selikow 19 Dec
    At least Germany has a leader-Angela Merkel who says anti-Semitism and attacking Jews for supporting Israel wont be tolerated. Unlike the ANC regime we have here which persecutes Jews who support Israel 
  8. 6 david 21 Dec
    We obviously have a few town criers/ wiser men? who want to instruct the Jews , wherever they are, to go to Eretz Yisrael.
    They certainly have strong feelings and are not shy to sprout their beliefs that everything will be better in Eretz Yisrael.
    I am left wondering if they are all following their own advice and are, or have already made Aliyah.  If not why not ?
      Is it a case of ' do what the Rabbi says and not what he does'  ?
     I made my choice a few years ago, but the choice for me was Australia, to join my children and their families' I can just imagine their reaction about 'anti-Semitism in Australia, and why there ?
    My answer is -- All people, and certainly all Jews must make their own decision. Some want to remain in the country of their birth, some want to go elsewhere, some want to remain close to their families and many other reasons, that we are able to comprehend or guess.  Some are even happy where they are-- believe it or not.
    The Town criers need to think before they write to expound on their personal beliefs and instructions to the Jews everywhere.    
  9. 5 Choni 21 Dec
    Hello David, My only response to your comment is, Thank God that since the 'rebirth' of Israel millions of Jews have decided to make Aliyah for whatever reasons they chose. Thank God, also, there are more Jews in Israel than in the whole of the Diaspora, and the number is growing by the month. 
    It is no exaggeration that within a few generations the exile will be completely eliminated, and the only "Jews" left will have assimilated.
    Let's hope your descendants will not be among this group.
    So, in spite of your animosity towards us 'town-criers',
    more Jews will decide to make Aliyah, than those who choose to remain. Besides, a little 'pushing' here and there can do no harm.
  10. 4 david 22 Dec
       Choni-- Who are you to judge assimilation anyway ?
    I have no animosity to you 'town criers' and  I'm trying hard not to, when you answer so defensively.
    I lived in the Glenhazel / Linksfield/ Highlands North  area all my life until I immagrated. How would you qualify your questionable statement that ' more Jews will decide to make Aliyah than who choose to remain. - which book did you find this fact in ?  
    By the way , you ignored my question? -- or do you only judge others? ? 
  11. 3 Choni 25 Dec
    Hello David, Not that it has any bearing on the subject, but I will answer your question. My name is Choni Davidowitz, 82 years old. My wife Miriam (78) and I made Aliyah some 8 years ago. Due to exceptional circumstances, (our 55 year old daughter residing at the Selwyn Segal Hostel became seriously ill), we are now residing in Johannesburg for an indefinite period.
    I hope this satisfies your desire to explain my 'hypocricy'.

    As for the subject of trying to 'impose' the idea of Aliyah, I have decided that it is an exercise in futility.
    The reason is very simple. Many Jews - and here I include myself-  refused, and still refuse, to consider themselves as being in exile.
    David, I can understand your viewpoint, but surely you must see that with all the increase in anti-Semitism the future of Diaspora Jewry is very bleak indeed. More so because over 100,000 Diaspora Jews world wide are assimilating every year.
    I apologise if I offended you by 'imposing'  my  will on you regarding Aliyah, but I would like even that one Jew not to make the same mistake as I did by waiting  so long to become an Israeli citizen, instead of an exile Jew.
  12. 2 david 06 Jan
    It would really be a boon if we could all live happily in Israel and also fend off the 'masses'.
      I believe you are absolutely right in principle but , if we were all in Israel , where would the money come in from, and who would send and collect it ?
  13. 1 Choni 07 Jan
    Hello David, By agreeing that I'm absolutely right in principle is a great start. Thanks, it means a great deal to me.



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