Jerusalem Post, June 2019
BERLIN – In 2018, Dr. Felix Klein jumped at the chance to take on Germany’s new position of Federal Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism. For four years prior, he had served as the Special Representative for Relations with Jewish Organizations and Issues Relating to Antisemitism, so the transition was a natural one.
Contrary to what his last name and position may suggest, Klein was raised in a Protestant household in Darmstadt by a German, Romanian-born father and German-born mother. Klein recalls growing up with Jewish classmates, and his best friend in college was a Canadian Jew. In 1986, he spent a month in Haifa on tour as a violinist and developed a love for Israel, which he visits about twice a year.
Recent headlines suggest that Klein has his work cut out for him. Antisemitic incidents are on the rise, including a spate of physical assaults against Hebrew-speakers on the streets (mostly by refugees or German nationals of Arab or Muslim descent) and antisemitic bullying in schools. On social media, a once dormant extreme right-wing is rearing its ugly head. The German government itself has come under scrutiny for not doing enough to hold by its national mandate to safeguard Israel’s security.
Klein made news on May 25 when he came out in German media recommending that Jews in Germany avoid wearing a kippah in public due to the rise in antisemitism. “I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippot everywhere all the time in Germany,” Klein said, adding that he had changed his mind on the subject.
“I made this statement in order to trigger a discussion in the German public about the security of the Jewish community,” Klein told The Jerusalem Post, saying his statement should be understood more as a call to action. “It is my aim that the German society understands the fight against antisemitism as a common effort. The first step is to raise general awareness of the problem. I came to this opinion after the presentation of the official figures regarding the big increase of antisemitic crimes in 2018, including attacks against persons wearing kippot in public. If we join forces in civil society and in government, I am optimistic that we can successfully fight antisemitism and effectively protect the Jewish community.”
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