In a bold display of Jewish pride, Chabad of Berlin installed what may well be the largest mezuzah in Germany. “The reaction to anti-Semitism may be to hide our identity. But we need to wear our Judaism proudly,” says Rabbi Yehudah Tiechtel, executive director of Chabad in Berlin and rabbi of the city’s Jewish community.
Measuring one and a half feet long, the mezuzah was affixed last month on the doorpost of the Chabad synagogue—a facility noted for its outstanding architectural design—following a visit by Kirsten Lange, Director General of Germany’s Ministry of Justice. Lange declared his solidarity with his country’s Jews.
“Today I stand with the Jewish community in Germany. I say loud and clear, whoever attacks Jewish centers or Jewish people is attacking Germany,” said Lange during his visit.
Berlin has the largest Jewish community in Germany, with the low estimates placing the number at around 10,000 Jews. The community, according to the German daily Berliner Zeitung, is feeling unease after the events in Paris.
Hans-Georg Maaßen, President of the Germany Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, told Berlin’s Jewish Youth Congress that there are no specific threats. Yet according to reports there is clearly a rise in anti-Semitism, especially by Arab youth in the local public schools.
“While many thought that after Auschwitz, there would be no anti-Semitism, in some people this hatred is deep rooted,” the rabbi says. “The question is how to respond. Hiding our Judaism will not diminish their hatred.” Instead, Tiechtel proposes building bridges of understanding, and has taken an active role himself, marking the recent Kristallnacht day with local Muslims.
The large mezuzah, he hopes, will convey the message of Jewish pride, even, or especially, in the face of anti-Semitism. “We can and must be vigilant, there needs to be more police protection. Yet, if we are ashamed of being Jewish, this will only cause our opponents to feel that they are triumphant. We must fight hate with steadfast determination and never cower or hide our Judaism.”