BERLIN (Reuters) - Jews must move beyond the role of victims and moral critics in German society, the new head of the country’s leading Jewish organization said in a newspaper interview.
Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany since the end of last month, told the Financial Times Deutschland: “The role of the victim is not enough - Judaism is much, much more.”
With all due respect to honoring the memories of the millions of Jews murdered during the Holocaust, Graumann said the Council must also show “that we do not always just criticize, that we do not always just correct others.”
Born in Ramat Gan, Israel in 1950 before emigrating to Frankfurt as a child, Graumann is the Council’s first president not to have lived through the Holocaust.
Some of its recent prominent figures, such as TV moderator Michel Friedman, participated stridently in German public debate about the country’s dark past under the Nazis as well as the Middle East peace process, warning often against nourishing anti-Semitic sentiment.
Graumann’s predecessor Charlotte Knobloch, who hid from the Nazis with a Catholic family in Germany, spoke of a “sentiment absolutely hostile toward Jews and Israel” in Germany when she became Council president in 2006.
Graumann acknowledged that moral outrage had become an established ritual for the Council, according to the interview in the FT Deutschland’s Wednesday edition.
“That has something to do with us, but that also has a lot to do with the media, who often virtually challenge us to make such statements. We do not always need to serve this need, however,” he said.
Graumann was quoted as saying his most important task was the integration of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, whose arrival has swelled the Jewish community in Germany to around 105,000.
“Our community now consists 90 percent of people who have just come to us in the last 20 years,” said Graumann.
He also called for a closer relationship with German Muslims, while criticizing a “much too strong and growing anti-Semitism” among Muslim youths.
Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner, editing by Mark Trevelyan