By Toby Axelrod
Germany has pledged an additional $26 million to the country’s Jewish umbrella organization this year to cover security costs as Jewish leaders fret over a rise in right-wing anti-Semitism.
The announcement comes nearly a year after a violent attack on the synagogue in Halle, on Yom Kippur, which left two passersby dead. The alleged perpetrator, who attempted to enter the synagogue with a gun but was blocked, is currently on trial in Magdeburg.
The attack “has drastically shown us that Jewish life needs massive protection,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement issued Wednesday, after the security funding agreement was signed with the German government.
The funds are to be used for drastic improvements to the physical security of synagogues and other communal buildings, according to the joint statement by the Central Council and the federal Ministry of the Interior.
“Jews must be able feel safe living in Germany – it is also in the interest of the state,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who pledged to “do everything possible to provide the necessary protection. We understand our responsibility.”
The alleged attacker in Halle – a right-winger with homemade weapons – had tried unsuccessfully to shoot his way through the front doors of the synagogue while 52 people were attending services inside. Those doors had already been reinforced thanks to a grant from the Jewish Agency for Israel. But the back doors had not been, and congregants inside the synagogue barricaded them during the attack.
The deadly attack brought home, among other things, the need for improved security and funding for educational programs to combat anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
In December, the federal government and its 16 states agreed to boost funding to Jewish communities to support the rapid implementation of structural and technical security measures. Wednesday’s announcement brings the pledge to fruition.
In a joint statement, Schuster said security costs have been a “considerable financial burden on our communities,” especially since Halle, and that the commitment of the government was greatly appreciated.
The government already gives the Central Council 13 million euros (or $15.4 million) per year to cover administrative and infrastructure costs for some 80 communities nationwide. The contract was signed originally in 2003, putting the Jewish umbrella body on a legal par with the Protestant and Catholic churches, which each have contracts with the federal government.