Berlin Rabbi Seeks to Do Good, Ends Up Victim of Assault Instead

Berlin Rabbi Walter Rothschild says he has no plans to leave Germany or change his routine following an anti-Semitic attack against him in earlier this month.

“It was a nasty little incident,” Rothschild said in an email Jan. 14. “I want life to continue as normal.

“I am not packing my bags, I am not taking this personally,” he added.

The incident took place at about 10 p.m. on Jan. 10 as Rothschild, the British rabbi of a Reform congregation in Berlin, was returning with two of his students after teaching a course.

When three “Middle Eastern-looking” youths began hassling the driver of a subway train, Rothschild stepped in.

For his trouble, he was punched in the face, had his glasses broken, and required stitches.

“I was trying to calm things,” he said. “One of the lads asked if I was a Jew, and when I said was, he responded, `I hate all Jews.’”

One of the youths grabbed Rothschild’s hat, and one without warning punched him in the eye. The trio then ran.

“On the one hand, it was clear that I was identified as a Jew, so” the incident “was anti-Semitic,” Rothschild said. “On the other hand, I strongly suspect that at least two of the three youths were as shocked and scared as I was that the situation developed the way it did, so quickly.

“It wasn’t a vicious continued attack, like when people knock someone to the ground and kick him, it was just a `hit-and-run’ affair; and they would just as easily have taunted a” subway “driver or sweeper,” he said. “It wasn’t `racial’ in the way that attacks on Chinese or Afghan or Ghanaian asylum seekers are.”

The youths, he said, “were not skinheads, were not neo-Nazis. His attackers “were three teen-agers possibly slightly drunk, certainly out of bed too late at night, excitable — too much testosterone and not enough common sense.”

Rothschild said all three youths had been apprehended by police. He said he had met one of them and had accepted his apology.

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