Unknown assailants tossed "something on fire" at a van in Berlin filled with a rabbi and his students.
Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, who heads Chabad Lubavitch in Berlin, told JTA that the students were unhurt physically but emotionally shaken by the Nov. 1 incident. Police are investigating.
Teichtal, 36, said he had taken the eight new rabbinical students — Chabad in Berlin recently opened a school for 15 young German Jewish men — to visit other Jewish institutions in Berlin following the Sabbath. On the way back, he said they were harassed by men in another car.
"They tried to start up with us," the rabbi said. "They braked in front of us and we changed lanes, and they made a reverse and seemed like they were trying to cause an accident."
Teichtal said the men "were calling names out of the window, negative words" and that he tried to shake them, but they approached from another street and threw "something on fire" at his van.
The American Jewish Committee in Berlin issued a statement Monday condemning the incident, as well as an attack on a Muslim cemetery in Hamburg in which gravestones were painted with Jewish stars and curses, and a cloth with a swastika was draped over some of the stones.
Deidre Berger, the AJC director in Berlin, said in the statement that the Nov. 1 incident underscored the need for a federally appointed watchdog against anti-Semitism.
According to Germany’s Ministry of the Interior, there was a 9 percent increase in violent right-wing crimes last year, and figures were higher as well for the first half of 2008.