Germany’s chancellor praises Soviet Jewish integration

BERLIN (JTA) – Germany’s chancellor praised the successful integration of former Soviet Jews into the country.

Angela Merkel spoke at a meeting Tuesday with some 600 members of the Berlin Jewish community at the JCC in the former West Berlin.

Merkel also said that Muslim immigrants had not been as successful, and that concerted efforts must be made on their behalf. She said recently that the failed integration of most of Germany’s Muslim immigrants presents one of the country’s largest social challenges.

When the theme of "failed integration" is raised, Merkel said, "no one thinks about the Soviet Jewish immigrants because most of you have integrated well. On the other hand, [among Muslim immigrants] we have children and grandchildren who grew up here and still have trouble with our language, our culture."

Merkel said the problem "must not be whitewashed" and must be handled openly with the immigrants themselves.

In greeting the chancellor, Lala Suesskind, president of the Berlin Jewish community, thanked her for her support for Israel and urged her to stand up against "a resurgent, very worrying anti-Semitism that is often disguised as anti-Zionism."

"We would like to see the federal government and its representatives take a clear position," Suesskind said, adding that it is not enough "to deliver ‘good advice’ to Israel in the form of unanimous motions during difficult times."

In July, the Bundestag passed a unanimous motion criticizing Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Reportedly it was the first time that the German parliament had ever unanimously stated criticism of Israel.

Germany has some 240,000 people of Jewish background, about 90 percent of whom have emigrated from the former Soviet Union since German unification in 1990. About 110,000 Jews are affiliated with Jewish communities. An unknown number of the newcomers are not Jewish according to religious law, since they do not have a Jewish mother or underwent a non-Orthodox conversion.

About 4 million Muslims are living in Germany, the vast majority of Turkish background.

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