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German Jewish leaders expressed “surprise and incredulity” at the sentence given for the stabbing of a rabbi in Frankfurt. The Central Council of Jews in Germany in a statement Sunday said the 3 1/2-year prison term handed down last week sends a dangerous message to potential perpetrators regarding the response to bias crimes.

Sajed A., as he was identified in court papers, admitted to stabbing Rabbi Zalman Gurevitch last week.

Gurevitch had testified that he was on his way home from Sabbath services when Sajed A., a German of Afghan background, shouted at him, “S— Jew, I will kill you” and stabbed him in the stomach. Sajed A. said he had been driven by fear of the physically larger rabbi. The Frankfurt District Court agreed that Sajed A. did not intend to kill the rabbi. A conviction on attempted murder could have sent him to prison for 15 years. In its statement, the Central Council argued that the perpetrator’s statements should have been taken seriously. “The opinion of the court could lead future perpetrators to believe that it is not an anti-Semitic or racist act to use such terms as ‘s— Jew,’ ‘Jewish pig,’ ‘dirty Jew, or ‘Jewish swine,’ read the Council’s statement. The council said it feared the decision could incite anti-Jewish incidents, making it nearly impossible to prosecute such cases.

“It would do a disservice to the fight against anti-Semitism and racism,” undoing the benefit of “clear and helpful new definitions” of anti-Semitic behavior, the statement said.

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