Security, whether we like it or not, is something that all of us have got to take seriously nowadays. For people visiting a synagogue in the center of Berlin, and for other Jewish people just walking around, the possibility of a hate crime is a real threat.
An expert conference has convened in Berlin to try to confront and work out solutions to what is perceived as a rise in anti-Semitic types of violence, verbal and physical abuse against Jewish communities, not just in Germany, but all over the world.
The conference was organized by the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has some 57 participating states, including every country in Europe, plus North America and the former Soviet Union.
Of particular concern is the emergence of far-right parties across the OSCE region. One item on the agenda was these people using the Internet to spread hateful messages.
One of the problems with chasing down anti-Semitism is that the sources of it vary, as does the way it is documented in different countries across the OSCE region.
Just two examples of threats on a larger political level in Europe are the upsurge in far-right parties in countries like Hungary, where the Jobbik party has gained 43 seats in parliament, and in Greece, where the Golden Dawn party – which has an openly anti-Semitic, and violently anti-immigrant stance – has taken advantage of the economic crisis to lure supporters by distributing food.
But another problem for Europe is attacks on Jews from a minority within Muslim communities. Holding discussions between Jewish and Muslim groups would seem to be a likely solution.
According to Deirdre Berger, Global Jewish Advocacy director, “It’s not an easy discussion, because the Muslim community is not well organized and there aren’t many structures for the Jewish community, which is very well organized, to relate with.
"There’s also the difficulty that while there are sadly attacks by individual Muslims, who certainly don’t represent the community on Jews, there’s certainly not the reverse problem, and we certainly hope that there won’t be the reverse problem.”
That there could be anti-Semitic attacks in Berlin, which of all cities in Europe might be considered to be one of the most relaxed and tolerant places to live, is perhaps a bit surprising.
But Rabbi Daniel Alter was attacked and had his cheekbone was broken by young Arab men in Berlin last year for wearing a skullcap.
“On a larger political level, I think our political goal can only be to achieve that the vast majority of German society – not only German society, every democratic society – understands that combating anti-Semitism is not solely for the benefit of the Jewish community. It’s for the benefit of every democratic civil society," Rabbi Alter says.
Whatever the results of the OSCE conference, it seems that we’re still quite a long way from making Berlin, and Germany, and of course all the 57 participating countries in the OSCE organization, safe places for minorities, and in particular for Jewish communities.
Part of the problem is that it is very difficult to eradicate political hatred and ignorance across the board of society.