German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for “vigilance” on Monday, as he used an appearance at a Jewish ordination ceremony to warn about increasing anti-Semitism in his country.
“Anti-Semitism is once again much more blatant and overt,” he said at the event in the northern city of Hanover, after his visit to a ceremonial ordination at the local synagogue.
Jewish people have been slandered, ridiculed and physically assaulted, the head of state said.
Recalling a far-right anti-Semitic terrorist attack in the central town of Halle three years ago, the president said he wished the tragedy had led to more efforts to confront anti-Semitism. Instead, “anti-Semitic crime is increasing in Germany.”
Steinmeier attended the ceremonial ordination of five Orthodox rabbis and a Ba’al Tefillah, or prayer leader, in Hanover’s Jewish synagogue on Monday.
According to Steinmeier’s office, this is the first Orthodox rabbinical ordination in the state of Lower Saxony since World War II.
Steinmeier’s visit follows reports of shots being fired at a building by the Old Synagogue in Essen last week. The perpetrator has not yet been found.
In his speech following the ordination, Steinmeier spoke of the recent attack. “I was shocked by the news,” he said. “And in Berlin, a synagogue was also vandalized at the weekend. All of this causes me deep pain.”
Steinmeier said he believed there could only be one response to this. “Firstly, we must be vigilant. And we can not look the other way. We must not tolerate any anti-Semitism in Germany,” he stressed.
Ordination takes place when rabbis have completed their studies and are ready to begin their professional lives. The Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin inducts rabbis into office every two years with a special ceremony, for example.
Later on Monday, Steinmeier plans to visit a new permanent exhibition at the city’s House of Religions, the centre for interreligious and intercultural education.