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Jewish students help owners of Kebab Shop hit by synagogue attacks



BERLIN – When a heavily armed, right-wing extremist extremist tried to storm a synagogue in eastern Germany a year ago, the failed attack revived the worst fears of anti-Semitism. Thanks to clumsily built explosives and a locked door, the congregation inside narrowly avoided a massacre.

The inverted armed man then trained his weapons on other targets for his hatred in the town of Halle and killed a young man who was eating lunch at a nearby kebab shop, where he assumed he would find Muslims.

Since then, the kebab shop and the Turkish brothers who own it have fallen on hard times. But their situation recently drew the attention of several young Jews who also survived the October 9 attack, and they decided to try to help and launched a GoFundMe campaign that immediately exceeded their expectations.

“We wanted to do something that would draw attention” to the owners’ struggles, “but also provide concrete financial support,” said Ruben Gerczikow, vice president of the Jewish Student Union in Germany, which opened the drive last week.

“We were surprised by the positive response,” Gerczikow said. “We never dreamed we could travel so much so fast.” They met their goal of raising 5,000 euros or $ 5,940 within a few days and decided to extend the campaign until Yom Kippur, which falls on September 28 this year.

This show of solidarity provides a hopeful counterpoint to a building trend of hate crimes in Germany, though a far-right political fringe does its best to revive old demons. Fundraisers have quietly demonstrated that many Germans still reward the country’s growing diversity and the post – war ethos of generosity that has long been part of Germany’s broader reconciliation of Nazi crimes in the last century.

This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany and warned in a speech to the Jewish Council that it is a reality, “that many Jews do not feel safe and respected in our country.”

“Racism and anti-Semitism never disappeared, but for some time they have become more visible and unrestrained,” the chancellor said.

In particular, she cited the attack in Halle – the most serious of 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes recorded in Germany last year – as an example of “how quickly words can become deeds.”

The man arrested in the attack, Stephan Balliet, 28, is now facing trial and has spoken openly in court about his hatred not only of Jews but also of Muslims and other foreigners and of being affected by a right-wing extremist attack on two mosques in Christchurch , New Zealand, which killed 51 people.

He said he regretted that the two people he fatally shot, a 40-year-old woman outside the synagogue and a 20-year-old man in the kebab shop, were white Germans, not members of ethnic minorities. He also shot and wounded two others.

With their funding drive, the organizers hope to raise awareness of the threat white supremacy poses to all minorities, Gerczikow said.

“We, the Jewish student union in Germany, believe in a multicultural society in this country,” they wrote on the campaign page. “We believe in a peaceful coexistence, regardless of religion, nationality or skin color. We believe in solidarity. ”

The Halle attack was just one in a recent series against minorities in Germany that have worried the authorities as they late try to fight with right-wing extremist networks and sympathies in Germany that have been given new energy by more esoteric movements like QAnon.

In addition to the attack in Halle, in just over a year, right-wing extremists have also murdered a politician near the central city of Kassel and shot nine people of immigrant origin in the western city of Hanau.

One month after the Halle attack, the original owner of the kebab shop gave it to Ismet and Rifat Tekin, brothers who had worked for him. At a public ceremony, he described it as a gesture of support for the men working in the store the day of the attack. The event drew broad support from the community and beyond, with regional politicians promising not to let the place founder.

“It is very important that the kebab shop reopens because it is part of Halle,” said Reiner Haseloff, governor of the state of Saxony Anhalt, at the reopening. “It’s part of the cultural identity.”

But the months since have been marked by hardship and pain for the brothers and their business as the stigma of the attack lingered over the store.

“Since it happened, everything is difficult, and these difficulties make it even harder for us to deal with what happened that day,” said Ismet Tekin, a Turkish citizen who has lived in Germany for 12 years, in an interview with Radio Corax before the trial began in July. “It’s not something simple that we can just say, ‘It’s over.'”

So in March, measures to curb the spread of coronavirus forced residents to be virtually at home, reducing all restaurants to offer pick-up or delivery only, forcing the brothers to close their doors for several weeks. After they reopened, many customers stayed away.

Running the business also left them some time to deal with the attack. In particular, Rifat Tekin, who witnessed the fatal shooting inside the store, has suffered mentally, said Onur Ozata, a lawyer representing Ismet Tekin in court.

Ismet desperately wanted to take part in the trial as a co-plaintiff, but because he was outside the store when the armed man entered, the court initially recognized him immediately as a victim of the attack. Only days before the trial opened on July 21, the court returned the decision and allowed him to attend. He has not missed a session, Ozata said.

“It’s very important for him to be there every day,” Ozata said. “He wants to understand who the attacker is and how he could have done something like this.”

Mr. Balliet is charged with two counts of murder and 68 counts of attempted murder and other crimes. If convicted of murder, he faces life in prison.

The other co-plaintiffs, some of whom belong to the Association of Jewish Students, helped provide the brothers with support even before they started the funding campaign, Ozata said. “They are a very close-knit group. ”

Rabbi Jeremy Borovitz, who was in the synagogue at the time of the attack and is also a co-applicant, appealed over Twitter to his friends to support the kebab shop and called Ismet Tekin “An incredibly decent human being in a world that has become angry.”

“For me, it was important to support this campaign because, as a survivor of the Halle attack, I am aware of the serious emotional strain of this experience,” Rabbi Borovitz said in an interview.

“I can not imagine what it must be like to go back to that store every day,” he said.




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