Bonner Querschnitte 22/2024 Ausgabe 799 (eng)


Heads of USCIRF and IIRF in Discussion about Antisemitism

Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher meets Rabbi Abraham Cooper in Berlin

(Bonn, 04.07.2024) On the evening of Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher, the President of the International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF), met with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, then Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Cooper is also the Associate Dean and Director of the Global Social Action Agenda for the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He was accompa­nied by Daniel Schuster from Vienna, the Senior Representative for Europe of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Photo: Bishop Thomas Schirrmacher and Rabbi Abraham Cooper in conversation © Daniel SchusterSchirrmacher informed Cooper about his state­ment against antisemitism in the recent hearing of the Human Rights Committee of the German Federal Parliament. He told Cooper that he is absolutely shocked by the antisemitism the Jewish community is experiencing in Germany. Never since the fall of Berlin in 1945 have there been so many physical attacks against Jews, visible forbidden signs, and slogans about killing Jews or wiping Israel off the map. Schirrmacher stated that this is not solely a religious freedom matter but includes a heavy religious freedom element, as the present-day discrimination against Jews in Germany is the most severe attack on religious freedom in Germany since World War II. Schirrmacher emphasized that this is not the Germany for which American soldiers died on D-Day, which will be com­memorated in the coming days.

Schirrmacher also underlined that those publicly backing the terrorist Hamas organization not only endanger Jews and Israel but will go against anyone who does not share their opinion. The protest placards with slogans like “Berlin will burn” and “Fuck U Germany”, seen during demonstrations, make this amply clear.

In turn, Cooper reported about the feelings of many Jews who, for the first time, do not feel safe anywhere, as they are no longer sure whether Israel will remain a safe haven for those Jews who feel it is time to leave their home elsewhere. He reported from all the countries he visited recently that the numbers of attacks on Jews registered by the police are higher than ever before, often doubling or tripling the yearly numbers.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper emphasized, “We’re visiting Berlin due to the alarming rates of antisemitism in this city and across Europe. Jews in Berlin and elsewhere feel in­creasingly unsafe, facing threats and violence in places where they should be protected. This alarming trend must be urgently addressed by both local and international autho­rities to ensure the safety and security of Jewish communities everywhere.”

Cooper and Schirrmacher afterwards visited a Jewish quarter in Berlin, observing how kosher restaurants or Jewish schools are not safe and are centers of anti-Jewish protests.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies, including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe, and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

Rabbi Abraham Cooper (born 1950) was involved in visiting Soviet Refuseniks in the early 1970s, ultimately leading to his work in opening the first Jewish cultural center in Moscow in the 1980s, and lecturing at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Sakharov Foundation later in his career. In 1977, he came to Los Angeles to work with Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Together with Rabbi Hier, Rabbi Cooper has met with world leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, presidents, and foreign ministers.

In 1992 and again in 2003, he helped coordinate international conferences in Paris on antisemitism co-sponsored by UNESCO. He has testified before the United Nations in New York and Geneva, presented testimony at the US Senate, the Japanese Diet, the French Parliament, the OSCE, and is a founding member of Israel’s Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism.

Rabbi Cooper is a regular op-ed contributor to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Globe and Mail, National Post, Le Monde, the Japan Times, The Straits Times, and Midstream magazine. Newsweek/Daily Beast lists Rabbi Cooper among the “50 Most Influential Rabbis in the United States”.

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