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‘A steadfast ally’: Angela Merkel’s departure a sad moment for many German Jews

15 8 1

JTA — After a German court criminalized the nonmedical circumcision of boys in 2012, Angela Merkel did something very out of character for the “rule-of-law chancellor,” as she has been nicknamed.

Merkel said the ruling, which was brought against a person who circumcised a Muslim child, put Germany at risk of becoming a “laughingstock.” Her statement violated the country’s unspoken rule about chancellors not criticizing the country’s judicial branch from their executive perch.

“I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practice their rituals,” she said at the time. Parliament eventually stepped in to keep the practice legal.

It was symbolic of Merkel’s commitment to the Jewish community “over realpolitik,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Zurich-born president of the Conference of European Rabbis. His organization in 2013 honored Merkel with a prize for “making a crucial intervention for enshrining circumcision in Germany and beyond.”

“She has been a steadfast ally, and not only in rhetoric but in decisive action,” Goldschmidt told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

In November, Merkel, 67, will step down after 16 years in power, ending the tenure of one of Europe’s most consequential leaders in recent memory. Her legacy — tainted for some by Germany’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern refugees and her policy of fiscal austerity toward the rest of the European Union — is mixed in her home country. But for the German and wider European Jewish establishment, her departure marks the loss of “a reliable partner for the Jewish community,” Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA.

“I am deeply sorry to see Chancellor Angela Merkel leave the political stage,” said Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor who heads the Jewish community of Munich.

Merkel’s consequential policies have had significant impacts on German Jewry — both on the ground and politically, as the right-wing, populist AfD party and the more progressive Green Party have made gains in the wake of her party’s stumbles. Nevertheless, she leaves widely seen as a fighter for Jewish causes.

“It’s a mixed legacy, where the good greatly outweighs the bad,” Goldschmidt said.

The refugee dilemma

The daughter of a Church minister from former East Germany, Merkel is the European Union’s longest-serving sitting leader. She is not seeking reelection in Sunday’s general election, in which her center-right party, the Christian-Democratic Union, or CDU, appears to be in a close race with the center-left Social Democratic Party, or SPD.

As head of the EU’s largest economy, Merkel has pushed for pan-European........

© The Times of Israel

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