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Antisemitism, Israel ties in the mix for Jewish voters as Germany heads to polls

18 5 8

BERLIN (JTA) — Rising antisemitism, Germany’s relationship with Israel, pensions for aging Soviet immigrants — these are just some of the issues Jewish voters across Germany are considering before casting their vote in Sunday’s federal election.

The nation is replacing the retiring Chancellor Angela Merkel after a monumental 16 years in the position. The latest polls suggest a change in power is at hand, as the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) has pulled ahead with 25-27% of the vote, which would put current Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz in charge of building a parliamentary coalition. Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and her successor Armin Laschet lag just behind at 20-23%, while Anna Baerbock and the progressive Greens are hovering around 15-17%.

Jews make up far less than 1% of Germany’s population of 83 million, and for many, Jewish issues pale in comparison to some that the entire country is wrestling with, such as climate change and growing social inequalities.

But in some cases, Jewish issues have become national ones, and vice versa.

We spoke to a range of Jewish voters about what they are thinking about as they head to the ballot box.

IT consultant Herbert Lappe, 75, has been a member of Dresden’s local Jewish community since his parents immigrated to Germany in 1949. He doesn’t believe the main issues of this election differ for Jews and non-Jews in Germany.

He is specifically focused on climate change and social justice, and on those issues, there are clear differences among the parties vying for the chancellery and seats in the Bundestag.

But on particularly Jewish issues, such as rising antisemitism and Germany’s relationship with Israel, Lappe doesn’t see much of a difference between parties (excluding the right-wing Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which he does not consider to be a democratic party).

“All of the other parties differentiate themselves in nuance only,” Lappe said. “There’s no preference from a Jewish point of view.”

Valentina Marcenaro, the 48-year-old director of Dresden’s Youth and Art School, agreed.

“I’m not sure if there’s such a stratospheric distinction between Jews and non-Jews in voting,” she said.

But for her, “being Jewish in Germany” means “supporting tolerance, supporting diversity and being aware of the needs of minorities.”

That sentiment rings true for Henrike Vogels, a 22-year-old student enrolled at two Berlin universities. Born and raised just outside of Hanover in central Germany, Vogels and her family didn’t engage much with their Jewishness growing up.

But in Berlin, Vogels has found a home with Base Hillel Deutschland, a pluralistic organization aimed at engaging young Jews. She says that more publicly identifying as Jewish and queer, combined with studying Torah, has influenced her political perspective — specifically, how politics and elections can impact minorities.........

© The Times of Israel

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