The city of Berlin opened a counseling center for victims of antisemitic harassment and violence on Tuesday, in recognition of the steep rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes in the German capital in recent years.
Berlin State Senator Dirk Behrendt of the Green Party told German news outlets that the “high number of antisemitic crimes” meant that victims should receive more specialized assistance.
The Berlin municipal authorities will fund the center — called OFEK, the Hebrew word for “horizon” — with a grant of 120,000 euros for 2020.
Marina Chernivsky — OFEK’s managing director — said that one of the key purposes of the center was to make a difference at an emotional level.
“We don’t just want to lecture on the forms of antisemitism, but to build bridges to people – to their emotions, questions and defensive reactions,” she said.
As well as offering counseling in person and remotely, OFEK will also assist victims with legal advice.
The center’s opening coincided with the publication of police statistics that showed a decline in antisemitic attacks in Berlin in 2019. Authorities registered 289 cases in 2019 — a drop of nearly 15 percent on the previous year’s toll of 329 incidents.
The new figures, however, do not account for the antisemitic incidents that go unreported by victims — a persistent problem throughout Germany.
Lorenz Korgel — Berlin’s coordinator for combating antisemitism — said that Germany’s Jewish community needed the “solidarity of society as a whole.”
“That is why it is an important step that Berlin is the first federal state to promote such an advice centre,” Korgel said. “Many more steps must follow.”