'Rent-A-Jew' Project Hopes To Ward Off Anti-Semitism In Germany

December 12, 2016

With a population of 100,000 Jews, Germany is home to the world's fastest-growing Jewish community. And yet many Germans have never met a Jewish person - something "Rent a Jew" aims to change.

rent a jew project Germany
Photo credit: DW / K. Brady

"How many of you have met a Jew?" At a technical college in Solingen, Western Germany, 15 out of 20 cautious teenagers answer with just as many variations of no.

"I've most likely crossed paths with one," says one student. "But I wouldn't necessarily know."

That's where "Rent-a-Jew" steps in. "You never forget your first," the project's tagline reads. The initiative - with its admittedly provocative name - was launched by the Munich-based European Janusz Korczak Academy.

The program's 50 members are leading seminars with private groups and educational establishments across Germany. In reaching out to non-Jews, the initiative aims to provide the opportunity to socialize with the Jewish community and break down prejudices in the process. Among them is Moscow-born Mascha Schmerling and Hanoverian Monty Aviel Zeev Ott.

rent a jew project Germany
Photo credit: DW / K. Brady

But what's with the name?

"We know it's questionable. It's there to provoke, to promote conversation," Schmerling told DW.

"People don't trust themselves to say 'Jew,'" Ott said. "But it's all about context," Schmerling added.

rent a jew project Germany
Photo credit: DW / K. Brady

Taking part in the Rent-a-Jew seminar gives participants the chance to learn about all manner of things that contribute to Judaism - whether it's worship, festivals, ancestry, or the particularly popular topic of food.

With anti-Semitism on the rise across Western Europe, the chance to encourage conversation with the Jewish community has become even more important in recent months, Otto told DW.

Source: DW

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