SIG Secretary General Jonathan Kreutner: “We are seeing a new dimension of antisemitism”

Secretary General of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) Jonathan Kreutner gave an interview to Kirchenbote about the attack on a Jewish man in Zurich amidst the rise of antisemitic incidents in Switzerland.

How do you classify the knife attack with regard to antisemitic incidents in Switzerland? 

It shows a completely new dimension of antisemitism in Switzerland. Antisemitic incidents have increased significantly since Hamas’ attack on Israel and the Gaza war. But we haven’t experienced an attack like the knife attack in Zurich for decades, so it shocks us massively. Even considering neighboring countries such as Germany and France, where the threat situation is different, this act is extreme.   

There are fellow Jews who believe that the attack was predictable, given the political situation and the numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Is that plausible for you? 

Some see it that way. And indeed, since October 7th, a breeding ground for physical attacks has emerged. But actually the timing and severity of the attack surprised me. Because immediately after the attack on Israel there were numerous antisemitic incidents in Switzerland, I would have expected them at the time. Towards the end of the year the situation calmed down somewhat. 

What does the knife attack on the Orthodox man mean for the sense of security of our Jewish fellow citizens? 

Immediately after the attack on Israel, our sense of security was shaken. But actually we are in a permanent state in this regard. Jewish people are used to security personnel playing a role in their everyday lives. Police officers in front of synagogues and community centers do not irritate them. I would say that after the attack there is now uncertainty, but, at least for many people, there is no fear. The fact is, however, that I also looked around today to see who was walking behind me. In certain areas in France and Germany people are used to this, but here in Switzerland I wasn’t familiar with it.   

There was a scandal in the Zurich Cantonal Council this week after a statement about the knife attack. An SVP representative accused left-wing parties of anti-Semitism. Do you see or fear that the case will be exploited by politicians? 

Instrumentalization is not allowed. It is not possible to use this act – an attack in which no one died thanks to the courageous intervention of passers-by – for political purposes. And not only that, it is also dangerous. Because by limiting antisemitism to a political spectrum, it is ignored in other areas of society. Antisemitism manifests itself in all milieus, it occurs on the left and the right, among Muslim migrants and in the middle of society.  

How did you experience the public’s sympathy?

I received a lot of personal emails over the weekend. This despite the fact that it was not absolutely clear that the act had an antisemitic background. We only had this absolute certainty on Monday at the media conference, where I sat on the podium with representatives from the city and security authorities. As far as official feedback is concerned, the city and canton reacted quickly. We also felt the support of the state government. There was a meeting between SIG President Ralph Lewin and Federal Councilor Elisabeth Baume-Schneider and several Federal Councilors publicly expressed their condolences. 

Very quickly after the attack, the Association of Islamic Organizations in Zurich (Vioz) issued the statement “Not in our name!” published. What can religious communities do to avoid being divided under these difficult circumstances?

The Vioz condemned the knife attack very quickly and clearly. That was very important because the crime was motivated by Islamism. This reaction is therefore a very clear signal internally, to our own community. But the Jewish community and our umbrella organization also have a responsibility. We must not generalize and stigmatize. We must disclose our findings, address problems and we must not look the other way. However, to conclude from this act that all Muslims in this country have an anti-Semitism problem would be wrong and dangerous. “


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