Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

In Germany, You Can ‘Rent a Jew’ to Fight Anti-Semitism

100,000 Jews live in Germany, and it’s the country with the world’s fastest-growing Jewish community. But many Germans have never – consciously – met a Jew.

There’s a new project wants to change that: Rent a Jew.

The Munich-based European Janusz Korczak Academy launched the project, which aims to bring together Jews and non-Jews in a relaxed social setting.

“Rent a Jew allows people to speak with each other, instead of about each other,” the program description reads. They hope that doing so will help to break down prejudices.

About 50 volunteers – from different spectrums of Jewish life – can be “rented” to talk to groups in schools, universities or churches.

The project mixes education with humor. Their tag line, for example, is: “Rent a Jew. You will never forget your first.”

They chose their provocative name on purpose, even though it might seem to reaffirm a centuries-old anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews are worth less than other people.

“We are tired of hearing such attributions,” the program organizers wrote on their website. “And we believe that humor mixed with a bit of chutzpah is the best way to refute old stereotypes and prejudices and show how absurd they are.”

Mascha Schmerling, born in Russia and living in Germany, is one of the volunteers. “We want them to see that we’re completely normal people,” she told Deutsche Welle (DW), an international German broadcaster.

“We don’t want to be defined purely by history and we don’t want to always be seen through this Holocaust lens,” Schmerling added.

“Rent a Jew” was recently awarded a recognition by the German Federal Agency for Civic Education during a yearlong democracy and tolerance initiative.

Western Europe has seen a recent uptick in anti-Semitism, and earlier this year a 21-year-old Jewish man wearing a yarmulke was beaten by three men in Berlin.

During “Rent a Jew” seminars, participants can learn about a wide range of Jewish things – holidays, manners of worship, ancestry, art or even why Kellogg’s cereals are kosher.

“We also want to show an open and colorful Judaism,” another volunteer, Monty Aviel Zeev Ott, told DW. “Judaism is so diverse.”

The concept seems to be working: Seventeen-year old Mohamed, who attended a “Rent a Jew”-workshop at his school, told DW that he has “learnt that many things I’ve heard about Jews aren’t actually true.”

Lilly Maier is a news intern at the Forward. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter, @lillymmaier

A message from our editor-in-chief Jodi Rudoren

We're building on 127 years of independent journalism to help you develop deeper connections to what it means to be Jewish today.

With so much at stake for the Jewish people right now — war, rising antisemitism, a high-stakes U.S. presidential election — American Jews depend on the Forward's perspective, integrity and courage.

—  Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief 

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.