A rabbi and eight rabbinical students driving in a van in Berlin on Saturday were harassed and abused by two people in a passing car, German police said.
The car braked suddenly and reversed towards the van in the western district of Charlottenburg just after midnight on Sunday morning, police said in a statement. "The driver and passenger of the Mercedes repeatedly shouted out anti-Semitic insults from their vehicle."
The 36-year-old rabbi then saw them set fire to an object and hurl it towards the van, the statement said. Police have launched an investigation.
More than 530 anti-Semitic criminal offences were registered in Germany in the first half of 2008 alone. There are frequent reports about Jewish sites getting vandalized and daubed with Nazi symbols.
On average, according to statistics cited by members of the federal parliament, one Jewish cemetery each week is vandalized in Germany.
The American Jewish Committee said it was shocked by the incident. We denounce attacks of anti-Semitism and any aggression against religious dignitaries and sites and call upon law authorities to do their utmost to find and prosecute the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, Deidre Berger, head of the group's Berlin office, said in a statement.
Since the beginning of the year, the political parties represented in the German parliament, the Bundestag, have been busy formulating a resolution condemning anti-Semitism in Germany. There have also been calls for the creation of a new post of ombudsman on anti-Semitism.
The idea was to have the resolution ready for the 70th anniversary of the Nov. 9, 1938 Nazi pogrom against Jews. But a political row ensued, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) backing out of a joint resolution should it involve the participation of the far-left Left Party. On Friday, the CDU reached an agreement on the statement with its coalition partners, the Social Democrats, leaving other parties out in the cold.
In her Monday statement, Berger called for the idea of an ombudsman to be introduced. "The severity of the attack against the rabbi underlines the need for a government ombudsman for anti-Semitism to monitor incidents more closely and raise public awareness that anti-Semitism is an attack on democracy, she said.