LUCKAU, Germany — Sophie Steiert opens a bag of kosher gummy bears and offers them to 20 other German teenagers seated around her in their high school classroom.

“They’re really yummy,” Steiert, 16, says with an enticing smile. “And by the way, does any one of you know what kosher means?”

The students shrug. Most of the 17-year-olds never have met a Jewish person. In school, they’ve only talked about dead Jews: the 6 million killed by the Nazis.

For years, the Jewish community in Germany relied on Holocaust survivors to be its ambassadors. Jews who made it through the horror were the ones with the moral authority to teach young Germans about the perils of anti-Semitism and the crimes of their forefathers.

But with the number of survivors dwindling and schoolchildren today at least three generations removed from the Nazis, young Jews like Steiert are being tapped to put a modern take on an old message.

More than talking about the crimes of the past, they have been encouraged as volunteers for a school outreach program to focus on Jewish life in Germany today. The program was launched amid fresh concerns about anti-Semitism in schools and on the streets of German cities.

Enter Steiert and her friend Laura Schulmann, two girls from Berlin who want to change perceptions and challenge stereotypes as their community’s 21st–century ambassadors.

Germany’s leading Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, started the peer-to-peer education project last year. Both the program and the 90 Jewish teenagers recruited for it so far are called “likratinos,” which is based on the Hebrew word “likrat” and loosely translates as “moving toward each other.”

During a recent visit to Bohnstedt-Gymnasium high school in Luckau, a rural town nearly 62 miles south of Berlin, Steiert and Schulmann tried to approach the students’ lack of knowledge with easygoing openness.

One teen raised his hand and shared he had once seen Jews while vacationing in Austria. They all were wearing black caftans, big hats and sidelocks, he said.

Schulmann – dressed in jeans, a gray hoodie and sneakers – explained that the people he saw were ultra-Orthodox Jews adhering to strictly observant practices.

She digressed briefly to cover what else very religious Jews do or don’t do, and ended up explaining that texting and everything else one might do with a smartphone are off-limits from sunset Friday until Saturday evening, if one observes the Sabbath, or Shabbat.

“I’m not that religious,” Schulmann, the German-born daughter of Jewish-Russian immigrants, added when she saw the dismay on the students’ faces. “I use my cell also on Shabbat.”

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