COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

November 13, 2020
Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl
Inspired by a wise old lady who very carefully asked my opinion about insulting people, for example in a cartoon, I came to the conclusion that freedom also needs boundaries.
 
The first question is, of course, what is insulting? I read recently in a paper that “It is to be feared that airline (ELAL) policy will only become more orthodox”. What’s the meaning of this? And what is Orthodox?
 
To obey the law or not, if that is what is meant by orthodox, is not the same as good or bad. I remember Gerhard and Beppie Caneel, survivors of the war. Good, sweet, gentle people through and through. Both came from the war seriously damaged and yet always cheerful.
 
They came to the shul every Shabbat, but otherwise they did not really live according to Jewish law. My Judaism is my heart, Gerhard often said. And that was a visible truth. But they were considered Orthodox by members of the congregation who only appeared in the synagogue on the High Holidays, that is, three times a year.
 
And people who only entered the synagogue on the Day of Atonement thought those High Holiday Jews were orthodox and me probably very orthodox.
 
In other words: who sets which boundary where? And the most important question: should there be boundaries? Why all those boxes? I am Jewish and just as Jewish as Beppie and Gerhard. And whether I am good? That is determined Above! But I know 100% that Beppie and Gerhard were good people through and through. And so I find “the fear that the ELAL will become more orthodox” a polarising statement. And polarisation is dangerous, whether in word or image.
 
And so I asked some survivors what they think about that wise old lady’s concern about consciously insulting believers. All survivors I approached shared her view that there should be limits to free speech. Everyone may think that his way of thinking is the only correct one, but there must be room for others to have a different opinion. If I condemn a different religion or way of life in razor-sharp words, it should be possible. But if my conviction calls for killing or discriminating against the other, then I must be called to order and put under lock and key because of sedition.
 
But what if I just insult? If that is allowed, why are we, as a Jewish community, so excited about the floats in Aalst? Anything and everything is possible, right?
 
Some years ago I was confronted with an educational audiovisual program from the churches. The images were formed with sand. There were images and a narrator. The subject was the origin of Christianity. Supporters and opponents of the new religion were all Jews.
 
But in the broadcast, the opponents had long noses, all looked very angry and gave the impression that they were bad people. How will those images affect the youthful viewers of that program? We went to the makers of the program with a minister friend, with the result that they adjusted the entire program. Their intention was absolutely not to incite hatred! I am a staunch fanatical super ultra-orthodox advocate of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But what if violence ensues as a result of being insulted?
 
What then? That old wise lady is of the opinion that insulting is also wrong. I share her opinion.
 
I find it unacceptable to destroy fellow human beings spiritually, deeply hurting them. And so I can protest against the float in Aalst because I experience it as insulting.
 
The Jew with a long nose, tons of money and dollar signs. I can also go to court. But violence against a float that proclaims a message that I find dangerous, taking the law into your own hands or calling for the right to take into your own hands: no way!
 
And so I think that old wise lady, herself a survivor of the Shoah, is right. Anything and everything is allowed, but not unlimited. And that is why I was so delighted that I was allowed to lay a wreath in front of the Jewish monument with Mayor Marcouch in Arnhem last Sunday, despite corona.
 
An Islamic mayor and a Jewish rabbi stood hand in hand (because of corona only in spirit) to demonstrate that what could happen then must never happen again. And a few hours later, during the virtual commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Protestant Churches declared loud and clear in a statement that together, from a deep sense of belonging, we will fight against anti-Semitism and for friendship.
 
Freedom of expression, of the press, of belief: Certainly. But…with limits!

Additional Articles

#LightingEurope

We hope you all had the chance to light the candles yesterday with your loved ones and maybe have a Sufganiya or two…
Many have joind us yesterday to spread the light on social media as well under the #LightingEurope campaign…
There are still 7 days to go and much light to bring all across Europe.
Join us today and the days after! all you have to do is post a pictue with your menorah and use the hashtag #LightingEurope.
Happy Chanukah!

BRUSSELS PARLIAMENT WON’T BAN KOSHER SLAUGHTER – EUROPEAN JEWISH ASSOCIATION CHAIRMAN APPLAUDS DECISION

“Where Brussels has led, others must follow”, says EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, adds “thank goodness for 3 Parliaments in Belgium.”

 

(Brussels 17 June). In a closely contested vote (42 against, 38 for) the Brussels Parliament has just voted not to ban Kosher slaughter in the Capital Region.

 

The move represents a victory for Jews in the Belgian Capital and stands in contrast to both Flanders and Wallonia (Belgium’s other regions) where bans on Kosher slaughter are in place.

 

Welcoming the vote, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the Chairman of the European Jewish Association that represents hundreds of communities across the Continent, and whose offices are headquartered in Brussels said in a statement:

 

“After a steady stream of bans across Europe that has left many communities bereft of local Kosher meat and having to shoulder the increased expenses of importing meat, we applaud this vote by Belgium’s Capital Parliament.

 

“The expense of course is of secondary concern to the overwhelming feeling from communities across the continent that their faith and traditions are constantly under threat by ill-though out , or malign legislation. 

 

“It is not said too often, but thank goodness for 3 parliaments in Belgium. There are few bastions left where Freedom of Religion is still considered a fundamental right. As a citizen of Brussels, I am proud that the capital is such a bastion. Where Brussels has led, others must now follow”.

Cyprus police bills Jewish congregation €5000 for Chanukah protection

European rabbis say the move is a ‘new low’
A Jewish community in Cyprus reacted with surprise after they were billed more than €5,000 for the police protection provided at their Chanukah celebrations.
An estimated 500 people took part in the December 5 event in Larnaca, but the community later received a bill for €5,386.10 (£4,838.25), which the European Jewish Association called a “new low”.
In a letter to Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides, EJA chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said: “I am well used to dealing and responding to challenging situations.
“But this decision to charge the Jewish population for their own security marks a new low, and one that I sincerely hope was a clerical mistake or administrative oversight on behalf of the police.”
Rabbi Margolin said the bill should be written off immediately.
The Jewish community must assured “immediately” that they would not be charged for security and protection in the future, he wrote.
His letter added: “there were many Chanukah events all over Europe in which the local police offered protected — as they do at any public event — and this is the first time we hear that the police asking to be paid for doing their job.”
The JC contacted the Cyprus High Commission in London for comment.
Minister angelides letter

 
POLICE SECURITY INVOICE[2]

 

Greetings for the Upcoming Rosh HaShanah by President of the Cyprus, H.E. Mr. Nicos Anastasiades

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