80 years after Babyn Yar massacre: tools to keep the memory alive, learn the lessons

January 28, 2022

For two days, September 29 and 30, 1941, 33,771 people were exterminated. More than thirty thousand of them were Jews.
A zoom press conference was dedicated on Tuesday to the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre ahead of an event “Lessons from Babyn Yar: History, Memory and Legacy” which is jointly organised by the House of European History in Brussels and the Kiev-based Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC).
The conference, organized in cooperation with the European Jewish Asociation, discussed lessons 80 years later, as well as unveiling new and unique tools to keep the lessons, history and memory alive, including actually putting faces and names to those murdered for the first time.
Among the speakers, French Father Patrick Desbois, founder of Yahad-In Unum and head of the scholarly council of BYHMC, stressed that Babi Yar was a criminal site where the genocide of the Jewish people took place in the center of a large city in a large country (Kiev, today Ukraine).
‘’The locals willingly aided the young fascists. The gunmen were given sandwiches and tea with little vodka in it as the mass executions lasted many hours,’’ he noted.
Father Patrick asked a practical question: where did the tons of items and valuables taken from the Jews before their execution go? ‘’It would seem that everything should be documented, but it is easier to find detailed evidence and statistics of the shootings than information about the confiscated property of those killed. It was as if the Germans were embarrassed to write about such facts.’’
He added, ‘’For me, this is another terrible evidence of the Babi Yar tragedy: human life is reduced to zero. It is only the result of statistics, nothing more. Even more terrible is that the USSR, on whose territory the tragedy took place, tried to hide the truth about Babyn Yar for a long time. Nevertheless, our generation has a goal: to find the hidden facts and restore the history of this bloody genocide.’’
“I visited Raka in Syria where there was a mass grave. Journalists came, journalists went. Perhaps in 80 years there can be a debate about what is a ‘fitting’ memorial. What is important is keeping the memory and lessons alive,’’ stressed Father Desbois.
One of the panelists, Marek Siwiec, Director of European Affairs at BYHMC,  provided information about many ongoing projects, each of which can contribute to the restoration of the truth about Babyn Yar.
Colossal work has been done: out of more than 33,000 dead, 28,428 names have been identified, and essential family and personal facts have been restored. All these invaluable findings became the basis of a vast program titled “Project Names.”
‘’It brought us closer to the real life of those who were shot at Babi Yar. They say that the death of one person is a tragedy, but the death of tens of thousands is a statistic,’’ said Siwiec, who is a former member of the European Parliament.
‘’Project Names’’ allows us to turn dry statistics into pain for everyone who was left in that terrible place, who did not live, who did not love, who did not leave their continuation on earth,’’ he added.
Another project mentioned by Siwiec, “Red Dot” (Red Dot Remembrance), is unique: more than 3,000 people provided information about the WWII war crimes. This app has so far registered 2,850 sites across of Europe of the ‘Holocaust by bullets’ which enables users to see and learn what took place wherever they are.
‘’These are mass extermination sites, eyewitness accounts, evidence supported by documents, which were kept with German punctuality and pedantry throughout the war,’’ explained Siwiec.
On the Babyn Yar massacre anniversary date of 29th September, 15,000 schools in Ukraine will participate in a “lessons of the Holocaust Day”.
‘’The key word underpinning all of our activities is education. It is only through education that the tragic disasters of the past can never be repeated,” said Siwiec.
Marek Rutka, a member of the Sejm, the Polish parliament, and chairman of the parliamentary group for the commemoration of the crimes at Babyn Yar and for a Europe free from genocide and hatred, explained that members of his political party  regularly visit the sites of the Shoah executions. ‘’They see heartfelt tragedies lead to politically literate conclusions about the need to talk about the Shoah on a European scale. There is no genocide without the tolerance of neighboring countries. These words can be taken as a motto for the whole debate.’’
Anton Schneerson, who contributed this article for European Jewish Press,  is a Ukrainian Jew living in Germany. The Jewish community of his hometown, Dnipro, managed to build one of the world’s most prominent Holocaust museum that deeply covers the Babyn Yar tragedy.
 
https://ejpress.org/80-years-after-babyn-yar-massacre-tools-to-keep-the-memory-alive-learn-the-lessons/

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Belgium Government to Remove Army Protection at Jewish Institutions on 1st Sep Despite On-Going Threat Status

Head of European Jewish Association rails against decision, saying it makes ‘Zero sense’ and adding that in absence of providing alternative security arrangements, it leaves Jews “wide open with a target sign on our backs”.
Brussels 23 June 2021. In Belgium the security threat is currently medium according to the metrics provided by governments own Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (CUTA). But for Jewish Communities, as well as the American and Israeli embassies, the threat remains “serious and probable”.
It was therefore with great alarm that the European Jewish Association, through its partner organisation the Jewish Forum of Antwerp and Belgian MP Michael Freilich, learned that the Belgian government was removing army protection from Jewish buildings and institutions starting on 1st September. The decision was taken without consultation with Jewish communities and without a suitable alternative being proposed.
Army presence at Jewish Buildings has been in place since the Brussels terror attacks and Jewish Museum murders.
In a statement today, the Chairman of the European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin said,
“The Belgian Government has up until now been exemplary in its protection of Jewish Communities. In fact, we at the European Jewish Association have held up the Belgian example as one to be emulated by other Member States. For this dedication to keeping us safe and secure we have always expressed out utmost gratitude and appreciation.
Is it also because of this dedication that the decision to remove the army on September 1st makes Zero sense. Unlike the US and Israeli embassies, Jewish communities do not have access to any State security apparatus. Not only that but while the threat may be medium for Belgium, for Jews the threat is both serious and probable according to the data provided to the government by their own agency, the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis.
It is alarming too that Jewish communities have not even been properly consulted about this move. Nor is the government presently proposing any alternatives. As of now, it leaves Jews wide open and with a target on our backs.
Anti-semitism is increasing in Europe, not decreasing. Belgium, sadly is not immune to this. The pandemic, the recent Gaza operation and its fallout are worrying Jews enough as it is, without this even added to the equation. Worse, it sends a signal to other European countries to do likewise. I am urging the Belgian government to reconsider this decision or at the very least offer a solution in its stead.”
 
Rabbi Margolin has written to the Belgium Minister of the Interior, Annelies Verlinden, seeking an urgent meeting and asking for the move to be reconsidered:m v 23_6

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

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

9½ = 4

A few days ago, I received a phone call from Israel from M who claimed he was many years ago in school with one of my children. He was not the brightest of the class, but he always received high marks for Jewish subjects due to his diligence and good behavior. He called me to wish me many more years because of Sjawoe'ot and proudly informed me that he has recently obtained his education diploma and now supervises children with learning disabilities. I remember being shocked at the time that one of the mothers told me that M's 9½ should actually have been a 4 and not comparable to her son's 8.
There is no doubt that Torah study is of mayor importance. After all, we Jews are the People of the Book, of “learning”, daily and through the ages. And yet Judaism is not about the acquired knowledge. Judaism is not science, and “learning” is not studying. A high level of knowledge is not a proof of a high level of commitment.
When traveling on a train journey we know beforehand what station we want to step out.  And when we leave the train, it’s visible to everybody what the destination was.
That too is the way a good book works. In the title of the book, the beginning, in fact, the entire content is included.  And at the very end, in the last sentence or in the last word, the conclusion becomes clear and visible.
The Torah starts with the history of Creation. And our great explainer Rasjie asks an obvious question: Why does the Torah starts with the story of Creation? The Five Books of Moses are primarily intended for the Jewish People and we can only speak of the Jewish People after the Exodus from Egypt when the Torah was received on Mount Sinai. Wouldn't it have made more sense if the Torah had started with this episode and not with the creation of the world?  And Rasjie answers his own question as follows: before we start studying the Torah, we must realize and accept that there is a Creator!
The last sentence of the whole Thora tells us how Moshe broke the stone Tablets of the Ten Commandments and G'd is grateful to him for that deed! Isn’t that strange! Is this the most suitable sentence to finish the Thora?  And what was the course of Moshe breaking the Tablets which were literally a gift from Heaven? When Moshe saw that the Jews, his people, had forgotten G'd and worshiped the Golden Calf, shouldn’t he better have put aside the Tablets, go to his people and addressed them admonishing and then took back the Tablets. Why smash them? And why was G'd so pleased with Moshe's destructive act?
And again, the same answer as to the question about the story of Creation: if the Jews no longer wanted to follow Hashem our G’d Who brought them out of Egypt and instead focused on idolatry, the Torah became totally worthless and the Tablets had nothing left to offer.
The Torah is not a goal, but a means. The means to serve G’d and survive as a Jewish nation. And that's why the Torah starts and ends with that thought.
If we are aware that the Torah is the means, then we can start “learning”. And it is not about the
9½ or the 4, not about a high or a low IQ. It is about commitment, real piety and sincerity. Torah is a means, and those who see Torah as the goal they better go to study something else.
Many good, prosperous and healthy years   
גוט יום טוב
Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi
Sjawoe’ot 5781

Chanukah distribution of Menorahs and candles

Shabbat Shalom, Europe!
The EJA is happy to announce that we are distributing Menorahs and candles for various congregations across all corners of Europe!
Interested?
We kindly request that you fill in the form to be found through this link:
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Have a wonderful day!

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