A tough week…reflections always worth reading from Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs.

November 7, 2022

While the world at large is rightly concerned about Russia-Ukraine, a years-long effort to save Levi has failed. Levi has been imprisoned in appalling conditions in a primitive country since 2016 just because he is Jewish. After years of attempts to free him with the mediation efforts of another country, that route has failed. I was a small link in that liberation campaign, one without success I was told on Friday from the US.
A feeling of helplessness takes over me. Powerlessness and incomprehension too about Ukraine and Russia. The rabbis in Ukraine are in a very difficult situation. Some have fled and are now without a source of income, mostly in Israel, neck-deep in worries. Others have stayed, and don’t really know what to do, completely at a loss as to which way it will go.
I spoke to the chief rabbi of Dnieper on the phone. He can’t leave, he told me, because the older members of the congregation can’t leave either. There isn’t a single hair on his head that contemplates leaving his community, of abandoning his (sinking?) ship, as long as the majority of his crew members and passengers cannot or do not want to take that escape route.
More and more I think about my parents and their generation and the decisions they had to make to survive. My parents made the right decisions and that is why I exist and the second generation exists. But the great majority of then made the wrong decision and literally and figuratively had no way out. At the time, many thought that everything would not go so smoothly and that the Netherlands, like in World War I, would be able to escape the macabre dance again
And since I already started this new week from a low point, I can add something to it. Some of the Ukrainian rabbis or teachers have fled and are now elsewhere in Europe. They thought they could dedicate themselves to the Jewish Ukrainians who also fled to become their rabbi again, as it were, but outside of Ukraine. But it’s not all that simple. The interest in maintaining Jewish contacts is very low for the vast majority of people. For most, Judaism was a ticket to get away and seek shelter. But now that they’re gone and the first shelter is over…
Whether it is war or not, man remains human in times of war and also in his selfish behaviour. Some of the rabbis I know from Ukraine really couldn’t go back and are now in Israel, caring for their Ukrainians in the Holy Land. And I can again be a small link to financially support those rabbis and therefore be a part of their commitment, as it were. The rabbis who really can’t go back because their congregations have been totally destroyed are also supported. The stragglers too. But that in-between group? To return or not to return? And what about wife and children? That intermediate group is having a hard time, because they are either viewed as heroes or/and as traitors.
By the way, amidst the gloom, I also received a nice message. A Jewish-Dutch family that has been trying to settle in Israel for more than a year has finally managed to go through the long bureaucratic road of forms and signatures and can now finally make Aliyah. And another positive message is my appointment as a jury member. You see: no complaints about rabbinical variety. You may remember the discussion about the German war cemetery in Ysselsteyn. The result, after many discussions and meetings, was that a
monument was erected in memory of the 102,000 Jews, Roma and others who were not allowed a grave, unlike the murderers. Six artists can give a presentation of ‘their’ artwork and I will be one of the jury members. And so, I will be in Ysselsteyn on November 22. You will read about it here first!

Additional Articles

European Commission partners with IHRA

Today, the European Commission is becoming a permanent international partner to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The participation of the EU in this international body will allow closer cooperation on combating Holocaust denial and preventing racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
This is a direct follow-up to President Juncker’s call for closer international cooperation in his statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, this 27 January, as well as the European Parliament’s resolution on combating Antisemitism of June 2017.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “With a decreasing number of Holocaust survivors and at a time when Antisemitism is on the rise, we need to foster the memory of the darkest chapter in our history. The EU joining the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will help promote understanding so that future generations will heed the lessons of our past.”
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová added: “This commitment is part of our wider effort to fight against Antisemitism. Our involvement in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has special importance at a time when Holocaust denial is spreading.”
Today, at the plenary meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism will officially accept the role. As a result, the Commission will represent the EU in this body, which provides expertise on Holocaust denial, distortion or Antisemitism.
It will give the Commission access to the expertise of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Groups on education, particularly on key challenges like multi-cultural and multi-religious classrooms and inclusive remembrance. More information on the Commission’s work on combatting Antisemitism can be found online here.

After Holocaust law, Poland moves to ban kosher slaughter

The lower house of the Polish parliament is expected to vote this week on a new bill on animal welfare, which includes restrictions on Jewish slaughter and kosher meat exports that could affect many of Europe’s Jewish communities as well as meat prices in Israel.
After the controversy created by the law banning people from accusing Poland of Holocaust atrocities committed by the Nazis, the country’s ruling party has submitted a new bill restricting kosher slaughter and threatening anyone who violates the restrictions with up to four years in prison.
The new restrictions are included in a 48-page general bill on animal welfare, which the lower house of the Polish parliament is expected to vote on this week.
The restrictions include a ban on exporting kosher meat from Poland, which is expected to affect many of Europe’s Jewish communities, as well as meat exports to Israel. Some of Israel’s supermarket chains import and sell kosher meat from Poland, increasing the competition in the Israeli meat market. A drop in meat exports from Poland could lead to a hike in meat prices in Israel.
The bill also seeks to ban slaughter when the animals are in an “unnatural state”—in other words, when the animal isn’t standing on all four feet, making a kosher Jewish slaughter practically impossible. According to European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, “Kashrut laws forbid to apply any pressure on the knife to protect the animal from unnecessary pain. Preventing this pressure is impossible when the animal is standing with its head leaning heavily on the knife.”
Vowing to fight the new bill, Margolin called on the Israeli government to stipulate an amendment of the slaughter law as part of an agreement between the two governments.
“These restrictions on kosher slaughter are in complete contradiction to the principle of freedom of religion of the European Union,” the rabbi said. “The situation in Poland is unacceptable. I call on the government in Poland to avoid enacting this shameful law and to take into account that the Jewish people’s faith in the Polish leadership is deteriorating. I can’t imagine what the next stage will be after the Holocaust law and imposing restrictions on kosher slaughter in the country.
According to Rabbi Margolin, the new restrictions will make it impossible to perform a kosher slaughter in Poland. “There are people who have invested a lot of money in building kosher factories and slaughter houses, and now this shocking law comes along and puts an end to it. There is an unclear desire here to exclusively harm kosher slaughter and limit kosher meat exports. They are failing to explain the logic of the law. Populism and nationalism are skyrocketing and creating wars with the Jews for political purposes.”
The Polish parliament banned kosher slaughter in 2013, but the decision was struck down by the constitutional court. The judges accepted an EJA petition and ruled that the Polish law contradicted the principle of freedom of religion.
The Article was published on Ynet website

jpost

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola receives King David Award

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Monday was awarded the King David Award by the European Jewish Association for “her support to the Jewish community in Europe,” the multinational body announced.

Metsola received the award after she visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to commemorate victims of the Holocaust.

During the visit, Metsola laid a wreath at the Death Wall and attended a memorial ceremony, the European Parliament said.

“I struggled to comprehend how a quiet part of the world, surrounded by beautiful Birch trees, provided the setting for the worst crimes man has ever seen,” Metsola said, adding that the entire world must know the “horror that stems from indifference.”

Metsola added that the King David Award “will serve to me as a continuous reminder of those heinous crimes committed against humanity in the past and to recall the importance of speaking up in defense of our common values today.”

jpost

SUCCESSES IN THE FIGHT AGAINST ANTISEMITISM

It should become a tradition to not only publish major antisemitic slurs at the end of each year. There is now also a possibility to publish successes in the fight against antisemitism.

In 2018, there were a variety of important actions against antisemitism. Summarizing the main ones at the end of the year provides some counterweight to the annual report of the worst antisemitic incidents — regularly increasing in pages — published now for a number of years by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
One important development is the expanding acceptance of the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition (IHRA). One cannot try to fight antisemitism effectively unless there is a common measure of what it entails. By now the IHRA antisemitism definition had been formally adopted for internal use by the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Scotland, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, Lithuania and the formerly Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It has also been accepted by a wide array of others such as universities and towns including the cities of London and Berlin.
A second substantial development was successes in the fight against the BDS movement which aims to delegitimize the State of Israel. Legal measures play an important role in hampering BDS. In November 2018, Kentucky became the 26th American state to pass legislation to ban awarding state contracts to companies that endorse the BDS movement. The governors of all 50 US states have signed a declaration condemning the BDS movement as antithetical to American values. Chile has recently forbidden its municipalities to boycott Israel by aligning themselves with the BDS movement as a reason not to conduct business with Israel. Various municipalities in Spain have also tried to apply BDS to their practices. However, a number of courts have voided these measures, for instance, in Barcelona.
Yet another positive development is the appointment of antisemitism commissioners in Germany. This occurred at the national level but also in a variety of federal states. National commissioner Felix Klein has already addressed many aspects and incidents of antisemitism in Germany. He has, for instance, indicated that he intends to tackle the political distortion of reported statistics of antisemitic acts. Crimes against Jews by unknown perpetrators are registered as having been committed by extreme right-wingers, while attacks on Jews by Muslims are far more numerous than what is recorded. Among the state commissioners, Ludwig Spaenle of Bavaria has initiated a monitoring function that is slated to become operational next year.
The European Commission had already in 2015 appointed Katharina von Schnurbein as the coordinator for combating antisemitism. She has undertaken various initiatives, however has not been given anywhere near adequate resources to fulfill her task in exposing the massive antisemitism among the more than 500 million EU citizens.
A fourth important development is the increasing assurance of the security of synagogues and other Jewish institutions. Switzerland has been extremely negligent in this area. Finally this year, the first Swiss city, Basel, belatedly decided to join this process and assign police officers to guard the synagogue. This is an important precedent and challenge for other towns in the country.
A fifth important development is the publication of additional studies on antisemitism. In December, the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) released a report it claims is the largest study on antisemitism ever undertaken. It investigated twelve European Union countries and is titled: “Experiences and Perceptions of Antisemitism.” The study found that the most common antisemitic statement encountered by Jews in Europe is that Israelis behave like Nazis toward the Palestinians. Muslim antisemitism is mentioned as the dominant identified source of harassment of Jews in Europe. It is followed by left-wing antisemitism and right-wing antisemitism. It is a Europe-wide problem that due to poor follow up, most victims of antisemitic incidents do not complain to the authorities.
There are many other incidental or smaller issues of importance. One was a French manifesto against Muslim antisemitism that was signed by 250 Jewish and non-Jewish personalities. This document sums up the main elements of violence and incitement against Jews emanating from parts of this immigrant community. One can only hope next year others will follow in those footsteps and expose what a variety of European governments try to hide or whitewash. Fifteen years too late, French President Emmanuel Macron has formally accepted that the murder of Jewish disk jockey DJ Sebastien Sellam in 2003 by a Muslim neighbor was an antisemitic act.
The Council of the European Union (EU) approved the first declaration of its kind to fight antisemitism and strengthen the security of Jewish communities in Europe. Outgoing US Ambassador Nikki Haley castigated the UN saying, “We will not tolerate a situation that a world body of 198 countries can spend half their time attacking one country: Israel.”
British media such as The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph have exposed the substantial antisemitism in the British Labour Party, which is led by Jeremy Corbyn, a friend of genocidal terrorists, associate of Holocaust deniers, anti-Israel inciter and part-time antisemite.
There are many other meritorious acts against antisemitism by individuals. Alyssa Milano refused to speak at the Women’s March in the US after two of its leaders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour refused to break ties with the leading US antisemite Louis Farrakhan. Another important development was the firing of extreme anti-Israel inciter Marc Lamont, by CNN.
It should become a tradition to not only publish major antisemitic slurs at the end of each year. There is now also a possibility to publish successes in the fight against antisemitism.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The article was published in The JPost

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