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

SIR ERIC PICKLES: WITHOUT JEWS, BRITAIN WOULD NOT TICK PROPERLY

Britain would be diminished if Jews began to leave the country, Sir Eric Pickles, the United Kingdom’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday during an interview at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv.
Pickles was referring to a recent study by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which found that around 2% of British adults can be categorized as “hardcore” antisemites, and antisemitic ideas can be found at varying degrees of intensity across 30% of British society, with that number agreeing with at least one antisemitic statement about Jews.
“We need to address the casual acceptance of some of the old [antisemitic] tropes,” Pickles said. “I feel strongly about this because Judaism is a fundamental part of the British identity. If we were to see, as France has seen, Jews starting to leave the country, we would be diminished – we wouldn’t be Britain anymore. It’s not the old cliché about Jews being the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ it’s about what makes Britain tick – and without Jewish people, Britain would not tick properly.”
Pickles was in Israel to attend the sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, held in Jerusalem from Sunday to Wednesday.
Pickles said that while there is a wave of antisemitism across Europe of which Britain is not immune, “it would be a gross exaggeration to say that Jewish people in Britain are unsafe.” He noted that while there has been a rise in antisemitic incidents, most of them are nonviolent.
However, he said, “we’re not a million miles away from what happened on the continent, and we have to ensure that our population is safe.”
The latest figures released by UK antisemitism watchdog the Community Security Trust found that the number of antisemitic hate incidents in the country reached a new high in 2017.
“We do have the courage to produce these figures, which a lot of countries don’t,” Pickles said.
With regard to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Pickles says that when asked whether he thinks he is an antisemite, his response was: “I have no idea, but he should stop surrounding himself with antisemites.”
He described the Chakrabarti report – which cleared the Labour Party of charges of institutional antisemitism – as a “disgrace,” and alluded to a documentary that is in the making about information that was allegedly repressed from the inquiry.
Pickles said the situation of the Labour Party is “deeply worrying” and stressed that he is a first-generation Tory, whose great-grandfather helped found the Independent Labour Party in Bradford. “So despite the fact that I’ve been a Tory for the last 50 years, I do have some attachment [to the Labour Party] and it’s heartbreaking,” he said.
“There is a big battle going on for the soul of the Labour Party, which the extreme Left seems to have won,” he lamented.
Pickles, who used to be the chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, noted that the group has a close relationship with Labour Friends of Israel. “They’re fighting a difficult battle,” he said.
Nonetheless, Pickles is optimistic: “We will beat the antisemites.”
Britain’s fight against antisemitism, includes millions of pounds that go into protecting Jewish institutions and events every year, Holocaust education on the national school curriculum and a plan for a new national Holocaust memorial, which will stand next to Parliament and is expected to be completed by 2022.
The article was published on The JPost

2,000 people participate in the 'Never again, Thessaloniki – Auschwitz' march

To commemorate the first deportation train with 2,800 Jews from Thessaloniki, 79 years ago, the Jewish Community together with the Municipality, the European March of the Living Network and three local universities organized this Sunday, a joint silent memorial march.

More than 2,000 people led by the Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulo, the European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greek officials, Jewish Community leaders and the Director of the European March of the Living network, marched down the same road from the Jewish neighborhood to the Old train station from where they were deported to Auschwitz.

In her address, the Greek President stressed that: “Only if we pass on historical knowledge to the new generations, if we preserve historical memory, if we feel as our own the pain and suffering of the victims, if we understand that the Holocaust is a universal historical heritage, will we equip ourselves against a new onslaught of evil, possibly in another form, but always threatening and abhorrent.”

Based on that strong commitment, Michel Gourary, the Director of the European March of the Living invited the Greek President to lead a large delegation of Young Greeks to the 2023 March of the Living which will highlight the 80th Commemoration of the deportation and the annihilation of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki.

round the same time, a freshly-painted street mural in the western Greek city of Patras was inaugurated and is already drawing renewed attention to the courageous deeds of two “Righteous Among the Nations” heroes who saved Jews during the Holocaust.

The public art display, an initiative of Artists 4 Israel, in partnership with the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), honors two Greek citizens, the late Zakynthos Mayor Loukas Karrer and Metropolitan Dimitrios Chrysostomos, who, at great personal peril, protected all the Jews of Zakynthos after the Nazis occupied the island in 1943.

The mural was painted by Kleomenis Kostopoulos, the creative director of Patras-based Art in Progress. He commented, “Murals are one of the most important forms of contemporary expression and communication in public spaces. Today, more than ever, we must revisit our history in Greece by bringing it to the streets, and putting it in their faces.”

Despite the situation, delegation of ministers and parliamentarians from across Europe commemorate the Babyn Yar massacre in Kiev

The two-day visit of the delegation was organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) in partnership with the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Daywrites Yossi Lempkowicz.
“We appreciate very much that you choose to come to Ukraine despite the current situation,” said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna as she addressed a delegation of 100 senior ministers, members of parliament, diplomats and Jewish leaders from across Europe who visited Kiev to commemorate Babyn Yar, the most infamous sites of the Holocaust and to pledge to promote education of the Holocaust in schools and to fight antisemitism.
The two-day visit of the delegation was organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) in partnership with the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The initiative aims to keep antisemitism as a priority political and educational issue and ensure that the Babyn Yar tragedy is never forgotten.
Also known as the “Holocaust by bullets”, Babyn Yar saw around 34,000 Jews murdered and buried in a mass grave by the Nazis and their collaborators in two days in September 1941, and is never forgotten.
Day one saw a symposium to discuss the challenge of combating on-going antisemitism across the continent and the creation of parliamentary working groups to tackle the issue on all its forms.
Among the speakers who addressed the symposium on Monday was the Ukraine Parliament President Ruslan Stefanchuk (pictured, below), who stressed that Ukraine is the fourth country when it comes to the number of Righteous Among the Nations, those who helped Jews during WWII.

“Fighting antisemitism is an endless task which cannot be summed up to polite speeches in one day in the yearly calendar,” declared Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, during a memorial ceremony at the site of Babyn Yar.

The Ukranian parliament recently adopted al law  to fight and prevent antisemitism in the country and to commemorate the Holocaust. “Memory is the only way to fight antisemitism,” he said. “The atrocities all happened because people kept silent because fear, indifference and egoism. The study of the Holocaust is of special importance for the Ukrainians,” he added.
”Fighting antisemitism is an endless task which cannot be summed up to polite speeches in one day in the yearly calendar,’’ declared Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association.
“Significant educational work in all formal and informal educational frameworks and in civil society are needed  and they all need to be backed by concrete laws and not by mere recommendations,” he said.
Michael Sidko, last survivor of the Babi Yar massacare, who lives in Israel, shared his story with the conference attendees. He was six years old when the atrocity occurred. His mother, younger sister Clara and baby brother were shot dead by the Nazis in cold blood. He and his brother managed to escape thanks to one of the Ukrainian guards who let some children escape to the forests. Sidko asked members of parliament to return to their countries and work to teach the younger generation the story of the Holocaust and its lessons and to educate them to strive for peace and brotherhood among all peoples.
Michael Sidko, last survivor of the Babi Yar massacare
Rabbi Meir Stambler, Chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, noted that Jewish communities in the country are being renewed with the full support of the authorities. “There is a lot of dualities in relation to the nation’s heroes who were also antisemitic and we warn about that but understand that this is a nation being rebuilt after 70 years of communism. As someone who walks the streets of Kiev with all the hallmarks of a religious Jew, I must note that in Kiev I feel much safer as a Jew than Paris, Brussels. London or any other European capital,” he said,
The delegation of personalities participated in a memorial ceremony at the site of the Babyn Yar massacre where a memorial museum is being built.
https://www.eureporter.co/world/israel/holocaust/2022/01/28/despite-the-situation-delegation-of-ministers-and-parliamentarians-from-across-europe-commemorate-in-kiev-the-babyn-yar-massacre/

Simcha Shel Mitzvah, Words by Rabbi Margolin

This week I spent a lot of time going to events marking the Shoah in Brussels. They were, rightly and fittingly, solemn occasions. But here’s the thing: at every event, I found my fellow Jews talking together, smiling, sharing stories and there was even the odd joke or two.
Even at this darkest of commemorations, there was life and a celebration of the deep bond between us that transcends the shared pain and history. And it stood in stark contrast to the others present who were sombre faced and bore the weight of history in a very different way.
It seemed to me that the reminder to stay positive and rejoice in your Judaism that I tried to leave you with last week needn’t have been said, as it was clearly and demonstrably in evidence.
Because when you think of it, and you delve a bit deeper into our faith, the reason becomes clear: Joy (Simcha), is our central artery, feeding our heart and mind and driving us forward.
Moses after leading us through trying times, through hardship, rebellion and our complaining, understood us well when he said that it is our capacity for joy that gives the Jewish People the strength to endure.
Explaining to a non-Jew our holidays often ends with the cliché “they tried to kill us, let’s eat”, but this throwaway comment masks a more fundamental truth.
Let’s pick a holiday out at random…Sukkot for instance.
On Sukkot we leave the security and comfort of our houses and live in a shack exposed to the wind, the cold and the rain. Yet we call it zeman simchatenu, “our season of joy”.
Try another: Purim.
On the face of it a deeply depressing story, and yet we overcame, and boy, do we celebrate!
Time and time again, throughout our texts, we are enjoined to celebrate life, to rejoice.
Now either we are a bunch of deeply weird people who seem to thrive on adversity, orsomething deeper is going on here. You don’t need to guess what side I’m going to lean on. But let’s dwell on the ‘weird’ idea for a minute.
The founder of the Chassidic movement was once asked: “Why is it that Chassidim burst into song and dance at the slightest provocation? Is this the behaviour of a healthy, sane individual?”
The Baal Shem Tov responded with a story about a deaf man coming across a group of townspeople dancing to a musician that he hadn’t seen, and he thought they had gone mad.
The point is, without the context, such expressions of joy can appear disconcerting or perplexing.
Our context runs deep. We are commanded to Love the Lord our G-d with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. Moses as we touched upon earlier put Joy at the heart of Judaism (even as he was reading out the curses), and our Mitzvot? Well, the concept of simcha shel mitzvah, the “joy of a mitzvah,” has always been part and parcel of Jewish teachings.
Rabbi Lord Sachs, as eloquent as always, once told a story that toward the end of his life, having been deaf for twenty years, Beethoven composed one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, his Ninth Symphony. It became the West’s first choral symphony. The words he set to music were Schiller’s Ode to Joy.
Now, Ode to Joy, as any Europhiles reading this will know, is the anthem for the European Union. And Rabbi Sachs story came to mind as I was looking at the European flag at one of the events.
Because looking around the room, looking at my fellow Jews smiling, living, rejoicing in their Judaism at this tragic commemoration, and contrasting it with the others present, underlined to me not only the context I was just talking about, but how each of us, each Jew, has, as Rabbi Sachs alluded to, their own ‘ode to Joy’ within them, an ode that to those who are deaf to it might indeed appear odd, but to us comes not as second nature, but instead as the primary essence of our being.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch wrote that “The Baal Shem Tov wiped away tears from the Jewish people. He worked hard to ensure that every Jew would be happy simply because he is a Jew.”
There’s still a lot more work to be done on this by all of us, but looking around the room at those various events, it was clear to me that the joy of being a Jew remains the ‘perfect defeat’ of the Holocaust, and a reminder, if one were needed, of what a beautiful thing it is to be Jewish.
We must always continue to go out with Joy.

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
Ukraine
Turkey
Schweiz
Switzerland
Sweden
Spain
Slovenia
Slovakia
Serbia
Russia