At least 44 dead, hundreds hurt in crush at Lag BaOmer event in northern Israel

April 30, 2021

Terrible and tragic news from Israel. Our hearts are broken at the loss of so many lives on Lag B’omer. The EJA mourns each and every life lost and extends its deepest sympathy to the families concerned. We also wish a speedy and full recovery to the many injured, some critically.

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Chief of European Jewish Association says Major EU Conference on Shechitah is “Too Little but not Too Late.”

Chief of European Jewish Association says Major EU Conference on Shechitah is “Too Little but not Too Late.”

The European Jewish Association were participants at a major gathering in Brussels of Jewish leaders, civil society leaders, jurists, politicians and special envoys at European Commission Headquarters today. 2022

Chairman of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement:

“The Conference held today by the European Commission is too little but not too late.

“We are proud to be the Jewish voice of Europe and to fight on issues that some regard as unpopular.

“We thank the Commission for agreeing to our repeated pleas and finally addressing the issue of Freedom of Religion in Europe, in this case on Religious Slaughter. It is a much-needed step in the right direction.

“However, today’s conference must not give anyone the feeling that the issue can be marked with a tick or glossed over with well-meaning words.

“We expect, going forwards, that the European Commission will make every effort to secure the support of all European governments for legislation that would enshrine the issue of religious freedom in law to ensure the continued existence of Jewish life in Europe.

“Make no mistake, the issue of the Freedom of Religion, whilst not grabbing the headlines that antisemitism does, is every bit as important. Because without this freedom to practice, and to live a Jewish life, there can be no Jewish future in Europe.

“We stand today at a crossroads, whilst conferences like this are too little, they are a reminder that it is not too late to go in the right direction.”

European Jews face new threat in wake of COVID-related anti-Semitism

Top European rabbi tells Israel Hayom a special center to monitor real-time incidents via remote feeds could be established in order to tackle anti-Jewish attacks.

The recent terrorist attacks in Austria and France, as well as the spike in coronavirus cases in Europe, has created a fear among Jews in the continent that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the spread of the pandemic could become mainstream.
A recent study in Germany showed that one in three Germans has somewhat of a conspiratorial view of the world.
Felix Klein, who is the federal commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the fight against anti-Semitism, told Israel Hayom that the recent protests against the COVID-19 regulations have become fertile ground for anti-Jewish sentiment.
“The current protests against corona-related restrictions serve as a rallying point for antisemites, Holocaust deniers, and believers in conspiracy myths. At “hygiene protests”, participants downplay the Holocaust by, for example, comparing the current requirement to wear a face mask with the obligation to wear a Star of David during the Nazi regime,” he told Israel Hayom. “Portraying themselves as rebels – as do for example the supporters of the new political party Widerstand2020 (Resistance2020) and the Reichsbürger movement – is typical of adherents to anti-Semitic beliefs: Presenting oneself as breaking taboos, as ‘finally’ bringing the truth to light, as showing at last who is pulling the strings behind the scenes – and, as has been done for thousands of years, pointing their fingers once again at Jews,” he added.
When asked about the danger posed by such conspiratorial views, he noted that there is a concern verbal statements could eventually morph into action.
“Conspiracy myths also prepare the ground for violence, as history has shown. Those who perceive themselves as victims and feel threatened can themselves turn into a threat. Anti-Jewish pogroms throughout history have been the fatal consequence of such obsessive hatred of Jews, as have the antisemitic terrorist attacks worldwide in recent years,” he said. “A recent study has shown that radicalization online takes place four times faster than offline. That is what makes it so important to quickly adjust our laws. This is the thrust of the package of measures put forward by the federal government. I am confident we can achieve a lot through a combination of repression and education. After all, what is ultimately at stake is social cohesion in times of crisis.”
Meanwhile, Jewish groups have scrambled to deal with the threat of rising anti-Semitism in the age of coronavirus. The group “Concert – Together for Israel” strives to bolster Israel’s image and fight modern anti-Semitism, says its job has been made much more difficult in the wake of the pandemic, and many pro-Israel groups are facing potential elimination.
“Generally speaking, one can say that small organizations that rely on a small staff expect a slowdown and a long recovery, but the big organizations that need a large operation worry about their long-term viability in light of the added costs,” Nava Edelstein, the group’s program director says.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association that has led a comprehensive effort to counter anti-Semitism in Europe, told Israel Hayom that he has been overseeing a “virtual command center” that gets daily updates from Jewish communities on online anti-Jewish attacks.
“We constantly see how anti-Semitic voices on the web attribute the virus to a Zionist-Jewish conspiracy, on top over other forms of anti-Semitism that involve graffiti and vandalizing of Jewish institutions,” he said, adding the largest volume of reports originates in France, Romania and Belgium.
“We are considering setting up a center that would monitor events through Jewish communities’ video feeds in real time, so that we can alert security forces when such incidents happen,” he revealed.

Stunning religious practice in Europe

If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, dealt a serious blow to ritual Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter. The court upheld a Belgian law that requires that animals must be stunned before they are killed. Neither Jewish nor Muslim law allows for stunning in the slaughter process.
Proponents of the CJEU ruling and supporters of the Belgian law assert that the stun-first approach is more humane. Critics argue that properly executed slaughter is less painful and less traumatic for the animals. Either way, the ruling is a serious setback for religious freedom in Europe. And it isn’t clear whether the ruling would also prohibit the importation of slaughtered meat that has not observed the stun-first requirement.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, urged reconsideration. “Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed,” he said.
According to the CJEU, its ruling actually protects religious practices and doesn’t prohibit any religious observance. It argued that the ruling permitted religious practices since it “allow[s] a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
That superficial analysis by the CJEU is remarkably naive and misinformed, since it improperly assumes that religious slaughter can be performed on a stunned animal. It cannot. And, besides, Jews and Muslims don’t want to “manifest” their religion — they want the freedom to practice their religions.
Two distinct elements in European society are promoting the ban on ritual slaughter. Opponents on the left are concerned about animal welfare, and see ritual slaughter as inhumane. Opponents on the far right are ultranationalists, who see Jewish and Muslim practices as alien imports to Christian Europe. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But through their issue alliance, opposition to ritual slaughter has taken on a life of its own, without regard to the sensibilities of Jews and Muslims.
According to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, had Belgium’s parliament “engaged properly with Jewish community officials before banning the practice, some satisfactory solutions could have been found, as has been the case in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the method of slaughter is not crueler or [more] painful to animals than other methods.” But no such effort was made.
Not every Jew in Europe eats kosher meat. But the availability of kosher food is one of the markers of a thriving Jewish life. In a pluralistic society, every effort must be made to enable such religious observances. If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
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House of Fates hand-over to Jews should be celebrated not belittled says EJA Head

Responding to the news that the Hungarian government has made Hungary’s Emih, Hungarian Jewry’ principal Jewish community, the custodians of the Jewish Museum “House of Fates”, the Chairman and Founder of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin welcomed the move and rounded on critics as pretending to speak for Hungary’ Jews.

In a statement Rabbi Margolin said,

“The Emih community was founded in 1877 and re-constituted in 2004. Since then it has been leading from the front when it comes to the remarkable and inspiring revival of Hungary’s Jewish community.

It counts 16 Rabbis acting on behalf of its community in Hungary’s 3 main cities. It is the only community that provides Kosher certification and performs circumcisions. It is the only community to have published, in Hungarian, a Siddur, Machzor, Haggadah and Chumash. Additionally it runs 6 synagogues and leads spiritually another 3 in Hungary. It runs a kindergarten, school, high school and University and Rabbinical college.  It also founded the most important organisation in Hungary that monitors Anti-Semitism – Action and Protection – an organisation that enjoys widespread support among Hungarian Jewry. In the upcoming year, Emih will renew another 3 synagogues in Hungary. There is no doubt that Emih is responsible for the Jewish renaissance in Hungary.

Little wonder therefor that Emih is recognised by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and that the Hungarian government has chosen it to act as custodians for this important museum. This is the first time that a government has given up voluntarily, a museum or memorial and placed it in the hands of the Jewish community. This is to be celebrated not belittled.

Anyone that is critical of this move is showing how far they are removed the community and realities on the ground. Attempts to politicise such a positive step underlines the very real need for communities like Emih, particularly as the Hungarian government is one of the few in Europe that continues to provide support and is helping to create the conditions needed for a flourishing Jewish community through its unambiguous  support for Isreal and Freedom of religion.

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