Bulgarian Synagogue and Halle Memorial Targeted in Anti-Semitic Attacks in Europe

December 28, 2020

Vandals struck a synagogue gate in Bulgaria and a monument to the victims of the shooting attack last Yom Kippur near a synagogue in Halle, Germany, in a spate of unrelated incidents last week in Europe, the JTA reported.
In Bulgaria, the words “Free Palestine Israel=Nazis Antifa Bulgaria” were spray-painted Wednesday on the gate to the synagogue of Plovdiv, a city situated about 100 miles southeast of the capital Sofia.
While in Germany, in Halle, a plexiglas panel on the monument of the shooting was smashed. The vandals also tried to set fire to a flag of Israel under the Plexiglas, the Jewish Community of Halle wrote Tuesday on their social media page.
Also in Germany, in a third incident, a structure inside the Jewish cemetery of the town of Krumbach, in southern Germany, was damaged. Police are treating the vandalism as an anti-Semitic case because earlier this year, a nearby picnic table was dismantled and the wooden polls comprising it rearranged on the floor in the shape of a swastika, the website AllgaeuRechtsaussen reported Monday.
Also Monday, metal thieves removed dozens of fences and railings from around tombstones at the Jewish cemetery of Babruysk in Belarus, the news Bobruisk.ru reported.
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Jews Are Being Murdered in Paris. Again.

It’s no rare thing for the Israeli prime minister to enrage the Jews of the diaspora. But three years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech that won him near-universal condemnation.

In the aftermath of several deadly attacks in European cities like Paris and Copenhagen, Mr. Netanyahu called on Jews to leave Europe. “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country. But we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home,” he said, echoing comments he had made more subtly the month before at Paris’s Grand Synagogue.

Mr. Netanyahu’s suggestion of “mass immigration” was “unacceptable,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association. Abraham Foxman, then head of the Anti-Defamation League, suggested such a policy would “grant Hitler a posthumous victory.” Denmark’s chief rabbi, Jair Melchior, said he was “disappointed.” Smadar Bar-Akiva, the executive director of JCC Global, said “the calls for French Jews to pack their bags” and move were “disturbing and self-defeating.”

François Hollande, then president, echoing a chorus of European leaders, pushed back hard, appealing to his country’s Jews: “Your place is here, in your home. France is your country.”

Is it?

This is a question worth seriously asking following the barbaric murder last week of Mireille Knoll.

Ms. Knoll, 85, believed Mr. Hollande. France was her place, her home, her country. And Paris was her city.

She believed this despite the fact that it was also the city where, when she was 9 years old, the police rounded up 13,000 of the city’s Jews, 4,000 of them children, and crammed them into Vélodrome d’Hiver, a cycling stadium, before shipping them to their deaths at Auschwitz. Ms. Knoll narrowly escaped this largest French deportation of Jews during the Holocaust and fled to Portugal with her mother.

After the war, she married a man who had survived Auschwitz. She returned to her native land where she built a home and raised a family. French to her core, she stayed in Paris even as her grandchildren moved to Israel.

She remained in her apartment in the 11th arrondissement when, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, she was stabbed 11 times. Her apartment was then set on fire. Firefighters found the burned body on Friday night.

Parisian authorities are investigating the murder as being motivated by the “membership, real or supposed, of the victim of a particular religion.” But euphemisms should have no place in describing the nature of Mireille Knoll’s death. She was murdered by men apparently animated by the same hatred that drove Hitler.

Two suspects, a 29-year-old and a 21-year-old, have been arrested. The older man is a neighbor Ms. Knoll has known since he was a child. The younger, according to reports, is homeless. One of the suspects told the investigators that the other had shouted “Allahu Akbar” while killing Ms. Knoll, according to Le Monde. (A lawyer for the Knoll family, Gilles-William Goldnadel, confirmed that in a phone call.) On Tuesday, Gérard Collomb, the interior minister, told Parliament that one of the attackers had told the other: “She’s a Jew. She must have money.”

In fact, Ms. Knoll was “poor,” according to her son, Daniel. She’d lived most of her life in the same apartment in the subsidized housing project where she was killed.

It’s a neighborhood that has already borne witness to a nearly identical crime. Almost exactly a year ago, a 65-year-old Jewish widow named Sarah Halimi was murdered by her neighbor, 27-year-old Kobili Traoré. Other neighbors said they heard Mr. Traoré scream “Allahu Akbar” as he beat Ms. Halimi, a retired doctor, to near death in the early hours of April 4, 2017. He then threw her body into the courtyard below.

It took months for Ms. Halimi’s murder to be categorized as an anti-Jewish hate crime. “It was scandalous,” said Mr. Goldnadel, the lawyer, who also represented the Halimi family.

This time, French authorities have been quick to call the crime by its proper name. On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “I would like to express my shock at the appalling crime committed against Mrs. Knoll. I reaffirm my absolute determination to fight anti-Semitism.” On Wednesday, he said that she was murdered “because she was Jewish” at a tribute to a police officer killed in an Islamist attack. Mr. Macron has been widely praised by the country’s Jewish community for his moral clarity in describing anti-Zionism as a “reinvented form of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Semitism was supposed to be a disease of the far right. But the people actually killing Jews in France these days are not members of the National Front. They are Islamists.

“The major crimes against the Jewish community — Ilan Halimi, the Toulouse killings, the Hyper Cacher killings, Sarah Halimi — all of them have all been carried out by radicalized Muslims,” Robert Ejnes, the executive director of CRIF, an umbrella organization of French Jewish groups, told me in a call from Paris. “These young people have French identity cards, but they hate what France stands for. This is the nature of the problem we are facing. And it’s very hard to talk about.”

Here are some facts that are very hard to talk about: Jews represent less than 1 percent of the population in France, yet in 2014, 51 percent of all racist attacks were carried out against them, according to the French Interior Ministry. A survey from that year of about 1,000 French respondents with unknown religious affiliation and 575 self-identified Muslims, conducted by the AJC Paris and the French think tank Fondapol, found that the Muslim respondents were two or three times more likely to have anti-Jewish sentiments than those from the random French group. Nineteen percent of all respondents felt that Jews had “too much” political power. Among Muslims, the number was 51 percent. As for the idea that Zionism “is an international organization that aims to influence the world and society in favor of the Jews,” 44 percent of Muslims surveyed approved of this statement. The rest of the survey is just as devastating.

For years now, France has deployed armed troops to protect Jewish synagogues and schools. But the violence on the streets — a 15-year-old girl wearing the uniform of her Jewish school slashed in the face; an 8-year-old boy wearing a kippah assaulted; teenage siblings called “dirty Jews” before being beaten — hasn’t abated. On Wednesday, hours before a march in honor of Mireille Knoll, the office of the Union of French Jewish Students at the Sorbonne was ransacked and defaced with graffiti like “Viva Arafat” and “death to Israel.”

Whatever else the investigation of Ms. Knoll’s murder might reveal, this much we know for certain: The men who are accused of killing her were living in a culture in which Jews are reviled on the far right and, increasingly, on the far left; in which sensitivity toward cultural differences have driven too many for too long to ignore the spread of an ancient hatred in a vicious new form; in which attacks on Jews have been explained away as politically motivated by events in the Middle East. In such a culture, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some would come to the conclusion that Jewish blood is cheap.

In the wake of Ms. Knoll’s murder, all of the usual lines are being repeated. Anti-Semitism is the hatred that never dies. Violence that begins with the Jews never ends with them.

All of this is true. What’s also true is that anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred in the world because individual people have sustained it in every generation. It cannot be defeated until we look these people and their ideologies in the face.

Every French Jew — like millions of Jews throughout history — will have to make their own choice about whether to leave their homes for safer shores or to stay and fight for their rightful place in a country that prides itself on being a beacon of liberty and fraternity. But perhaps the better part of wisdom is with one of Mireille Knoll’s granddaughters, Noa Goldfarb. Following her grandmother’s murder, she wrote in a Facebook post from Israel: “Twenty years ago, I left Paris knowing that neither my future nor that of the Jewish People is to be found there.”

The article was published on The New York Times
 

Ambassadors are Like Rabbis: 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 and then: scroll down.
Ambassadors are like Rabbis…
Today was all about abroad. The Ambassador of Hungary had invited me to lunch at his embassy. We have known each other for a few years, meet from time to time and so again today. Reason for the visit? No. Just catching up again about kosher slaughter, which was threatening to become a problem in Poland and the relationship between Hungary and Israel.
Because it would not be exactly easy to arrange a kosher meal at the Hungarian embassy, ​we (my wife and I) invited him to lunch with us.
So,the ambassador came to Amersfoort and we not to The Hague. Not wanting to come empty-handed, he brought a huge bouquet of flowers and a bottle of kosher wine.
How did he get that wine? The ambassador called his friend Naor (the ambassador of Israel) and he arranged for a bottle of kosher Israeli wine from the IPC – the Israel Products Center – in Nijkerk to be delivered to the Hungarian embassy that morning. And because the Ambassador of Hungary did not know about the existence of the IPC, which is ten minutes from my house, I took him there after lunch. Of course I made sure that in addition to the tour and explanation about the objective of IPC and Christians for Israel, he also received a pack of cookies. Because: tomorrow the ambassador of Israel will visit the Hungarian ambassador and then it seemed nice that I then pay back the bottle of wine via a roll of kosher Israeli biscuits.
Apart from that, I gave the ambassador a mask with “I love Israel” on it, so that the Hungarian ambassador can wear it when the Israeli ambassador comes to make his appearance.
Networking is something like that. Usually it does not deliver on the spot, but is important nonetheless. Ambassadors do no different, and are a bit like rabbis, at least my kind of rabbis.
Because I believe that the rabbi is of course primarily there for the Jewish community in its full breadth. But for that Jewish community, contact with outside that community is also of vital importance, because we are part of the wider society: Noah had to leave the Ark by order of Gd!
Apart from the importance for the Jewish community, we also have a duty, in my opinion, to contribute to the well-being of the surrounding society. Yesterday I had a visit from another kind of ambassador, namely Dr. Pieter de Boer, member of the deputy Church and Israel of the CGK-Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerken- and spokesperson of the Interkerkelijke Werkgroep. That Working Group had drawn up a statement of guilt on the attitude of the churches during and shortly after the war. Today, that statement of guilt was officially released.
Although for me such a debt declaration is not really necessary, I was especially touched by the comment about what went wrong after the war. My grandfather and grandmother’s nephews and nieces were not allowed to be raised with my grandfather and grandmother, but were to remain in the Christian homes where they had been in hiding. Of course, those parents had bonded with the kids, saved their lives, but … they really hadn’t given up their murdered parents with the intention of being raised as Christians.
And whilst with the ambassador: a phone call from Ukraine. One of the rabbis was in a conflict with Christians for Israel supporting him with an adoption project. People in the Netherlands adopt a poverty-stricken Jewish family in Ukraine for € 25 per month. In Kirovograd, communication between the Dutch donors and the local rabbi did not go well. And so I get a call from the rabbi and start mediating or solving, as a kind of ambassador of whom I really don’t know, but I am somewhere in between.
After the necessary phone calls, I hope that I have been able to straighten everything out again and that it also runs smoothly in Kirovograd. What is difficult here is that the local rabbi speaks fluent Russian, but no Yiddish, poor English and not optimal Hebrew, and certainly no Dutch! But I believe I’ve been able to tie things together again. In the meantime, I am waiting for the results of an archival investigation to confirm someone’s Jewishness. I feel that it can be checked that way, but not everyone shares my opinion that (almost) everything should be tackled immediately. In principle, I always answer e-mail immediately.
As a result, I sometimes spend late at night behind that stupid computer that has been controlling my whole life!
But Good news! At least in my opinion. Because, of course, it is really not the case that a hundred listeners are more important than ten at a lecture, and the same goes for the number of readers of my diaries, still, I have to admit my weakness in this, I like that my diaries are getting wide read. And so: Good news for me! Coincidentally (although I really believe that coincidence does not exist) the EJA –European Jewish Association- saw one of my diaries, translated it with Google and asked permission to post this diary a few times a week on their website and their Facebook. And thus more readers. My diary is going European!

Eastern Europe less affected by the coronavirus pandemic

One of the lessons so far from the coronavirus pandemic in Europe is that the eastern half of the continent is less affected than the western half.  
The combined death toll to date across more than a dozen eastern countries is less than the number of fatalities on any given recent day in Italy. The highest numbers of infections are in the Czech Republic and Poland, with around 4,500 cases in each country, still a fraction of the numbers in most western European countries.
Partly this could be down to lockdown measures introduced at an early stage in the outbreak. The Czech Republic imposed a strict lockdown three weeks ago, while at the same time Poland cancelled almost all flights in and out of the country. Polish authorities were also quick to close bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools. Police vehicles with mounted loudspeakers blare recorded messages urging people to stay at home.
‘’As far as I know there are no Jews among the people who died from the coronavirus in Poland,’’ said Edward Odener, a leading member of the TSKŻ Board, the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, in a zoom conversation with the European Jewish Association. ,
TSKZ is the most important organization representing the interests of the Jewish community of the country, with 16 branches and nearly 2,000 active members, out of some 5000 affiliated Jews in the country.
TSKŻ aims to organize and to promote cultural events and Jewish art exhibitions, to consolidate and preserve the cultural heritage of Polish Jews, the Jewish culture among Jews and Poles, Yiddish language courses and publishing projects. It is is very active to preserve the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and of the Shoah.
‘’Most of the elderly Jewish people prefer to rely on their relatives if they need help during this period and are quite reluctant to ask for outside help,’’ Odoner explained.
The Synagogues have volunteers to deliver basic packages of kosher products and matsot for Pessach to the homes of those who will request it. However, there are not so many requests and Odoner presumes that they have other concerns than to keep a strictly kosher Pessach holiday.
In the country, there is no shortage of masks since they started to produce them in Poland.  ‘’Everyone can buy online any quantity of masks, also reusable ones, at an affordable price and they got it the day after their order.
Poles are for the last three weeks in strict lockdown, and Poland closed its borders for non Polish citizens and for non permanent residents since three weeks, Odoner said as he explained the fact that the country was able to contain the coronavirus.
Odoner noted that he didn’t recorded any antisemitic incident blaming the Jews for the crisis like it happened in other countries in Europe.
The article was published on the EJP

Germany establishes an anti-Semitism commissioner

Responding to the decision (for the full article please go HERE) , The head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin said in a statement:

“With a worrying rise in anti-Semitism across the European Continent, we can only applaud the German government’s decision to appoint an anti-Semitism monitor. Germany is fully aware of what can happen when anti-Semitism is allowed to ferment and grow. Their decision is therefore timely as well as courageous. It is not an easy thing to acknowledge that the oldest hatred, that many believed to be a defunct ideology never dies but just remains dormant, waiting for populism and nationalism to feed it and breathe new life into it.

‘The EJA has been at forefront of raising awareness of this rising threat across Europe, and we are delighted that the principal drivers of Europe, the German government have taken this initiative. It now falls on other European states to follow this inspiring lead and set up a European wide network of monitors to eradicate the poison that is anti-Semitism directly at its source.”

BERLIN, GERMANY – JANUARY 18: Bundestag President Wolfgang Schaeuble speaks at a memorial ceremony for late former Bundestag President Philipp Jenninger in the Bundestag plenary hall on January 18, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Jenninger served as Bundestag president from 1984 to 1988. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 

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