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

January 28, 2021

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:
Eli, Mazal Tov!
Our grandson Eli turned three! My daughter, his mother, blew up 150 balloons for it and it turned into a drive-in party. I'll come back to it in a moment.
We are plagued here in Holand by rioters, detritus. Of course the riots are served up with a side order of ‘rational’ sauce.
The youth do not feel heard, the vaccine is not good and there will be more explanations as to why this looting is taking place. Cars are set on fire, windows smashed, police cars overturned. Polygamy must be allowed and forced prostitution is acceptable. And at the same time we speak with justified horror and disgust about glitterati such as Epstein, Weinstein and fashion king Jean-Luc Brunel who, despite their criminal lives, could and were allowed to afford themselves anything.
If everything is allowed and everything is possible, is it any wonder that this kind of criminally smelly rich activity goes on and on ?! Morality is totally lost. Is there a new phenomenon?
In the Pirke Avot, the ethics of the Fathers, we read (3: 2) that we should pray for the welfare of the royal family because if there is no authority people devour each other alive. And that is exactly what is happening now. Anarchy and therefore aimless looting, burning cars, blocking entrances to hospitals and completely destroying individual hard-working people.
As it was really unimaginable six months ago that the Capitol in the USA could be penetrated, it is no longer inconceivable in our own peaceful polder country that something like this could also happen here in our government buildings. I cannot imagine that this is not yet taken into account by the police. At the German cemetery in Ysselsteyn, an educational centre is being set up that shows how easily people can be transformed into inhuman beings. There, SS killers and Dutch traitors lie buried next to regular soldiers who were often forced, against their will, to go to war they absolutely did not want. But many of them, still young, were brainwashed and believed that good is bad and that there are Aryans and Jews, Humans and Superman.
I am convinced that ten or twenty years from now, most rioters will look back with horror at the present and be filled with shame.
By coincidence (although coincidence really does not exist!) I came across a speech I gave in 2010 on the occasion of 65 years of liberation:
“Freedom is not everything is allowed and everything is possible and freedom does not mean that we can and must tolerate everything. Freedom has limits and requires individual commitment, training, education and respect for others. Freedom cannot tolerate everything, freedom has its limitations, freedom starts with you, with me, for the sake of all of us.
They fought for freedom
For then, for tomorrow and for the present
But if freedom means, everything is possible and everything is allowed
And respect is disappearing for Government and for authority
When values ​​and norms fade and disappear
When people only think of themselves and their own
And for the other there is no place and there is no place
If it is common to think that it should
Then the freedom of that time is not the freedom of the present
Isn't it the freedom they fought for?”
I don't want to include the 1940s-45s. Despite the riots, despite comparisons that might be drawn, we have a Government that may not be excellent with respect to Corona, but it is reliable. Rutte can absolutely not be compared to any villainous potentate. He is a good person who wants to do what is right for his citizens.
However, I would like to mention that today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. That Holocaust also started with looting, brainwashing, indoctrination, maleficent education.
My grandson Eli who lives in Montreal turned three today. There is a custom not to cut a boy's hair until his third birthday because man is compared in the Torah to a tree in the field. And just as the fruit of the tree must be left untouched for the first three years, so too, the hair is not cut until the boy is three. Eli has received presents, put money in the Tzedaka (charity) box , he was allowed to say aleph beit and lick the letters that were smeared with honey. Tomorrow he will be wrapped in a tallit and carried into the Jewish school and sweets will be thrown at him.
Obviously, corona is a bummer here, but I am convinced that my son-in-law and daughter will do everything as normal as possible while respecting the corona rules. So Eli is raised from day one with positive thoughts, deeds and gifts. He will not get a pistol or a frightening dragon from his grandpas and grandmas. We gave him, via zoom, his own kiddush cup, a small one of course. He is now wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit.
And so, his parents invest from a very young age in his Jewish upbringing and pray daily that Eli may continue to follow the right path, the way of Torah and Tradition, so that he will be a blessing not only for his own family but also for the society as a whole.
Eli, Mazal Tov!

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הרב מנחם מרגולין: ״האיחוד האירופי מתעלם מפגיעה בחופש הדת של יהודים באירופה״

אנחנו מברכים כל יוזמה שמטרתה לעשות משהו חיובי למען המאבק באנטישמיות״, אמר הרב מרגולין בתחילת הכנס השנתי של מנהיגי הקהילות היהודיות באירופה, הנערך בבריסל. ״אבל, נראה שהנציבות בחרה לעסוק במשימות הקלות ביותר, ולהימנע מעימות עם מדינות שאינן מתאמצות להיאבק באנטישמיות.

"אנחנו מאשימים פוליטיקאים שמעדיפים להנציח את האנטישמיות לצרכים פוליטיים. אנחנו מאשימים מנהיגים, שמסתפקים בנאומים ובהשתתפות בטקסי זיכרון, אבל מתעלמים מהבעיות האמיתיות של יהודים כיום״. הרב מרגולין התייחס ליוזמות גוברות ברחבי האיחוד האירופי לאסור שחיטה כשרה ומילת ילדים.
איגוד הארגונים היהודיים באירופה מפרסם היום מצידו תוכנית, עם הצעות מעשיות לאיחוד האירופי להגברת המאבק באנטישמיות ובאנטי-ציונות, בהתאם להגדרת האנטישמיות הבינלאומית. האיגוד פרסם במטהו בבריסל מסמך המכונה ״עשרת הדיברות למאבק באנטישמיות״, הכולל המלצות מפורטות לצעדים מעשיים שלא ננקטו עד כה למאבק באנטישמיות.
המסמך קורא לאיחוד האירופי להטיל עונשים וקנסות כספיים כבדים על חברות המפעילות רשתות חברתיות, שאינן מסירות במהירות תכנים אנטישמיים ברורים, כמוגדר בהגדרת האנטישמיות הבינלאומית. הגדרה זו כוללת גם כללים ברורים להתייחסויות אנטישמיות כלפי ישראל. המסמך קורא לאיחוד האירופי גם לסגור חשבונות ברשתות חברתיות של פרטים וגורמים שבאופן קבוע מקדמים תכנים אנטישמיים.
המסמך של איגוד הארגונים היהודיים קורא לאיחוד האירופי לעודד מדינות-חברות לאסור פעילות של ארגונים לא ממשלתיים, וקבוצות הפועלות משטחן, לקדם, לתמוך או לגלות סובלנות כלפי אנטישמיות - בכלל זה אנטישמיות אנטי-ישראלית. כמו כן, נקראות חברות האיחוד האירופי ללכת בעקבות הממשל האמריקני ומדינות נוספות, ולהעביר חקיקה שאוסרת איסוף תרומות או תמיכה בארגונים הפועלים לקידום חרמות על ישראל.
האיחוד האירופי נקרא מצידו לגבש הנחיות ברורות למדינות ושטחים שמקבלים מימון מהאיחוד כדי לייצר התניה שתחייב מאבק בגזענות, אנטישמיות והפליה.
ג׳ואל מרגי, נשיא הקונסיסטואר היהודי בצרפת, הדגיש בתחילת הכנס שבכמה ממדינות האיחוד האירופי יש עדיין בעיה גדולה לדבר על האנטישמיות של האסלאם הרדיקלי. ״זו האנטישמיות שרוצחת היום באירופה. הרציחות באות מהאסלאם הקיצוני. יש הסכמה במדינות שונות בין מוסלמים ויהודים, שחווים יחדיו הטלת מגבלות על המסורות הדתיות שלהם, ויש מוסלמים שנלחמים באסלאם הקיצוני.

"התחזקות הימין הקיצוני בגלל המאבק שלו באסלאם הקיצוני לא צריכה להוות פיתוי עבור הקהילות היהודיות״. מרגי תקף בהקשר זה את העיתונאי והסופר היהודי-צרפתי, אריק זמור, ששוקל להתמודד על נשיאות צרפת. זמור, בעל הדעות הביקורתיות ביותר כלפי האסלאם וההגירה המוסלמית לצרפת ואירופה, שהואשם ע״י כמה בתי משפט בצרפת בהסתה לגזענות, הוא לדברי מרגי ״איש ימין קיצוני, שאינו מייצג את ערכי היהדות.
״בתקופה שבה האסלאם הקיצוני מתחזק, לא צריך לנצל את הקהילה היהודית כדי לחזק את הימין הקיצוני. צריך להיאבק בכל סוגי האנטישמיות והשנאה״.


Meeting in Brussels paves the way for European Jewish Association to make case against the Bill in Icelandic Parliament in weeks ahead

In what was described by European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Margolin as a “fruitful and constructive” meeting with Her Excellency Mrs. Bergdís Ellertsdóttir at the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels today, the Ambassador said that the Circumcision Bill was not a government backed initiative.  

The Ambassador and her deputy also suggested that Rabbi Margolin should continue dialogue and make the case against the Bill at the Parliament in Iceland, an offer that will be taken up in the weeks ahead.

Speaking after today’s meeting Rabbi Margolin said:

“The Ambassador had a very common-sense and pragmatic approach to this issue, and her words were very re-assuring. It is clear from this meeting that this is a party-led initiative and not one that enjoys the initiative or direct support of the Icelandic Parliament as a whole. This on it’s own is a good start.

‘It is our intention is to dialogue directly with Icelandic Parliamentarians and with the Committee responsible in Iceland in the short weeks ahead.

‘Our expressed concern to the Ambassador is the origin of such legislation, given that it only affects, at best 3 Icelandic children per year who would be circumcised for the purposes of the Jewish faith. Why is a such a bill is even required in the first place? It reeks of the type of populism that is all too sadly manifesting itself across the European Continent at the present time. Her Excellency assured us that our remarks would be reported directly back to the Government in Iceland

“The import of such legislation ever becoming law is that it sets precedence for other European nations, and normalises the branding of the entire Jewish population as “criminals” for performing this important, vital and precious rite of ours. It cannot and will not be allowed to happen.” 

To watch a video of Rabbi Margolin speaking about the meeting click on the picture.

New Cooperation with the Jewish Community of Bratislava

The European Jewish Association is proud and delighted to welcome another organisation to our growing roster of partners and communities.
We have just concluded and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jewish Community of Bratislava
Bratislava was in the past one of the most important centers of Jewish Life in Europe and has a very rich Jewish Heritage and amongst them: The Chatam Sofer Memorial and two Jewish Museums
When two dynamic and active Jewish organisations get together and agree to work closely with one another, beautiful and important things flow from this. We look forward to working for the betterment of Slovakian and European Jewry together.

Protesters mass in France, Israel, UK to demand justice for Sarah Halimi

In France, some 25,000 demonstrate against court decision that Jewish woman’s killer was too stoned to be held criminally responsible
Protesters gathered in Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and London on Sunday to demonstrate against the ruling of France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman in the French capital was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.
Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, was pushed out of the window of her Paris flat to her death in 2017 by neighbor Kobili Traore, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
But in a decision earlier this month, the Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore cannot stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions.
Some 25,000 protesters, many of them Jewish, gathered in Paris to demand justice for Halimi.
Under the banner of “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” the rally at Trocadero Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower reflected the widespread indignation of many French Jews at the April 14 ruling by their country’s highest court.
It was held under tight security arrangements in a cordoned-off enclosure where the Jewish umbrella group CRIF played a video on a giant screen in which French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demanded another “trial of facts,” even if it ends without sentencing of Traore.
The rally Sunday was the first time in decades that a large number of French Jews gathered to protest against organs or actions of the French state.
“The clamor has risen and hope has returned. That hope is all of you here,” Halimi’s brother William Attal told a crowd of several thousand at the Trocadero esplanade in Paris.
The MP who leads Macron’s Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner, addressed the protest, which was also attended by opposition leaders and by several well-known actors.
Jacques Essebag, a French-Jewish comedian who is known by the stage name Arthur, in a video message said he has “decided to start using drugs because in France you can do whatever you want, even kill your neighbor if you don’t like her, if you use drugs.” He then added: “What has become of this country?”
Former French first lady Carla Bruni, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, also appeared at the Paris rally, as did Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who said the city would soon name a street in Halimi’s memory.
“It will also be a way of doing her justice,” Hidalgo said.
However, the video message from Hidalgo, a Socialist politician, provoked whistles and booing from many protesters at the event, which did not feature live speeches due to COVID-19 measures.
Organized by the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, the rally was called “to show our astonishment at a decision that conforms to the law, but not to justice,” CRIF said.
The event featured many French and Israeli flags, and those of the far-right Jewish Defense League.
More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Paris, and up to 2,000 took part in a march in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, police said, while around 600 gathered outside a synagogue in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Three protests were also held in Israel, all taking place at 3 p.m. in order to coincide with the demonstration by the Jewish community in Paris. The main demonstration was in front of the French Embassy on Herbert Samuel Street in Tel Aviv.
The Jewish community in the United Kingdom also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in London on Sunday at 1 p.m., in solidarity with the community in France. Attendance was limited because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to the rally in Paris, protest rallies were planned to take place on Sunday in Marseille, Strasbourg and Lyon. Abroad, rallies were scheduled to be held in Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami in the United States as well as in Rome, Italy.
Some Jewish organizations have used harsh language about the case, including the conservative Europe-Israel group, which called it “the new Dreyfus Trial.” It’s a reference to the anti-Semitic treason charges leveled at a French-Jewish soldier in 1894, and which many to this day believe showed that French society and European societies, in general, were too anti-Semitic to allow Jews to truly integrate.
Israel blasted the decision of the French court last week.
“Sarah Halimi was murdered for clearly anti-Semitic motivations, for the sole reason that she was a Jew,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat told The Times of Israel. “This was a despicable murder that harmed not only the victim herself and her family, but also the entire Jewish community’s sense of security.”
“The way to confront anti-Semitism is through education, zero tolerance, and heavy punishment,” Hayat continued. “This is not the message that the court’s ruling conveys.”
Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building’s roof in April 2017. (Courtesy of the Halimi family)
Critics of the ruling cited apparent composure by Traore, an immigrant from Mali who was 27 when he killed Halimi, a physician in her 60s. Traore, whom a lower court said targeted Halimi because she was Jewish, called her a demon as he pummeled her in her third-story apartment, which he entered by force.
He then threw her out the window and shouted: “A lady fell down from the window!” to cover up his actions, witnesses said. He left the scene, allegedly to escape it, and was arrested on a nearby street.
Others argue that even if Traore was psychotic, he was criminally liable when he took the drugs that made him psychotic and should therefore stand trial. He has no documented history of psychiatric problems.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would advance legislation to prevent criminals from avoiding trial by using an insanity defense for actions committed under the influence of drugs.
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