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

June 1, 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: https://niw.nl
Every day in my e-mail box I receive statements of support like this: “I would like to wish you a lot of strength and wisdom because of the hatred for Jews that is raging throughout Europe. It all started in the 3rd century when the Church Fathers changed the policy by excluding the Jews. Lies they made up back then are still going around. My heart weeps, and I pray for you and all the Jews, that the Lord will protect you all. ”
Today should have been an ordinary day. From 9:00 am - 11:00 am I had my annual guest lecture at a Theological University, then a visit to a seriously ill woman in hospital, then home to answer emails, followed by an online meeting about kosher slaughter with a European Commissioner, a pastoral meeting at my house, ticket booking for grandson's bar mitzvah in the US and then some chores to finish the day. I would end it with a brisk walk with a good friend and then, as a kind of ritual closing of the day writing my diary. But it went differently than planned. I usually have good control over myself emotionally. But today I didn’t. It started with the emailed statement of support that hit home hard the reality of rampant anti-Semitism, with the result that when I was asked about the situation in Israel during my guest lecture, I expressed myself too emotionally: After I delivered it, I received the following message from an Assistant Professor: “Thank you for your impressive lecture. But we were shocked by your remark that if you weren't Chief Rabbi, you probably would already have moved to Israel. The image you painted of a captain prevented from leaving a sinking ship was as shocking as it was telling in that regard. Thank you for the open, personal and vulnerable tone of the conversation, which also touched me personally. Strength and wisdom in championing the importance of a safe place for the Jewish people in our country,” I don't know if I should have expressed myself in that way, because in the end I have no intention of allowing myself to be expelled from my native country, which I have been a part of for at least ten generations. But the recent hatred was so visceral, so all pervading, that it exhausted my usual high levels of enthusiasm.
The European Union Commissionner was friendly and politically correct. She will stand up for kosher slaughter, but I did not get the impression that the antisemitism, which forms the basis of the attempted ban by Poland, was felt by her. This did not add to my mood I must say. And so again, in my view, I made a mistake and mentioned that in my daughter's street in London loudspeakers were heard calling on the rape of Jewish women and girls as part of protests. It is a pity that one even needs to mention and underline the obvious to make the point. But let us go back to animal welfare for a moment on which kosher slaughter is under scrutiny. If there is one religion that attaches great importance to animal welfare it is my own. Why not tackle the real and demonstrable animal suffering: the transporting across hundreds or thousands of kilometres of animals? In any case, why on earth are we discussing animal welfare while antisemitic slogans are being shouted at across Europe during anti-Israel demonstrations? Is this a priority while the vile spectre of jew-hatred is rising again? It feels to me like the politicians are fiddling while Rome burns!
As if to compound this impending sense of Jews being cast adrift, the Prime Minister here in Holland and 5 of his ministers had a falling out about Israel. The five believe they should ask forgiveness from the Palestinians for allowing Jews to move to Israel after the Holocaust. So yes, my sanity tells me that moving to Israel would be wise. But a captain is never the first to leave asinking ship. And my heart belongs in Holland. I am certain that there are an increasing numbers of Jews from all over Europe who are actively weighing up their options. That their hearts belong in Europe, but common sense in the face of repeated attacks on them pulls them towards Israel. The fact that we even have to weigh up such a choice is indicative of a deep malaise in society and politics here, where Jews are having to defend things that shouldn’t even need defending - our very freedom of religion – whilst the elephant in the room – increasing antisemitism and particularly its new variant antizionism, run amok. I go to bed and am grateful for the many expressions of support and hope for better times and a better frame of mind for myself. I hope.

Additional Articles

In Berlin, the 93-year-old Holocaust survivor by the name of Emil Farkash testifies against the notorious Josef Schutz.

In Berlin, the 93-year-old Holocaust survivor by the name of Emil Farkash testifies against the notorious Josef Schutz. Mr. Schutz is a 100-year-old charged with complicity in the murder of 3,518 prisoners when he worked as a warden at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1942-1945.
The European Jewish Association applauds and admires the courage of Mr. Farkash in attending the trial of the charged individual.
Moreover, the EJA has extended their hand to offer any kind of assistance to Mr. Farkash. However, he politely declined and noted that he is receiving sufficient assistance from the German government. On behalf of the family, we would like to thank Adv. Thomas Walther and Dr. Efraim Zuroff for their support.
Once again, the EJA stands firm in its stance to seek out justice against criminals associated with the Holocaust.

Rami Levy and Rabbinical Centre of Europe in Beautiful Tefillin Project

Multi-faceted Jerusalem businessman Rami Levy, best known for his chain of discount supermarkets, is helping to provide tefillin (phylacteries) and prayer shawls for needy European Jews.

Multi-faceted Jerusalem businessman Rami Levy, best known for his chain of discount supermarkets, is helping to provide tefillin (phylacteries) and prayer shawls for needy European Jews who do not possess these essential religious accoutrements and cannot afford to purchase them. Levy has made a very handsome contribution to the Rabbinical Center of Europe at the request of the organization’s CEO Rabbi Arye Goldberg, who initiated the tefillin project in memory of the late Rabbi Benjamin Wolf, the
spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Hanover, who fell victim to coronavirus two months ago. This is not the first time that Levy has been involved with the RCE. He continues to donate to another of its projects, which is to bring European bar mitzvah boys to Israel.

■ FOR THE past 38 years, Jeff Seidel has been running student information centers in Jerusalem as well as Shabbat and Jewish home hospitality for lone soldiers, students and tourists. It was very tough during lockdown, because there were tourists and students who had not left the country and there were plenty of lone soldiers. Things are a little easier now that restrictions have been relaxed and greater social interaction has been permitted. A lot of people are still wary of going to restaurants, weddings and bar mitzvahs, and there are some who are also very cautious about admitting guests to their homes. For those who want to get back into the swing of hosting guests on Shabbat and showing them the brighter side of Israel, Seidel can be contacted at (02) 638-2634 or 052-286-7795. Last Friday, Seidel managed at the last minute, to find Shabbat hospitality for a group of gap year students.
TRAGEDY IS one of the most unifying factors in Israeli society. Political and religious differences are put on the back burner as the nation comes together to help to hope, and too often, to grieve. That was the case six years ago when three teenage yeshiva boys Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel unknowingly hitched a ride with Hamas terrorists, who kidnapped and murdered them.

The boys were standing outside Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc, waiting for a car that might be going their way.

For 18 agonizing days, the nation came together and joined the three families in praying for the safe return of the three boys.

Only after the discovery of their bodies was it learned that they had been killed soon after their capture. The nationwide outpouring of solidarity with the families during the waiting period, at the funeral and after the tragedy, prompted the creation of the annual Jerusalem Unity Prize.

Nir Barkat, who was then the mayor of Jerusalem, during a condolence visit to the families suggested that something be done to commemorate the three teenagers, and together with the Gesher organization and the three sets of parents – Iris and Uri Yifrah; Bat-Galim and Ofir Shaer; and Rachel and Avraham Fraenkel – in September, 2014, decided to establish the Jerusalem Unity Prize, with an official announcement to that effect at the President’s Residence in January, 2015.
Since then, the prize has awarded annually in June to individuals, organizations and initiatives in Israel and the Jewish world at large whose activities are instrumental in promoting mutual respect amongst Jews in times of crisis and in everyday life.

This year’s awards ceremony was broadcast on video with only President Rieuven Rivlin and his closest aides, Barkat and his wife Beverly, the prize winners and the Yifrah, Shaer and Fraenkel couples in attendance.

The ceremony was held against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis and national political divisiveness over the possibility of proposed annexation or application of Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley.

The prize ceremony, said Rivlin, sends a message of conciliation.

Speaking on behalf of the families, Uri Yifrah said that when the boys were still missing, before their fate was known Rabbi Haim Druckman told them: “We are looking for the boys and we have found ourselves.” Yifrah said: “That sense of looking inward finds what brings us closer together, an understanding of who we are, why we are here and how close we truly are.” He emphasized, “Alongside the disagreements and the differences of opinion, we must pause as individuals and examine whether, in the heat of the moment, we are not losing the great and true path we seek, which includes those with whom we do not agree. For he, too, seeks the good of our people. We go on together because that is our duty and that is how we will continue to build our country. The winners of the Unity Prize are those who know how to look inward, to bridge the gaps and to put what is important to the fore.”

The winners this year were: In the “local” category, the Center for Community Mediation and Dialogue in Rehovot for creating a space for respectful dialogue between the various elements of Israeli society and for leading the conversation on tolerance and acceptance of the other.

In the “national” category, the Joint Council of Pre-Military Academies (Mechinot) for their work to bring together different views and building trust between the member institutions for the good of the national mission of educating the next generation.

In the “international” category, Hakhel, the incubator for Jewish intentional communities for opening a door and building communities for every Jew, whoever and wherever they are, and for strengthening Jewish identity.
The article was published on the JPost

Our New Project: Medical Equipment Lending Center

The European Jewish Association and the Rabbinical Centre of Europe are delighted to announce a brand new project that we are rolling out across Europe, directly helping the sick and needy with the often expensive costs associated with securing much needed medical equipment.
Our brand new medical equipment lending centre means that the sick and immobile needn’t worry about buying wheelchairs, or expensive crutches walkers and the like.
We will provide them to communities on a need-by-need basis at no cost. When recuperation is over, the items simply get returned to the local community lending branch centre and passed to the next person that needs them.
This simple, effective project overseen by us but run at branch level by communities is open to everyone, but supplies are limited.
For more information on setting up a branch, or to apply for help. Please contact us at: info@ejassociatio.eu or databse@rce.eu.com

Statement from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (NL) statement after the main group of protestant churches in holland made a statement apologising for their treatment of jews through the ages and during the war. 
 
On Sunday 8 November, the PKN, the union of Protestant Churches in the Netherlands, put forward an official apology for antisemitism throughout the ages and especially for their position during the Shoah (Holocaust).
 
In a live interview on Dutch Television last night, EJA Advisory Board Member, Rabbinical Centre of Europe Director of interfaith relations and Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands Binyomin Jacobs gave his response.
 
Extracts of his comments are below:
 
“It is commendable that the current church leadership admit wholeheartedly and in no uncertain terms that the Church as an institution could and should have done more. I am grateful for that recognition, that statement is important. But I want to make it clear for my part that I don't blame the current Church leaders, because they have done nothing wrong.
 
They are from after the war, nothing can be blamed for them. They did not send my family to the gas-chambers, they did not even watch.
 
When I was asked by the PKN to attend the official celebration of 500 years of the Reformation on October 31, 2017, I initially refused to accept that invitation. I declined to attend a meeting where a notorious anti-Semite would be honoured.
 
Of course, the scribe today cannot help the fact that his great-great-grandfather held Luther's erroneous theology towards the Jews of paramount importance as a Christian. In fact, he completely disagreed with the anti-Semitic statements of the great Christian master.
 
But how can I, as a Jew, join the celebration? "Show that you renounce his anti-Semitic statements, exclaim that you find that unacceptable," I said to my friend Rev. de Reuver. He agreed wholeheartedly. Twice at that meeting, in the presence of our Lord, they publicly distanced themselves from the anti-Semitic writings and statements.
 
Fifty years after the war, I was confronted with a tidal wave of monuments commemorating murdered Jews. Disclosure after disclosure. I remember asking a young mayor at the beginning of that period: why only now? Had it not been noted earlier that fellow Jewish citizens had not returned? And his answer has always stayed with me: “My predecessor did not want to be reminded of 1940 -45.That period did not suit him, those years had to be covered up as much as possible.
 
Within that framework I see this statement. I am deeply grateful to the heroes who saved the lives of my mother and many others without any form of profit, free of charge, at great risk to their own lives. I think of Rev. Overduin, Rev. Slomp, Rev. Koopmans, Rev. Buskes, and I also think of Mgr. de Jong.
 
And I am certainly thinking of resistance fighters who were arrested by cowardly betrayal before they could have done anything. No one has heard of them, they were brutally eliminated for refusing to watch. Above all, let us never forget them and keep commemorating them, despite their anonymity.
But at the same time we know that far too little was done in the war, that the churches certainly also kept silent too much and that “over the centuries the church helped prepare the breeding ground on which the seeds of anti-Semitism and hatred could grow”, as was reflected in the statement. For centuries Jews were dismissed as G-d killers who would receive their just deserts.
 
And it was good that the period after the war was also mentioned. My grandparents made every effort to take in their nieces and nephews whose parents had been murdered. To keep them for Judaism, as their parents would have liked. Driven by their faith, these ‘parents’, who had saved their lives completely selflessly, refused to return their Jewish children in hiding to where they should be. Many of these orphans are still suffering from the identity crisis afflicted them, the result of an unhealthy and unacceptable urge to convert.
 
The Christian Churches have put a line behind the past with their confession and recognition. But, more importantly to me, it has been clearly stated that they intend to fight with us against contemporary anti-Semitism.
 
In the time of the Crusades we had the wrong faith and entire Jewish congregations were exterminated by the crusaders. In the Middle Ages we were the virus that caused the plague and so we had to be exterminated, my dear parents were of the wrong race. And I am a Zionist! Of course there can be criticism of Israel's government policy, half Israel is against Netanyahu, just as not every Dutchman is for Rutte (I am!). But anti-Zionism is committed to the destruction of the State of Israel, the extermination of the Jewish people. Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.
 
Daily through the ages, we offer our prayers towards Jerusalem. Jerusalem, where today all religions in the world are allowed to live their religion in freedom, is inextricably linked with the Jewish people, with the survivors of 1940-45, with me.
 
Churches: leave politics to politicians. Recognize the mutated virus that has destroyed millions and millions of my people over the centuries and is now called anti-Zionism.
 
The PKN of today should not have had to explain the mea-culpa for me, the past is over. But the link so clearly drawn from the persecution of the Jews through the ages and the passive attitude of the majority of the churches when my family was taken away never to return, that link to the now and to the future, the intention to develop Judeo-Christian relations into a deep friendship, in which everyone can remain himself and therefore no attempts are made to convert, to want to be connected in the fight against contemporary anti-Semitism, that purpose, that statement makes me deeply grateful. The words of the statement, of the Christian churches, were good. I have hope yes, but expectation too.”
 

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