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

December 11, 2020
Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi 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.
Here, the Rabbi offers his unique and refreshing take on the portion. For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl and then: scroll down.
On Freedom of Speech
 
Freedom of opinion and speech is a great asset and therefore everything must be said.
 
And if I am allowed to say everything, I also have to accept everything and not moan when I myself become the target of taunts. Agree!
 
But why then get upset about anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, the anti-Semitic floats in Aalst or the umpteenth anti-Semitic cartoon in the Volkskrant?
 
Everything can be said, right? A cartoon that insults the heart of Islam must be possible, right? And what’s wrong with black Pete? Do dark skinned people feel offended? Don’t complain, freedom of speech!
 
But that opinion should of course not be every opinion, because if parents want to teach their children that the family with a mom and dad is the cornerstone of society, it could be seen as discriminating towards people who have a different orientation…
 
A befriended non-Jewish, non-Christian, non-Muslim and unmarried journalist (thus of impeccable behaviour!) Has warned me not to write that I am in favour of freedom of expression, but that that freedom must have restrictions.
 
That nuancing “but” would bring a torrent of criticism on myself. “But” I don’t get that, because if freedom of speech is to be cherished, then I am allowed to express my opinion, even if that opinion differs?
 
And so with this my opinion, straight from ancient Judaism (Proverbs of the Fathers 2: 1): “What is the right way that man must choose? Any way that gives honour to him who follows him and by which he is honoured by men. ”
 
In other words: Black Pete really had nothing to do with discrimination for me. But if normal thinking people with a black skin colour now experience this as discriminating, then we have to stop.
 
Fanaticism is no good, neither from the right nor from the left, not from religion, but also not from secularization. Because secularization can also be fanatic, compulsive and intolerant.
 
But just before writing this, I got a call from a secular mayor friend: “Binyomin, if you ever need to, you can count on me.” This again shows: friendship and solidarity, between secular and religious, standing up for each other, that is not only possible but eminently desirable.

Additional Articles

Opening of the First ‘Chesed’ Centre in Odessa, Ukraine.

The First of many European ‘Chesed’ Centres operated jointly by the EJA and the RCE was inaugurated in Odessa, Ukraine.
The centres provide the free lending of of a large range of medical equipment to all.
The Odessa branch is one of dozens that will open over the next two months across Europe.
The unique project is a first for the Jewish communities in Europe, although similar lending centers exist in Israel.
Each lending centre provides medical equipment for people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, worth tens of thousands of euros. The arrival
of the equipment is imminent and the centre will soon be fully up and running

Reflections on life and the polish animal welfare law from our advisory board member Rabbi Binyomen Jacobs

A healthy winter!
During the war, Germans who had volunteered to join the SS and the SD and Dutch collaborators of the Nazis were buried in the municipalities where they had been killed or shot.
After the war, the municipalities where those Jew hunters and other beasts were buried no longer wanted to tolerate having these remains in their local cemeteries.
The Ministry of Defence then made a piece of land available in Ysselsteyn where they had to be reburied. That killing field in Ysselseteyn is therefore a collection bin for SS beasts, Dutch SD men, collaborators, a number of whom had been shot by the resistance, and also “ordinary” German soldiers. The person who had Anne Frank and her family deported is also buried there.
A commemoration at a cemetery where only dead “ordinary” soldiers are buried, even if they were exclusively German soldiers, is a completely different story in my view.
Commemoration there is certainly worth considering. But here in Ysselsteyn paying tribute to traitors and murderers who have voluntarily chosen to murder my family and / or have them sent to the gas chambers? No way!
And so I still signed the petition, although by nature I am not a signer. I added my name to the petition to prevent anyone from thinking that I have forgiven them for their atrocities, because it happened so long ago, because it has now become history, because the crimes are barred…. So no.
Crimes of this kind against humanity cannot and must not expire and degenerate into an old episode in history. Am I hateful then? When the question arose years ago in the Sinai Center (Jewish psychiatric centre) whether we, as a Jewish institution, would like to treat children of parents who had dome wrong, I made it clear: certainly!
We must not punish children for their parents’ mistakes and I am grateful that I was able to help those victims of the war, because they too are victims of those horrible dark years.
Their parents’ opposition to my parents makes them no less victim, no less second generation. Of course we are talking about children who suffer because their parents were “wrong” in their view. I remember a meeting in Israel of my wife with a daughter of a German SS officer. Crying that daughter and my wife embraced each other: a heartbreaking and impressive scene!
And while I was able to confirm the above information about Ysselseteyn from my car, I was on my way to The Hague together with the secretary of the NIK. An appointment with the Ambassador of Poland, Mr Marcin Czepelak. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce this name. I notice that those ambassadors from those former Eastern bloc countries all have  unpronounceable names.) It was a good and friendly conversation. It was about the impending new law that wants to ban the export of kosher meat slaughtered in Poland.
Polish Jews will be allowed to continue to slaughter kosher for domestic use, but export? That should be a bridge too far. The ambassador understood well that this is not just a practical and business problem.
He foresaw very clearly that if Poland bans exports, several EU countries will follow and in the end there will no longer be kosher meat available within the EU, not even in the Netherlands. The Ambassador was in no doubt about that. But he also felt keenly that the ban on the export of kosher meat would hurt the Jewish community in its full breadth, would deeply affect their Jewishness. Jews who never eat kosher and perhaps consider kosher food as nonsense and out of date, the ambassador himself indicated, are equally affected by this measure. Because it may be that they don’t consume kosher meat, the ban on the export of kosher meat is an assault on their Jewish identity.
And now here I am at the end of this day, writing this diary to the digital paper and hopefully still with enough puff in me to dismantle the Sukkah (booth) tonight and put it away until next year. And until then? Hopefully, peace and a very soon deliverance from the evil that is called corona and also a proper return to Jewish life in our polder country.
Even on Yom Kippur, there were Jewish congregations that did not have shul service. And this year, far fewer booths that stood near the synagogues have to be demolished. The reason? Unfortunately they were not built because of corona! At the end of all these Jewish Holidays, we wish each other, and so do I: a healthy winter!
During corona time, Chief Rabbi Jacobs keeps a diary for the Jewish Cultural Quarter. NIW publishes these special documents daily on www.niw.nl.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs- Our New Head of Committe for combatting Antisemitism

We at the EJA are proud to announce that Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs has accepted our invitation to head up our Committee for Combatting Antisemitism.
As Chairman of the Committee, Rabbi Jacobs will be our roving ambassador, working with other local EJA committee co-ordinators across the continent, identifying the local issues and the challenges relating to antisemitism faced by communities and advocating at the highest levels of government, both at a bilateral and EU institutional level, to find solutions and enact changes to safeguard Jewish life and practice in Europe.
The EJA places this fight at the top of our agenda. Such an important issue requires a person who is respected, who has gravitas, and who understands the mechanisms and personalities involved in the political process, as well having a forensic and thorough knowledge of the Jewish issues at hand.
So, when we envisaged the creation of this Committee, the natural and obvious choice was Rabbi Jacobs to Chair it.  We have long admired his skill in advocacy in his native Holland at Eerste and Tweede Kamer’s in the Hague and at local Dutch administrative level.
We are delighted to share this important appointment with you and we look forward to sharing news with you about the Committees actions and outcomes in the near future.

A Letter by Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

In these trying times, our advisory board member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (Netherlands) has some wise and inspiring words for those of us lamenting our confinement. His personal “dear me” letter is a must read and share! Thank you Rabbi.

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