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

December 22, 2020

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
 
Mr cohen from Schin op Geul
 
The world is turned upside down. The UK in isolation. My grandson, who lives in London but is studying at a Talmud College in Israel, will join us soon. He had flown from Israel to London for a week to attend his older brother's wedding, but now cannot go back. And so he travelled to Calais last night via Dover, is now in Belgium and will come here immediately in the hope / expectation that he can still fly to Israel from the Netherlands.
 
Incidentally, he has been tested for corona and according to the test he is in possession of a very large number of antibodies and we do not have to worry about contamination, although we will of course observe the 1½ meters.
 
We have made it through Hanukkah quite well, but uncertainties are starting to gnaw more and more and so the limitations of human ability are becoming increasingly visible. But in the meantime, that ‘other’ older virus is also spreading: in the ND, the Nederlands Dagblad I am quoted:
Chief Rabbi Jacobs: 'Prohibition of kosher slaughter has been a precursor to the persecution of the Jews throughout the centuries'. 'Naturally we want to contribute to the welfare of animals,' emphasizes Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs. 'Well-being is not only about slaughter, but also about everything before that: the stables, transport. The focus is now on one point: slaughter. I would like to sit with the PvdD, but then for the total well-being. ' Jacobs is moved by the ruling of the European Court. "If they're really concerned about animal welfare, let them bring up animal cruelty and sadism in slaughterhouses and the large meat industry."The Chief Rabbi sees the will to ban kosher slaughter as a sign of rising anti-Semitism. 'The first ban that Hitler issued in the Netherlands was that of kosher slaughter. It is absolutely not the case that I accuse the people who are now advocating a ban with anti-Semitism. But the phenomenon has always been a precursor to the rising persecution of the Jews. That worries me very much. ' 'Animal welfare is very high on the Jewish standard', he continues. 'Kosher slaughter is precisely about the welfare of the animals. And even if the animal is stunned, ie paralyzed, no one knows whether the animal suffers when it is cut into pieces. Science does not clarify this. ' Jacobs foresees major consequences if the Netherlands, like Flanders, imposes a ban on kosher slaughter without anesthesia. 'Then we can't eat meat anymore. Or we have to import it. It would be more consistent if the Party for the Animals advocated a general ban on meat. Then I would become a vegetarian. ' According to him, the consequences are even more far-reaching: 'Orthodox Jewish people will leave the Netherlands. And Orthodox Jewish life is already so sparse. They are the core of the Jewish community. If it disappears, the periphery of the Jewish community will also disappear. ' The European Court of Justice partly relies on science for its judgment. However, according to Jacobs, this is not unambiguous. A ban on ritual slaughter is drastic for the Jewish community. "It's an erosion of the faith community."
 
And in the RD, the Reformatorisch Dagblad, Rabbi v.d. Camp words to that effect and elsewhere I also saw that Lowenstein expressed the same concern. It is nice that it is precisely through an attack on a religious aspect of Judaism that something very unique becomes visible, something to which I was drawn to the attention of, among other things, a non-Jewish employee at the EO. I was at the EO a few days ago to record a podcast for the Jewish Broadcasting Company. Afterwards you talk a little longer. If a member of one of the PKN municipalities no longer sees the faith, he deregisters and is therefore no longer Protestant. But the Jew always remains a Jew, he explained to me! I remember a certain Mr Cohen from Schin op Geul. He was an atheist, anti-Zionist, vehemently against Israeli politics and wanted nothing to do with Judaism. Of course, he did not want to speak to me, he explained to me in an impassioned speech of at least half an hour. But when some years later the local pastor asked him to give a lecture to his church about Israel's special position in the Middle East and so he was actually asked to defend Israel's politics and for the unassailable union between Jews and the holy Land, he called me and asked to help him prepare for his talk.
 
And we see the same thing now. Because also Jews who really do not attach any importance to kosher food and certainly not to kosher meat, for whom kosher slaughter has no value and who will not be harmed by any means if there is a ban on kosher slaughter, stand hand in hand with me in the fight against the ruling of the European Court. Why? Because they too feel that it is not primary here that this is not primarily about animal welfare, but about the survival of the Jewish Community in Europe. But does the unbelieving Jew (if any) then need the survival of religious Judaism? And then I just quote that non-Jewish employee of the EO: being a Jew goes deeper than just faith and is certainly not linked at all to membership of the Jewish community.
 
I think that Mr Cohen from Schin op Geul is an exemplary example of this.

 

Additional Articles

Attack at German Synagogue During Sukkot Raises Anti-Semitism Fears

BERLIN — A man wearing army fatigues and wielding a shovel attacked and badly injured a Jewish student coming out of a synagogue in Hamburg on Sunday, less than a year after an assault on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle turned deadly.

Security guards and police officers deployed to the Hamburg synagogue, where people were marking the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, swiftly subdued and arrested a 29-year-old man, whose name the authorities did not disclose. The suspect was carrying a piece of paper with a swastika in his pocket, the German news agency DPA reported.

The 26-year-old victim, who was wearing a kipa, or skullcap, when he was attacked, suffered grave head wounds and was taken to a hospital, the police said.

“This is not a one-off case, this is vile anti-Semitism and we all have to stand against it,” the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, wrote on Twitter.

Germany has seen the number of anti-Semitic crimes nearly double in the past three years. Last year alone, the government recorded 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, culminating in the attack on the synagogue in Halle on Oct. 9. In that attack, a gunman tried and failed to force his way in during services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, and then killed two people elsewhere.

The man arrested in Halle, Stephan Balliet, 28, is currently facing trial and has spoken openly in court about his hatred not only of Jews but also of Muslims and foreigners, and of being influenced by a far-right extremist attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 51 people last year

Last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her concern about the rise in anti-Semitism in Germany, warning in a speech to the Central Council of Jews that it is a reality “that many Jews don’t feel safe and respected in our country.”

“Racism and anti-Semitism never disappeared, but for some time now they have become more visible and uninhibited,” the chancellor said, citing the attack in Halle as an example of “how quickly words can become deeds.”

In Halle a year ago, the congregation inside the synagogue only narrowly escaped a massacre. The door of the synagogue had been locked and withstood the clumsily built explosives meant to blow it open. In his rage the gunman later trained his weapon on other random targets in the city.

Following Sunday’s attack, Jewish organizations in Germany and beyond urged the government to increase protection and focus on long-term strategies to stamp out anti-Semitism.

“I am saddened to learn that once again, this time on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a German Jewish community is confronting a violent, anti-Semitic act of terror,” Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, said in a statement. “We must ask ourselves, and German local and national authorities must address the question — why does this keep happening? Why is anti-Semitism thriving?”

“The German government must take responsibility in strengthening education so that the next generation understands that hatred of any kind is never permissible,” Mr. Lauder added. “The long-term viability of Jewish life in Germany depends on it.”

EU leaders welcome EU strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life

EU leaders, who ended Friday a two-day meeting in Brussels to discuss a series of topics, welcomed the  EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life presented by the European Commission.
In their meeting conclusions, they said that last week’s Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism ‘’is a reminder that no effort must be spared in fighting all forms of antisemitism, racism and xenophobia.’’
Read more

European Jewish Association welcomes Iceland circumcision bill demise but urges continued vigilance.

The Chairman of the European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin this morning welcomed the apparent demise Iceland’s controversial circumcision bill, that sought to criminalise the act and threatened imprisonment to adherents, regardless of religious practice or obligation. 

Rabbi Margolin however cautioned that continued vigilance of contagion was a necessity not only in Iceland but across Europe.

On March 1 the Icelandic parliament sent the bill to the committee on Judicial affairs for comment, where it has been stuck since. The committee has now decided not to let the bill go forward for a vote on the floor.

As the legislative session is drawing to a close it is all but guaranteed that the decision to refer the bill to the cabinet kills its chances of becoming law. Whether the bill will then be re-introduced is still an open question

In a statement from Brussels, Rabbi Margolin said, 

“I welcome the apparent demise of what was a discriminatory, unnecessary and fundamentally anti-Jewish bill. The European Jewish Association, along with many other groups, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, made repeated and vociferous representations to the Icelandic government, registering our strong opposition to legislation that sought to criminalise an entire faith.

“Whilst we welcome the news, we must remain vigilant. In our experience bills such as this do not come out in isolation but represent an idea that knows no borders. It is sadly often the case that there is contagion where one bill fails in one country, it gets picked up by another.”

Rabbi Margolin in a meeting with ambassador of Iceland in Brussels, Bergdís Ellertsdóttir, February 2018.

Europese joden reageren met afschuw op afbeelding gele ster tijdens coronabetoging

“Ik heb moeite om de gelijkenis te zien tussen gevraagd worden om een vaccin te nemen tijdens een pandemie, of de gevolgen te dragen als je dat niet doet, en tussen het systematisch uitmoorden van zes miljoen Joden in vernietigingskampen, gaskamers of massale schietpartijen aan open graven”, aldus Margolin.

“Het maakt me ziek om te bedenken hoe weinig mensen de pijn begrijpen die dergelijke spandoeken veroorzaken, en hoe weinig mensen echt begrip en waardering hebben voor de enorme omvang en magnitude van de holocaust. Aan degenen die vandaag marcheerden met een grote gele ster, zeg ik dit: doe dit niet. Hoe je je ook voelt over de coronabeperkingen, niemand tatoeëert jouw armen, niemand drijft jou op veewagens, en niemand wil dat jij, jouw familie en jouw geliefden sterven. Zorg er in de eerste plaats voor dat je kennis vergaart en dat je weet wat deze gele ster werkelijk vertegenwoordigt”, aldus de rabbi.

https://m.gva.be/cnt/dmf20211205_96143483
 

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