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

January 5, 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
Surcharge affairs
This diary, setup by the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Holland, was designed to get an impression of my life during the corona pandemic.
Every now and then I almost forget that there is corona, but around New Year’s Eve I was pressed hard on the fact. Overcrowded hospitals and the threat of doctors having to judge life and death. Who do we treat and who do we leave to their own devices?
In the meantime, I watched a New Year’s Eve show for the first time in my life because I was curious and because I also performed in it: “ Old and New of Christians for Israel. ” And although I had a little intention to look at the New Year’s Eve conference by Joep van het Hek, I didn’t do that after all.
Reason: 1: waste of time. 2: Although I am very good at jokes and can be ridiculed with anything and everything, I find swearing unacceptable. Just a short explanation on point 1: From Jewish thinking it is wrong to waste time. Relaxing is fine. I walk every day because it is good for body and mind. But really doing nothing at all or doing something that is completely meaningless, that is not the case. Why then do I read newspapers and listen to the news obediently, you ask. Because, let’s be honest, whether or not I am aware of the number of daily corona infections is not much use. On the contrary! It makes me quite depressed and so do many others. Even all those crazy conspiracy theories about the vaccine are not among my beloved reading.
On the other hand I need news information to know how to act when or to continue to be able to write my diary and / or give a Jewish view on current affairs.
But following the news every second is totally unnecessary. The meaningful use of time is an important Jewish commandment.
About 2, the swearing. I am on the Committee of Recommendation of the League Against Curses. I was approached for that at the time and said yes. I sit on many Committees of Recommendation (so I recommend a lot!), But I am never in any place to be in it, but only use my name if I endorse the purpose of the Foundation. And I find swearing unacceptable because it hurts. So: freedom of expression with a limit, so I obediently sit on the Committee of Recommendation of the heavily Christian League against Cursing.
Friday evening and Shabbat went like weekly, except I was worried about our Friday evening ‘regular guest’ who was clearly much more tired than usual, did not walk well and indicated that on New Years Eve he had eaten eleven donuts on his own, while he had a lot be careful with sugar.
Immediately after Shabbat I called him to ask how he had fared, but thank G-d he is doing well. My grandson from England, who is still trapped here between England and Israel, where he studies, actually knows very little about his Dutch ancestors. So I shared what I know and came to the conclusion that I myself know nothing at all about the 80% of my family who “did not return”. They were not talked about at home! While explaining the horrors the war has caused here, I decided to let him watch “The Menten Case” with English subtitles. In the meantime, I have also watched (along) for the umpteenth time. Apart from the war criminal and the war crimes that are shown and that should not be forgotten, I continue to be annoyed by the corruption surrounding Menten. Government officials who allow themselves to be bribed, are threatened with lawsuits, Hans Knoop who is fired, his photographer who must have made huge money from him and who eventually can also be bribed. I am thinking of the Supplement affair. How could this have happened in our country! And issues like this still happen, on a daily basis.
Corona is a plague, but so are the Supplement affairs. I deliberately write affairs in the plural. Because the surcharges affair has surfaced (thanks to the media!), But what else is going on in affairs that were and / or are invisible? I know a few more!

Additional Articles

EJA Whatsapp antisemitism hotline

Been subjected to an antisemitic incident?
Call or text our new Whatsapp antisemitism hotline: +32 484 999 111
Send us a message, day or night, and we can provide help and assistance from your local community and law and order services.

Don’t suffer in silence. We are here for you.
The EJA, in an effort to mitigate the worst effects on Jews across Europe of rising antisemitism has set up a continent-wide dedicated antisemitism whatsapp hotline.
Those who have been subjected to an antisemitic incident can report, day or night, and the EJA will respond with not only support, but with practical help such as direct contact with national authorities and local Jewish community back-up.
We encourage you to share this number with your local community and spread the news- you have someone to turn to in times of trouble.

124 NGOs worldwide urge Facebook to adopt IHRA definition o antisemitism, fight hate speechm

The joint NGOs’ call discloses that in recent remarks given by a senior Facebook representative,  the company “does not have a policy aimed at combatting online antisemitism”, sparking the coalition to urge Facebook to “join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition” and “take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square.”
In an unprecedented joint letter, a coalition of 124 non-profit organizations from around the world have urged Facebook to adopt the widely recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism to fight hate speech on the social media platform.
The letter, which was sent to Facebook’s board and senior management on Friday, follows mounting public pressure urging Facebook to effectively act against hate speech and dangerous disinformation.
The joint NGOs’ call discloses that in recent remarks given by a senior Facebook representative,  the company “does not have a policy aimed at combating online antisemitism”, sparking the coalition to urge Facebook to “join the ranks of the historians, advocates, activists, lawmakers, and leaders who compiled the IHRA working definition” and “take responsibility and move toward removing the scourge of antisemitism from today’s most important online public square.”
In July, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, stated that “Facebook has to get better at finding and removing hateful content.” The joint call by the global coalition of NGOs emphasizes  that antisemitism and effective policies to address it, must be part of Facebook’s decision-making process to tackle hate speech.
Parallel to a surge in violent and murderous attacks against Jewish communities in recent years, online antisemitism has grown exponentially, with social media platforms serving as primary bullying arenas for the world’s oldest hatred. The coalition letter cites studies that “Jews overwhelmingly report that online antisemitism is the most acute form of Jew-hatred they experience.”
So far, nearly 40 countries have already endorsed or adopted the IHRA working definition in some official capacity, either through their membership in the IHRA or independently.
In the US, the definition of antisemitism is clear: The IHRA working definition has been adopted by the State Department, and a recent Presidential Executive Order on Combatting Anti-Semitism instructs the Department of Education to consider the IHRA definition when evaluating Title VI Civil Rights Act complaints of discrimination.
The signatories decision to focus on Facebook stemmed from the social media giant’s recent announcement that it would be revising its policies on hate speech and disinformation. The coalition’s decision was also based on a recognition that Facebook, as the leading social media platform, can set the standard for the social media industry in the fight against online hate. If, and when, Facebook adopts an effective and comprehensive policy to combat online hate speech and antisemitism, other social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok are likely to follow suit.
Irwin Cotler, the Chair of Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Canada, one of the signatories to the letter, stated :”Antisemitism is the oldest, most enduring, most toxic, and most lethal of hatreds – the canary in the minefield of global evil. The IHRA definition is the strongest and most definitive normative framework we have for monitoring and combating antisemitism on a governmental, parliamentary, law-enforcement, and civil society level. Its adoption is as timely as it is necessary.”
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, a signatory to the letter said: ”With more people than China and over a third of the entire global population with accounts, Facebook is a world of its own. Its power and reach are immense. With such great power should come great responsibility. That social media platforms have become hotbeds of hate and antisemitism is undeniable. So too is a lack of responsible action from the company to tackle it. Signing up to the IHRA definition would be an important step and a visible commitment from Facebook that there is no place, in the virtual, just as the real world, for the virus of antisemitism to thrive unchecked and unfettered.”
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean and Director Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the signatories to the letter, noted that ”during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic and social dislocation following George Floyd’s murder, extremists, including antisemites, leverage the unmatched marketing power of social media to mainstream hate, conspiracy theories and lone wolf terrorism.” ”Facebook must take the lead in the struggle to degrade the mainstreaming of antisemitism via social media. The IHRA definition of antisemitism provides Facebook with a straightforward definition of history’s oldest hate.”
Prof. Dina Porat, who is one of the authors of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism stressed that the definition has become ”a yard stick, a declaration of values.”
”Those who join its adoption are committed to the countering of antisemitism, and of other parallel evils. It is high time that the major social networks, Facebook first and foremost, use the IHRA definition as a criteria to identify antisemitic expressions, and uproot them immediately, thus exercising their responsibility to help create a world better than the one we are living in.”
The article was published on EJP

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Les Juifs français les plus inquiets quant à leur sécurité parmi 12 pays européens

La France est le pays dont la communauté juive se sent le moins en sécurité, en dépit des actions menées par l’État, selon un index portant sur 12 pays européens publié mardi dans le cadre d’une rencontre organisée par l’Association juive européenne (EJA).

Cet index de la « qualité de vie juive », réalisé à partir de sondages et études, croise quatre ensembles de données : le sentiment de sécurité ressenti par la communauté juive, l’attitude de la population vis-à-vis des Juifs et Israël, l’antisémitisme et enfin la « performance du gouvernement » (statistiques sur les incidents antisémites, lieux de mémoire de la Shoah, budget destiné à la sécurité des sites juifs, liberté de culte et préservation des pratiques juives telles que la circoncision et l’abattage rituel, etc…)

Les études ont été menées par l’Institute for Jewish Policy Research de Londres et par la European Union Agency for Fondamental Rights, auprès de 16 000 Juifs européens en 2018.

Il en ressort que la France, qui comprend la plus forte communauté juive d’Europe avec un peu moins de 500 000 Juifs, arrive à la 10e position (68/100) de cet index qui concerne également l’Italie (1ère place avec 79/100), la Hongrie (2e), la Pologne (11e), la Belgique (12e place avec 60/100), mais aussi l’Allemagne, l’Espagne, le Danemark, le Royaume-Uni, la Suède, les Pays-Bas.

« L’une des conclusions, surprenante, est que le gouvernement de la France a une bonne performance » par les actions menées par l’État (score de 83/100), « mais en dépit de cela, la communauté juive exprime un fort sentiment d’inquiétude » pour sa sécurité (31/100), a déclaré à l’AFP Daniel Staetsky, auteur de cet index, statisticien à l’Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Comme possibles explications, il a cité les « attaques terroristes antisémites » comme la tuerie de l’école juive Otzar Hatorah à Toulouse en 2012 ou l’attaque contre l’Hypercacher dans l’Est parisien en janvier 2015.

Autres enseignements de ces études : c’est au Danemark que la population juive se sent le plus en sécurité. La Hongrie arrive au premier rang concernant l’antisémitisme. Et la Belgique est dernière pour les actions menées par le pays en faveur de sa communauté juive.

Selon l’EJA, la rencontre, qui se tient à Budapest depuis lundi et se termine mardi, réunit quelque 250 personnes, dont 120 représentants et dirigeants des communautés juives d’Europe.

Dans un autre rapport publié plus tôt ce mois-ci, le rapport national des mesures gouvernementales pour lutter contre l’antisémitisme et encourager la vie juive en Belgique, le CEJI (Contribution juive à une Europe inclusive) a demandé à la Belgique de mieux enseigner la Shoah, a rapporté la presse belge.

La conclusion de ce rapport interpellait sur le fait que, dans l’ensemble, l’État belge avait peu fait pour lutter contre l’antisémitisme en tant que type spécifique de racisme. Il demandait des interventions ciblées ainsi que des efforts publics plus importants – le domaine où les politiques ayant obtenu le score le plus bas, et de loin, étant l’éducation.

« Il n’y a pas de guidance officielle par rapport à l’antisémitisme. La Shoah est enseignée, mais pas de manière consistante. Il y a des élèves à qui on n’a jamais parlé de la Shoah. Du côté francophone, il y a de nouvelles lois pour couvrir le nazisme qui vont être mises en place dans les années à venir », a déclaré Robin Sclafani, directrice du CEJI. « Les enseignants doivent être mieux formés. Il faut savoir comment enseigner l’antisémitisme par l’éducation à la Shoah contemporaine », a-t-elle ajouté.

L’idée de nommer un coordonnateur national pour la lutte contre l’antisémitisme et la promotion de la vie juive a ainsi été évoquée. L’organisation a aussi demandé à l’État d’apporter le soutien nécessaire à la mise en œuvre de la politique. Il a aussi été recommandé de mettre en place un groupe de travail interministériel durable afin de faciliter la communication et la coopération au sein du gouvernement ainsi qu’une table ronde, nationale, durable et participative, réunissant les parties prenantes dans le but de faciliter la communication et la coopération avec les organisations de la société civile afin de mettre en œuvre des plans d’action nationaux de lutte contre le racisme et l’antisémitisme.

Un consortium de recherche interdisciplinaire a aussi été recommandé, dans le but de rassembler des connaissances permettant d’éclairer la définition des politiques afin de contribuer à prévenir et à combattre l’antisémitisme et à promouvoir la vie juive. Il a enfin été demandé de fournir des ressources financières et humaines pour assurer la mise en œuvre durable de ces mesures générales.

https://fr.timesofisrael.com/les-juifs-francais-les-plus-inquiets-quant-a-leur-securite-parmi-12-pays-europeens/

EJA in Jewish Community of Melilla

Our colleague Juan Caldes had the incredible opportunity to explore the vibrant Jewish Community of Melilla, sharing insights on combating anti-Semitism.

He also had the privilege to join the President of the Jewish community in a fruitful meeting with Vice President Miguel Marin and the Government of Melilla. Grateful for the chance to discuss important issues together!

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