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

EU COURT DECISION LABELLING WHEN ISRAEL IS UNDER FIRE IS “WORST KIND OF FIDDLING WHILE ROME BURNS” SAYS EU JEWISH HEAD

“The European court quoting Israel for its “breach of the rules of international humanitarian law” whilst Hamas and its acolytes are bombing innocent civilian populations in Israel is one of the most perverse ironies I have witnessed in quite some time,” says Rabbi Menachem Margolin
As Israel was reeling this morning under a barrage of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, the EU’s top court ruled today that EU countries must oblige retailers to identify products made in Israeli settlements with special labels.
The move was sharply criticized by the Chairman of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin “as the worst kind of fiddling while Rome literally burns”.
In a long running saga on labelling products originating from settlements in the West Bank, the European Court of Justice said in a statement that "foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin."
Rabbi Margolin said in statement:
“The entire basis of the labelling policy is purely discriminatory against the world’s only Jewish state. Is any other country in the world with disputed territory subjected to such a blatantly one-sided policy? The answer is no. It also goes against the international standard of trade set by the World Trade Organization.
“What is particularly galling is the message this sends to the Israeli public today.
“As shops, schools and businesses are forced to close because of the onslaught of massive indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, as Israelis take shelter and border towns and villages steel themselves against the worst, the EU sends them a signal not of support or solidarity, but of punitive and needless labelling.
“This is the worst kind of fiddling while Rome burns. The European court quoting Israel for its “breach of the rules of international humanitarian law” whilst Hamas and its acolytes are bombing innocent civilian populations in Israel is one of the most perverse ironies I have witnessed in quite some time.”

Swedish Prime Minister assures EJA he will step up fight on Swedish anti-Semitism

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has personally written to EJA founder and Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin with an assurance that he has tasked his government to propose “additional measures” to those already in place to combat anti-Semitism in Sweden.
In his letter Prime Minister Lofven expressed that he would continue to “take every possible step to protect the Swedish Jewish communities and to ensure that they can live here in safety and without fear”
Rabbi Margolin had written to the Prime Minister outlining his alarm at the deteriorating situation in Sweden for Jews there, with Neo-Nazis wanting to march past synagogues, hate speech and threats at demonstrations in Malmo, and the fire-bombing of a synagogue in Gothenburg.
Rabbi Margolin welcomed the letter today’
‘It was heartening to receive a letter so full of conviction. We particularly welcome the Prime Minister’s clear and unambiguous words that ‘there is no place for anti-Semitism in Swedish society’ and that ‘The perpetrators will be held to account.’
The hope that the Swedish government will consult with the communities in Sweden to decide on the ‘additional measures’ to be taken. Many members complain of a lack of willingness to prosecute clear those who engage in anti-semitic remarks, paint graffiti, or hold up or publish anti-Semitic imagery to date.
Let us hope that the Prime Minister and his government follow up on his encouraging letter with real and tangible actions. The EJA stands ready to help and advise the Swedish government in this important task. Anti-Semites cannot be allowed to take heart from Sweden and seek to export their hate to other EU member states. That would be a disaster.
Therefore, Sweden must be strong on actions, as much as their words”

Thousands in Budapest flock to Jewish street fair in sign of community’s revival

In scene uniting Jews of all denominations, some 10,000 brave thunderstorm to throng Hungarian capital's touristic Kazinczy street for annual Judafest

BUDAPEST – Thousands flocked to Budapest’s Kazinczy street in the heart of the historic Jewish ghetto on Sunday to celebrate the city’s Judafest.
Braving an afternoon downpour, tourists and locals alike visited the massive street festival, which annually showcases all things Hungarian and Jewish. It’s quite a coup for a central European Jewish community still recovering from World War II and decades of Communism.
The thoroughfare, a common tourist destination throughout the year, teemed with both Jewish and non-Jewish onlookers who stopped at the dozens of stalls offering traditional Jewish foods, handmade items for sale, and information on the multitude of religious and community initiatives that operate in Hungary and the surrounding areas.
Parents pushed baby carriages and walked hand-in-hand with children who sported brightly colored face paint and clutched balloons decorated with the logos of Jewish organizations.
“I think we have even more people than last year,” festival organizer Pepe Berenyi told The Times of Israel. Berenyi, who is also the deputy director of Budapest’s Balint House JCC, estimated that 9,000 to 10,000 people had passed through the festival by mid-afternoon.
Judafest perennially brings together congregations and organizations from all walks of Hungarian Jewish life and across secular and all religious denominations — no mean feat for any Jewish community. The festival was organized by Budapest’s Balint House JCC and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and featured over 30 partners from across the community.
This year also saw significant representation from the country’s periphery and Israel, including the towns of Koszeg, on the Austrian border, and Komarom, on the border with Slovakia – in keeping with the festival’s theme of “Hungarian-speaking Jewish communities.”
A secular humanitarian organization set up shop across from Chabad Hasidic emissaries who gave passersby the chance to say a short prayer with a set of phylacteries. Representatives from many of the city’s various synagogues lounged together amid the many food stands offering tastes of traditional Jewish fare ranging from cholent to freshly baked challah to plates of Israeli hummus.
In the late afternoon, the sunshine gave way to heavy gray storm clouds when a not-completely-unexpected thunderstorm struck. But revelers stuck it out, huddling with umbrellas for half an hour in stone alcoves along the alleyway. As the rain finally started to let up, a handful of teenagers with matted hair took back to the street and danced in their wet clothing to Israeli music that continued to play from a nearby stall.
“Well, it was a great six hours,” joked a resilient Berenyi, who worked for months to put the festival together.
But despite some setbacks – the amplification system and other electronics were taken out of commission by the storm – visitors did not seem deterred. Stall owners bailed out water, dried off their merchandise, and went back to serving the many attendees who stuck around.
A planned concert went forward as an acoustic performance, and the three singers made up for the lack of a sound system by asking the audience to accompany them, turning the show into a sing-along.
At 19:48 Israeli time, to correspond with the year Israel was established, 70 community dignitaries released dove-shaped balloons in honor of Israel’s 70th year of independence.
Onstage, Balint House JCC director Zsuzsa Fritz sang “Lech L’cha,” by singer Debbie Friedman, citing the song’s significance.
“The song is taken from the biblical passage where God first commands Abraham to go to Israel, and promises to bless his offspring and make them into a great nation,” Fritz later told The Times of Israel. “I really felt that this was especially appropriate here as we continue to grow our community.”
Fritz said that the event was an incredibly effective outreach tool, and could encourage many people to engage with Budapest’s Jewish communal life who otherwise wouldn’t take the initiative.
Berenyi said that in Judafest’s inaugural year, Hungarians were hesitant about street festivals of any type – let alone obviously Jewish ones. In all, there were seven partners that first year, and, unexpectedly, the daylong festival was a huge success, drawing 2,500 people.
But in recent years, Judafest has grown considerably, attracting dozens of partners and drawing 12,000 attendees.
Fritz cited an impact study that the Balint House JCC conducted at the event, with pollsters asking attendees questions related to their levels of Jewish participation.
“I was walking by and overheard one of our surveyors speaking to a woman of about 60,” Fritz told The Times of Israel.
“She asked the woman if this was the sole Jewish event that she attended this year, and to my surprise, the woman answered yes,” Fritz said.
“I was sure that she looked like she participated more regularly – in this business you get a feel for these things – but this just shows that events such as this are of the utmost importance and can bring people into the fold who otherwise would feel insecure.”
The article was published on The Times of Israel

ITALIAN POLITICIAN LISTS ‘ANTISEMITIC’ AS HIS RELIGIOUS VIEWS ON FACEBOOK

A member of the city council of an Italian town listed “antisemitic” as his religious views on Facebook, Italian media reported on Sunday.
Stefano Altinier, 35, was elected in the city council of Gorizia, North East of the Italian peninsula, in 2017. He belongs to the right-wing party League, whose leader Matteo Salvini recently triggered a political crisis, pulling the plug from League’s coalition with the anti-establishment Five Star Movement.
According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Altinier deleted the entry on Friday after being alerted that someone had spotted his profile. However, screenshots of his Facebook page started to circulate online.
“The opposition is trying to discredit me in a boorish way. I have always thought that social media do not reflect reality. Some people claim to exercise a certain profession or to be married, and it happens not to be true. I have never been antisemitic, I have even attended a Hanukkah celebration once, and I’m fascinated by the history and tradition of this people,” Altinier said.
Altinier also claimed that he was “a teenager” when he compiled his Facebook profile identifying his religious views as antisemitic, “ten or fifteen years ago.”
“The word was meant as a joke,” he further said. “I apologize if I hurt someone’s sensitivity. Today there is no more trace of what I wrote.”

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