Eighth Candle of Chanukah- #LightingEurope

December 18, 2020

As a part of our #LightingEurope canpaign for the eighth and last Candle of Chanukah we are honored to have Ruth Dureghello, President of the Jewish Community of Rome with some special word for the holiday.

Additional Articles

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

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
Inspired by a wise old lady who very carefully asked my opinion about insulting people, for example in a cartoon, I came to the conclusion that freedom also needs boundaries.
 
The first question is, of course, what is insulting? I read recently in a paper that "It is to be feared that airline (ELAL) policy will only become more orthodox". What's the meaning of this? And what is Orthodox?
 
To obey the law or not, if that is what is meant by orthodox, is not the same as good or bad. I remember Gerhard and Beppie Caneel, survivors of the war. Good, sweet, gentle people through and through. Both came from the war seriously damaged and yet always cheerful.
 
They came to the shul every Shabbat, but otherwise they did not really live according to Jewish law. My Judaism is my heart, Gerhard often said. And that was a visible truth. But they were considered Orthodox by members of the congregation who only appeared in the synagogue on the High Holidays, that is, three times a year.
 
And people who only entered the synagogue on the Day of Atonement thought those High Holiday Jews were orthodox and me probably very orthodox.
 
In other words: who sets which boundary where? And the most important question: should there be boundaries? Why all those boxes? I am Jewish and just as Jewish as Beppie and Gerhard. And whether I am good? That is determined Above! But I know 100% that Beppie and Gerhard were good people through and through. And so I find "the fear that the ELAL will become more orthodox" a polarising statement. And polarisation is dangerous, whether in word or image.
 
And so I asked some survivors what they think about that wise old lady's concern about consciously insulting believers. All survivors I approached shared her view that there should be limits to free speech. Everyone may think that his way of thinking is the only correct one, but there must be room for others to have a different opinion. If I condemn a different religion or way of life in razor-sharp words, it should be possible. But if my conviction calls for killing or discriminating against the other, then I must be called to order and put under lock and key because of sedition.
 
But what if I just insult? If that is allowed, why are we, as a Jewish community, so excited about the floats in Aalst? Anything and everything is possible, right?
 
Some years ago I was confronted with an educational audiovisual program from the churches. The images were formed with sand. There were images and a narrator. The subject was the origin of Christianity. Supporters and opponents of the new religion were all Jews.
 
But in the broadcast, the opponents had long noses, all looked very angry and gave the impression that they were bad people. How will those images affect the youthful viewers of that program? We went to the makers of the program with a minister friend, with the result that they adjusted the entire program. Their intention was absolutely not to incite hatred! I am a staunch fanatical super ultra-orthodox advocate of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But what if violence ensues as a result of being insulted?
 
What then? That old wise lady is of the opinion that insulting is also wrong. I share her opinion.
 
I find it unacceptable to destroy fellow human beings spiritually, deeply hurting them. And so I can protest against the float in Aalst because I experience it as insulting.
 
The Jew with a long nose, tons of money and dollar signs. I can also go to court. But violence against a float that proclaims a message that I find dangerous, taking the law into your own hands or calling for the right to take into your own hands: no way!
 
And so I think that old wise lady, herself a survivor of the Shoah, is right. Anything and everything is allowed, but not unlimited. And that is why I was so delighted that I was allowed to lay a wreath in front of the Jewish monument with Mayor Marcouch in Arnhem last Sunday, despite corona.
 
An Islamic mayor and a Jewish rabbi stood hand in hand (because of corona only in spirit) to demonstrate that what could happen then must never happen again. And a few hours later, during the virtual commemoration of Kristallnacht, the Protestant Churches declared loud and clear in a statement that together, from a deep sense of belonging, we will fight against anti-Semitism and for friendship.
 
Freedom of expression, of the press, of belief: Certainly. But…with limits!

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

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
 
Vaccine loses to the Minister
 
Today my eyes fell on Michel Waterman's column in the NIW in which he writes: “I have to hand in my column today and I don't have a subject yet. I can tell you that my admiration for columnists who produce on a daily basis has greatly increased.”
After reading this I flattered myself wondering if that compliment was meant for me. And so the question arose in my mind: Am I a rabbi or a columnist? But then I also thought back to that psychotherapist who saw my diary as a therapy. After some thinking I came to the conclusion that my diary is a combination of 1: rabbi 2: columnist 3: therapy.
 
And so Waterman's compliment was not addressed to me. A pity, because every now and then I do need a pat on the back (with the elbow of course, because of corona!), Especially when I'm under fire again.
 
A somewhat out-of-context headline made a few front pages, after which people responded. That was great because it means I don't write for deaf ears - my message gets through.
 
What almost bothered me was that a (foreign) colleague, who apparently has little else to do than follow my diary, got in touch with a non-Jewish journalist to protest against the (admittedly clumsy) headline.
 
It went through my mind to send him a WhatsApp with my phone number. Then at the next opportunity he can first make a phone call before turning a molehill into a mountain. But I did not send that WhatsApp and I am not going to send it. Reason?
I Learned from the conversation between Avraham and Lot about which was read last Shabbath in all the synagogues of the world: “A strife arose between the herdsmen of the flocks of Awram and the herders of the flocks of Lot.... Then Awram said to Lot, Let there be
 
no strife between me and you, and between my shepherds and your shepherds.... if it is to the left, I will go to the right, if it is to the right, then I will go to the left (Bereshis/ Genesis 13: 7-9).
 
Why, we may ask, did Abraham leave the choice to Lot? The area, later Israel, was nevertheless the property of Avraham. G-d had promised him this piece of land. He could have shown Lot that he had the best papers!? If we take a grammatical look at the Hebrew
 
text, we see that the Hebrew word for contention is the first time in the masculine form and the second time in the feminine form. Quarrels arise most quickly between people who spend a lot of time together. So,the most appropriate place for disputes is marriage! How do we handle this? Should the man try to be right? Should the woman stand firm?
 
The best way to deal with (marital) differences of opinion is: accept! And that is why the word twist is once in the feminine inflection and once in the masculine. Avraham understood that he could have been right with Lot, but also realized that it is better to just let the adversary, Lot in this case, have his way.
 
And so I will not approach my old colleague on this and when we meet again, just pretend my nose is bleeding! Therapeutically (3) I have written it off with this one, I have made a column (2) of it and, most importantly, I have learned (1) from our patriarch Abraham!
 
So, what we notice is that people are often unable to see and / or think outside their own limited cocoon. Such a thing is called egotosm, a consequence of the idol ‘I’.
 
And that problem is unfortunately frequently encountered in our society and can be very harmful.
 
Dr. Marcel Levi, medical director of ten London hospitals and the son of my former president of the Sinai Center, believes the corona vaccine should be administered now. But the British Minister does not want that yet because perhaps one in 50,000 could suffer from an adverse reaction because the vaccine has not yet been 100% tested. Levi explained to the Minister that even if one in 50,000 gets an unwanted side effect, it is still worth using the vaccine now as it can prevent hundreds from becoming infected with corona and a general lockdown of society. severely dislocated.
 
The Minister responded to this, according to the newspaper that Dr. Levi quoted that if hundreds die from corona, he, the Minister, will hardly be blamed. But if even one person falls victim to the vaccine he has approved, he will be inundated with criticism. The British Minister is thus also a follower of the idol ‘I’, like my colleague, except that the behaviour of the Minister, G-d forbid, causes people to die, but the behaviour of my colleague has a positive result: a topic for my day!
 
 

Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Blessings for Rosh HaShanah18-21-09-2020

The EJA warmly thanks H.E. Zoran Tegeltija, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for His Excellency's kind wishes to the European Jewry in light of the recent holiday of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year).

Austrian court overturns fine for showing Israeli flag

A court in Vienna has expunged a police fine against four activists who displayed Israeli flags while protesting against an event calling for the boycott of the Jewish state.
Vienna police fined four students €150 ($176) for waving an Israel flag at a protest in March 2019 against advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) targeting Israel.
Benjamin Hess, from the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, told the Austrian daily Der Standard, which first reported the court decision, that it was “clearly decided” that holding up an Israel flag and expressing pro-Israel sentiments is a legitimate expression of opinion.
He asked, however, why it “is necessary in Austria at all to go to court in order to have something so fundamental to be established.”
The Vienna city authorities argued that police warnings against the Israeli activists has not deterred pro-Israel activists from showing Israeli flags, and that there was a threat of escalation between the rival groups.
A spokesperson for an organization that monitors antisemitism (Informations und Beobachtungsstelle antisemitismus), who was at the protest in March 2019, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post at the time that a police supervisor told the students the Israeli flag was a “provocation” and issued the activists a €150 fine.
“Once again there was a demonstration in Austria in which antisemitic slogans such as ‘child murderer Israel’ were present, said the spokesperson for monitoring group combating antisemitism.”
In 2020, Austria’s national parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the BDS campaign as antisemitic and urging that the anti-Israel movement not be supported.
“BDS, which has also increasingly appeared in Austria in recent years, makes use of this antisemitic pattern,” stated the resolution. The antisemitic pattern refers to one of the alleged antisemitic BDS goals that seeks to not “recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination,” the resolution explained.
Some 25 people attended the anti-BDS demonstration in March 2019 organized by the Austrian Union of Jewish Students and the Alliance Boycott Antisemitism. According to Der Standard, the pro-BDS group reportedly shouted antisemitic slogans, and one speaker wore a scarf from the US and EU-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
 The anti-BDS groups shouted “Long Live Israel” and held Israeli flags while calling “Free Palestine from Hamas,” the newspaper reported.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles, told the Post at the time, “Apparently it is still a provocation for Jews to defend their people’s honor by waving the flag of Israel. SWC urges the chancellor and other Austrian leaders to publicly wave the Blue and White [Israeli flag] on Israel Independence Day in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community. And the police? Check their obvious anti-Jewish bias.”
https://www.jpost.com/bds-threat/austrian-court-overturns-fine-for-showing-israeli-flag-679952
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