EJA Meeting with Commissioner Stella Kyriakides

May 26, 2021

European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin and Senior Advisory Board Member and Chairman of the EJA Committee for combatting antisemitism Chief Rabbi Jacobs yesterday held a meeting with European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides.
In a frank and honest exchange of views, the Rabbis expressed their gratitude for statements against antisemitism but said that nowhere near enough was being done by the European Commission to defend the fundamental right of Freedom of Religion. The EJA Senior representatives pointed to the recent Belgian and Polish political initiatives that seek to limit access to Kosher meat as evidence of a lack of impetus by the EU Institutions to defending freedom of religion from political interference.
The EJA thanked the Commissioner for her time, and will continue our efforts in ensuring that the college of commissioners are fully appraised of the challenges not only faced by antisemitism but by repeated initiatives that seek to ban or severely impact fundamentals of Jewish faith and practice. We were reassured by Madame Commissioner that the Commission is fully committed to ensuring freedom of religion.

Additional Articles

EU Attorney General’ opinion: individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion.

The EJA welcomes the EU Attorney General’ opinion that individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion. We hope that the European Court of Justice will echo his opinion in due course.

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!

EJA Statment on the Council Declaration on Anti-Semitism

EUROPEAN JEWISH CHIEF WARMLY WELCOMES COUNCIL DECLARATION ON ANTI-SEMITISM BUT SAYS TWO VITAL PIECES ARE MISSING
Brussels 6 December 2018. The Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA) today welcomed the Council of the European Union unanimous adoption of a declaration in the fight against anti-Semitism as a significant step forward, but said that the document misses two key points and arguably the two most important factors affecting anti-Semitism – ongoing efforts to curb Freedom of Religion and practice, and anti-Zionism as typified by the BDS movement.
Urging Europe’s leaders to sign up to the “Jewish red lines” ratified by the members of the European Jewish Association at their conference in Brussels in November, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, whose EJA represents thousands of Jews across Europe and is headquartered in the Belgian capital, said in a a statement:
“The EJA can only welcome the declaration and the commitment by the Council of the European Union to fighting anti-Semitism and better protect Jewish Communities and Institutions in Europe. I am particularly grateful to First Vice-President Timmermans, Commision Jourova, and Katharina Von Schnurbein, the EU’s special envoy on combatting anti-Semitism, for their on-going commitment to safeguarding European Jewry. This triumvirate is making a real difference and putting our concerns front and centre across the EU. The European Jewish Association and its many thousands of members and supporters is deeply appreciative of their efforts, and those of the council members who adopted this declaration unanimously.
“There are however, two vital and missing pieces in the declaration, and these two pieces form the root of much of the anti-Semitism felt by Jews in Europe: on-going efforts by some European countries to target Jewish freedom of religion and practice through legislation on circumcision and religious slaughter for instance, and Anti-Zionism typified by the BDS movement.
Taken together, and notably absent from the declaration, they represent  to European Jewry the touch-paper issues of anti-Semitism, attacks on Jews and their communities, and their way of life.
“Therefore, it is clear to me as Chairman of the European Jewish Association, that any declaration on tackling and fighting anti-Semitism that doesn’t include these two key factors is a declaration that can never be a complete declaration when it comes to tackling anti-Semitism properly and meaningfully.”

Greetings for the Upcoming Rosh HaShanah by Prime Minister of the Finland, H.E. Mr. Antti Rinne

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