Meeting in Brussels paves the way for European Jewish Association to make case against the Bill in Icelandic Parliament in weeks ahead
In what was described by European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Margolin as a “fruitful and constructive” meeting with Her Excellency Mrs. Bergdís Ellertsdóttir at the Icelandic Embassy in Brussels today, the Ambassador said that the Circumcision Bill was not a government backed initiative.
The Ambassador and her deputy also suggested that Rabbi Margolin should continue dialogue and make the case against the Bill at the Parliament in Iceland, an offer that will be taken up in the weeks ahead.
Speaking after today’s meeting Rabbi Margolin said:
“The Ambassador had a very common-sense and pragmatic approach to this issue, and her words were very re-assuring. It is clear from this meeting that this is a party-led initiative and not one that enjoys the initiative or direct support of the Icelandic Parliament as a whole. This on it’s own is a good start.
‘It is our intention is to dialogue directly with Icelandic Parliamentarians and with the Committee responsible in Iceland in the short weeks ahead.
‘Our expressed concern to the Ambassador is the origin of such legislation, given that it only affects, at best 3 Icelandic children per year who would be circumcised for the purposes of the Jewish faith. Why is a such a bill is even required in the first place? It reeks of the type of populism that is all too sadly manifesting itself across the European Continent at the present time. Her Excellency assured us that our remarks would be reported directly back to the Government in Iceland
“The import of such legislation ever becoming law is that it sets precedence for other European nations, and normalises the branding of the entire Jewish population as “criminals” for performing this important, vital and precious rite of ours. It cannot and will not be allowed to happen.”
Yesterday, on 16 January 2020, the European Jewish Association and our partners from the Action and Protection Foundation /Hungary/ and the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania have joined together to further advance the ongoing Europe-wide initiative on the European Curriculum and Textbook Project against Antisemitism. The meeting has thus taken place in the wonderful Lithuanian capital of Vilnius – once known as the Jerusalem of the North.
With the EJA having been represented by Mihails Vorobeičiks-Mellers (Political Affairs Adviser), the APF by Kálmán Szalai (Secretary) and the International Commission by Ingrida Vilkienė (Deputy Director), we have had the pleasure of meeting with Jolanta Urbanovič, Vice-Minister of Education, Science and Sport of the Republic of Lithuania, and members of her team.
During the meeting, the European dimension of the project has been described and discussed, along with the ongoing dialogues with the educational authorities in several other countries, where meetings have already taken place earlier. Then the initiative’s realization in Hungary has been touched upon – its roots, planning, development, the negotiations involved, gradual implementation and results, and the effect it has had and continues to have on the national curriculum and those undergoing as well as teaching it.
Afterwards, the Lithuanian system of education has been discussed, particularly the various aspects of Jewish studies already covered within the curriculum as well as the corresponding topics where the International Commission has achieved significant progress. In case of the latter, numerous teacher seminars, symposiums and events devoted to providing extensive information on the pre-war Jewish life in Lithuania, contributions to society and country as a whole, as well as Holocaust remembrance – just to name a few.
A consensus has been reached that a much stronger emphasis has to be made not only on the Holocaust remembrance – which is undoubtedly important – but also coexistence, cooperation and long-time friendship between the Jews and their compatriots inhabiting Lithuania in the many centuries preceding the Second World War, not to mention the after-war and contemporary periods as well.
With the above in mind, and considering the Ministry’s plans to renew the curriculum (not just in history, but also other subjects, e.g., social studies, languages etc.), it has been, in particular, agreed that a project proposal containing a number of suggestions shall be prepared, covering the various aspects of the topics mentioned above and others, which shall then be discussed and further evaluated by a prospectively set up expert group, whose composition shall be also discussed soon. Interest and willingness for further close dialogue and possible cooperation has been expressed by all sides involved in the meeting.
We are most grateful to Madam Vice-Minister Urbanovič and her colleagues at the Ministry for their much welcome interest, time and the possibility to have this discussion yesterday, not to mention for being such wonderful and gracious hosts. We very much look forward to further communication with the Ministry and our partners on the present initiative and, of course, other topics of common interest and concern.
It’s a challenging time for Jewish communities in Europe. Anti-Semitism is on the rise as populism and the politics of the lowest common denominator are gaining traction. Our communities often need round the clock protection and our practices and customs such as keeping Kosher are under pressure from increasing political interference.
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