Yesterday, the European Jewish Association has had the honour of welcoming at its headquarters the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the European Union, H.E. Madam Emina Merdan, and the Mission’s Minister-Counselor, Ms. Miranda Sidran.
Her Excellency has presented the EJA’s Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the original of the Rosh Hashanah congratulatory letter received earlier from H.E. Dr. Denis Zvizdić, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. H.E. Madam Ambassador has also expressed and conveyed H.E. Mr. Chairman’s condolences regarding the Wednesday shooting near a synagogue in the German city of Halle, resulting in the tragic deaths of two people nearby.
During the meeting, we have in particular discussed Bosnia and Herzegovina: the country’s tragic recent past, its modern European aspirations, the multicultural and multi-religious nature of its society as well as the local Jewish community, having its roots in the Sephardic Jews fleeing from Spain more than five centuries ago.
The Jewish community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, especially if compared to many others throughout Europe, is quite special – there have never been any ghettos here, with the Jews always having been considered an integral part of the local society, with no inherent Antisemitism carried by their neighbours and compatriots. While the modern Bosnian Jewish community is much smaller than it used to be, it is very active, while the heritage of Ladino is carefully preserved. In turn, established in 1997, the Interreligious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina unites representatives of the Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews – working together to build a better future.
Potential cooperation between the Mission and the EJA has also been discussed – both sides have expressed sincere interest in further dialogue and carefully exploring such possibilities of collaboration on topics of common interest and concern. We are very grateful to Her Excellency for this visit and wish H.E. Ambassador Merdan the best of luck and much energy in her important work.
“The ‘Group of the Elders of Zion’ and Mayer AmschelRothschild, the skilful founder of the famous dynasty that still today controls the International Banking System, led to the creation of a manifesto: ‘The Protocols…’”
Looking at the above quote, you would think that it was written by a Nazi in the 1930’s, right?
Wrong. This was posted this week by Senator Elio Lannutti, of the Italian Five Star Movement on Twitter.
On the 27th January we will have marked International Holocaust day.
Senator Lannutti reminded us why we must continue to mark international holocaust day, and why we can never assume such a horrendous calamity could never be inflicted on us again.
Antisemitism is as stubbornly rooted as ever. Try and rip it up and its seeds will travel somewhere else. From France to Spain, or Belgium to Belorussia, the political winds that carry it can be strong, or a barely perceptible breeze, but still they blow.
Deborah Lipstadt knows this. She describes where we are right now as a “perfect storm”.
Lipstadt is best know for the libel suit filed against her, by the Holocaust denier David Irving. In her latest book “Antisemitism: Here and Now,” she examines the recent rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S., the U.K., and Europe.
In an interview with the New Yorker this week, she summed the situation up as follows:
“On some level, it is the same old, same old. The construct is the same, the stereotypes are the same. But I think what is different today is that we’re seeing a perfect storm, in that usually it comes from either the right or the left politically. Today we’re seeing it from the political right and the political left, and we are seeing it particularly—not only, but particularly—in Europe from Islamist extremists, or jihadists, or whatever term you’d like to use.”
Why is anti-Semitism still with us? I believe that it is so deeply embedded, that it operates almost at a subconscious level in most people. After all, when things go bad, economically, politically or otherwise, we are to blame. But if any other random group had these accusations laid at their door, such as pizza delivery people or cyclists, everyone would say it was nuts.
Yes, it can sometimes feel like a heavy burden, but Ann Frank, displaying a wisdom far beyond her tender years,summed it up neatly:
“Who has made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is G-d that has made us as we are, but it will be G-d, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason alone do we have to suffer now. We can never become just Netherlanders, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter; we will always remain Jews, but we want to, too.”
I want you to take this message to heart.
Empires come and go, War turns to Peace, and back again, yet still we are here, giving the world the shared totality of our many talents, expertise and wisdom. Not for ourselves but for everyone.
We want to remain Jews. Because we are. Because we can be no other. Because not being so is like asking us not to breathe. Yes, we are leaders in science, the arts, and yes, Senator, in Banking too.
It is not arrogance or self-serving interest that drives us on, as the antisemites would have it.
In fact, it is the exact opposite. Our task was and remains to this day, the same task that each of us were given at Sinai by the Almighty: To make the world a better place. This responsibility rests on every Jew, from Rothschild the banker to Rosenbaum the street cleaner. It is not for our benefit that we do our best, but to honour the task that G-d gave us, for the benefit of all humanity.
We must never lose sight of this. And we must never relent in our task. I will leave the last word to Winston Churchill. Let it be your call to action, and a reminder to us all on dark days such as Holocaust Memorial Day:
“Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.”
May G-d continue to bless us all.
There is too much emphasis on the parents’ religious and cultural rights’
The Danish parliament is to consider whether to become the first country to ban boys being circumcised after a petition forced lawmakers to debate the issue.
A citizens’ petition that called for the introduction of a minimum age of 18 for circumcision to protect “children’s fundamental rights” reached 50,000 signatories on Friday, taking it beyond the threshold at which it must be discussed in Parliament.
The debate should take place in the autumn, after the Danish parliament reconvenes, but it is highly unlikely that the bill will pass into law since the government appears to be opposed to such a course.
“We’d be all alone and the first country in the world to go in that direction. That’s our objective analysis,” foreign minister Anders Samuelsen told Altinget.
“It makes us vulnerable and it means that the allies who normally help us in a precarious situation, will, in this situation, not be by our side.”
The defence minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, also appeared unenthusiastic.
“I think the political risk is enormous,” he told reporters, going on to cite fears that the issue could provoke outside interference: “One may risk that it suddenly begins to explode on social media.”
Other parliamentarians, however, were in favour of a ban.
“It will put children’s rights ahead of their parents’ religious rights,” said Naser Khader, the spokesman on human rights and legal affairs for the Conservative Party, a junior partner in the governing coalition.
“There is too much emphasis on the parents’ religious and cultural rights,” Khader said.
“For me, it is the main children’s rights [which are paramount]. We have been a pioneer country in many other areas, for example, we have been first movers of homosexuals’ rights and we have been proud. Not [with] children’s rights,” he added.
Proponents of boyhood circumcision say that the removal of the foreskin can reduce the risk of fatal diseases like cancer, but the claims are contested.
However, its prevalence is largely due to religious traditions within Islam and Judaism that revolve around the ideal of cleanliness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks but not by enough to recommend universal male circumcision.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says doctors should educate infant boys’ parents about the health benefits of circumcision, which it says reduces the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Lena Nyhus of the group Intact Denmark told The Associated Press on Saturday that her children’s welfare organisation believes “we need to respect a person’s right to decide for themselves” on a possible circumcision when they become an adult.
Around 30 per cent of men across the world have been circumcised, according to a 2007 World Health Organization report.
A recent poll commissioned by Danish TV2 broadcaster found that 83 per cent of respondents supported such an age limit on circumcising boys.
However, the proposal is unlikely to pass since none of Denmark’s main political parties support it.
Earlier this year, Icelandic lawmakers initially backed a plan to ban circumcisions for minors and to give those who performed the procedure possible jail sentences. But after an outpouring of criticism, including from European Jewish leaders, the proposal was dropped.
The article was published in the Independent
Today, the European Commission is becoming a permanent international partner to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). The participation of the EU in this international body will allow closer cooperation on combating Holocaust denial and preventing racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.
This is a direct follow-up to President Juncker’s call for closer international cooperation in his statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, this 27 January, as well as the European Parliament’s resolution on combating Antisemitism of June 2017.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “With a decreasing number of Holocaust survivors and at a time when Antisemitism is on the rise, we need to foster the memory of the darkest chapter in our history. The EU joining the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance will help promote understanding so that future generations will heed the lessons of our past.”
Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, Vera Jourová added: “This commitment is part of our wider effort to fight against Antisemitism. Our involvement in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has special importance at a time when Holocaust denial is spreading.”
Today, at the plenary meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism will officially accept the role. As a result, the Commission will represent the EU in this body, which provides expertise on Holocaust denial, distortion or Antisemitism.
It will give the Commission access to the expertise of International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Groups on education, particularly on key challenges like multi-cultural and multi-religious classrooms and inclusive remembrance. More information on the Commission’s work on combatting Antisemitism can be found online here.
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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