Jewish headstones smashed at Greek cemetery

May 7, 2018

Jewish Community of Athens spokesman says: “the scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great” after vandals carried out attack during early hours of Shabbat

 A Jewish cemetery near Athens that was desecrated with neo-Nazi symbols two years ago has once again be vandalised.
A press release by the Jewish Community of Athens said: “On Saturday, the most holy day in Judaism, it is imperative and we are accustomed to abstain from everyday activities and, of course, from announcements. In the context of this almost absolute rigor of observance of the Sabbath holiday, there are exceptions that have to do with dealing with the threat of a life or a great pain.
“Such is the pain that caused us, today, on Saturday, May 5, 2018, the revelation of a new wave of vandalism in the Jewish Cemetery of Athens. Unknown vandals entered our Cemetery during the night and destroyed nine commemorative marble struts kicking them with fury, leaving them to peel off their bases and crushing them on the ground. These marble slabs are used to mark the sectors of our Cemetery and are dedicated to the memory of the dead by their families.
“The scene is repulsive and our disappointment is great. This is not the first time we see the result of a degrading act at our Cemetery but it is the first time we see such act was organised and planned in part of the Cemetery that is not visible from the neighboring houses and with incredible fury. The view of the results of this abominable act causes us deep sorrow and anger.
“The Jewish Community of Athens will exercise all the legal means at its disposal, the first steps have already been taken by the police authorities that immediately came to the collection of clues.
“But besides the Law, we call upon all the institutions of the State and the City, the Justice, the Religious and Spiritual Authorities of the country and the Civil Society, to condemn unambiguously and without reservation this desecration and to stand with absolutely zero tolerance against such phenomena of violence and intolerance. There is no worse sign of a society’s moral decline than desecration of a Cemetery and disrespect for the dead.
“It is not just an act that concerns only our Community and is recorded as one of the most violent and significant anti-Semitic events of recent years in Greece. It is about an act that brutally affects the whole of society, the values and principles of a favored state.
For these reason, we ask everybody to exhaust every effort to never allow such acts against anyone.”
In October 2015, parties who have not been identified wrote in black paint on the entrance to the same cemetery south of the Greek capital the number 18 – a neo-Nazi code for Adolf Hitler — and the word “raus” – German for “out.” In Nazi Germany, the phrase Juden raus, “Jews out,” was a common slogan among anti-Semites. They also painted a swastika on the cemetery’s gate.
Greece’s Golden Dawn party is widely considered one of Europe’s most virulent neo-Nazi movements with representation in a national parliament. It holds 16 seats out of 300 in the Greek parliament.
The Nikaia Jewish cemetery is an active and relatively new place of burial. The community has been burying its dead there since shortly after World War II, when city authorities allocated the land to the community for this purpose.
The article was published on the Jewish News Online

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Guardare al futuro, alla lotta all’antisemitismo, senza dimenticare la storia, specialmente la Shoah e i suoi massacri. La memoria può dunque diventare un punto di partenza per riflettere anche sul futuro e sul presente dell’ebraismo europeo. Queste le premesse con la quale è stato aperto il simposio, organizzato dall’European Jewish Association, dai partner del Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center e della Federazione delle Comunità Ebraiche dell’Ucraina, in occasione della Giornata della Memoria dedicata al massacro di Babyn Yar avvenuto a Kiev.

Tra il 29 e il 30 settembre del 1941, un reparto speciale Einsatzgruppe tedesco, assistito da due battaglioni del reggimento di polizia sud e polizia ausiliaria Ucraina, senza alcuna resistenza da parte della popolazione locale, uccisero all’interno del burrone Babi Yar, situato nel nord-ovest di Kiev, circa 33 771 ebrei. Il Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center è stato creato dal decreto del presidente ucraino Petro Poroshenko il 20 ottobre 2017. Con questo l’Ucraina proponeva un nuovo approccio alla conservazione della memoria storica di quei tragici eventi. “L’Ucraina è il quarto paese per numero che sono state annoverate tra coloro che furono “Giusti tra le nazioni”. Il parlamento ucraino ha recentemente adottato una legge per combattere e prevenire l’antisemitismo nel paese e per commemorare la Shoah. La memoria è l’unico modo per combattere l’antisemitismo – ha detto nel corso della conferenza il Presidente del parlamento ucraino, Ruslan Stefanchuk- Le atrocità sono avvenute spesso perché la gente è rimasta in silenzio a causa della paura, dell’indifferenza e dell’egoismo. Lo studio della Shoah oggi è di particolare importanza per il popolo ucraino.”

Una delegazione di circa cento ministri, parlamentari, senatori, ambasciatori e giornalisti di tutta Europa riuniti in Ucraina. Due giorni intensi di seminario volti ad analizzare l’emergenza dilagante del nuovo risveglio dell’antisemitismo. Un momento per riunirsi, confrontarsi e discutere, ma soprattutto per tentare di accogliere la sfida di combattere l’antisemitismo in atto in Europa. Non nascondersi, ma affrontare il passato con un rinnovato senso di pragmatismo, trovando strategie per fronteggiare l’odio antiebraico di oggi, in tutte le sue forme.

Babyn Yar: una vergognosa pagina della storia, per anni nascosta. Al termine del seminario la delegazione si è recata nel luogo dove furono trucidati milioni di innocenti per una visita al centro Babyn Yar seguita da una cerimonia.  Il memoriale, in seguito a moltissimi sforzi per commemorare le sue vittime, ha trovato la sua ubicazione, cinque anni fa nello stesso luogo dove avvenne la tragedia.

Ad intervenire, nel corso della serata, anche il Presidente del consiglio del Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Natan Sharansky. Sharansky, nel suo videomessaggio, ha sottolineato come le autorità sovietiche abbiano tentato insabbiare l’accaduto cancellando ogni ricordo del massacro avvenuto in quel burrone. “Una commemorazione importante non solo per le vittime e per onorare la loro memoria- ha aggiunto Sharansky -ma anche per garantire che le lezioni della storia vengano apprese e ricordate nell’era in cui viviamo oggi”.

“Sono nato pochi anni dopo la Shoah, sono cresciuto in Ucraina tra i campi di sterminio, eppure non ne sapevamo nulla – spiega al pubblico Sharansky – Ecco perché oggi è così importante che il Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, che ho l’onore di presiedere, stia facendo grandi sforzi per trasformare questa “grande tomba della Shoah” in un grande museo con il suo centro di ricerca e studio.  Stiamo facendo tutto questo collaborando strettamente con il governo ucraino.”

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:
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!

New Cooperation with The TSKŻ, Poland

The European Jewish Association is proud and delighted to welcome another organisation to our growing roster of partners and communities.

We have just concluded and signed a memorandum of understanding with Poland’s TSKZ.

The TSKŻ (The Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland) is the most important organization representing the interests of the Jewish community of Poland with 16 branches and nearly 2,000 active members.

TSKŻ aims to organize and to promote cultural events and Jewish art exhibitions, to consolidate and preserve the cultural heritage of Polish Jews, the Jewish culture among Jews and Poles, Yiddish language courses and publishing projects. The organisation is very active in preserving the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and of the Shoah.

They are also organizing conferences and lectures on Jewish and Israeli topics.

TSKŻ is managing welfare and health programs for its elderly members.

TSKŻ is also operating summer camps for youth and a Training & Holiday Center “Śródborowianka” in Otwock, as a place of regular meetings of the Jewish community from all over the country.

When two dynamic and active Jewish organisations get together and agree to work closely together, beautiful and important things flow from this. We look forward to working for the betterment of Polish and European Jewry together.

Antisemitic attack in Maastricht, Netherlands

We condemn the vile antisemitic attack suffered by a young activist and dear friend of the European Jewish Association in Maastricht, the Netherlands earlier today. Attacks such as this highlight the important work done by the targeted activist and Jewish organizations throughout the continent. Regrettably we are reminded once again that antisemitism is alive and growing in Europe

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