Meeting with H.E. Madam Ilga Šuplinska, Minister for Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia

November 12, 2019

Earlier last week, on 6 November 2019, the European Jewish Association and our partners from the Action and Protection Foundation /Hungary/ and Association “Shamir” /Latvia/ have come together to further promote the ongoing Europe-wide initiative on the European Curriculum and Textbook Project against Antisemitism. This time the meeting brought us to the Gem of the Baltics – Rīga, the enchanting capital of the Republic of Latvia.

At the meeting, where the EJA has been represented by Mihails Vorobeičiks-Mellers (Political Affairs Adviser), the APF by Kálmán Szalai (Secretary) and Shamir by Rabbi Menahems Barkahans (Chairman) and Jūlija Tereščenko (Project Manager), we have had a chance to meet with H.E. Madam Ilga Šuplinska, Minister for Education and Science of the Republic of Latvia, and members of her staff.

The meeting took place at a beautiful Jugendstil building constructed back in 1911, which the Ministry occupies since 1938. Besides the earlier Hungarian experience, the system of education in Latvia has been discussed, particularly the various curricular and extra-curricular initiatives and programmes already implemented or currently planned by the educational authorities and other entities, such as NGOs, and which are related to different aspects of Jewish studies in the country, and thus the project’s area of topical coverage.

Differently from other meetings, this one has taken place in two languages – English and Latvian. As a result, the overall tone of the conversation became somewhat more personal, with a variety of first-hand experiences having been brought up by the EJA’s representative, taken from his own school years as well as Jewish studies back home. In turn, Rabbi Barkahan has described Shamir’s very active long-time work and accomplishments in the latter field.

In the course of the discussion, several areas of possible cooperation have been identified, including on the composition of new academic materials for school pupils. Moreover, interest in potential event collaboration both in Latvia and abroad has been indicated.

We are deeply grateful to H.E. Minister Šuplinska and the Ministry of Education and Science for the interest, time and the opportunity to hold this important discussion, not to mention for being such welcoming hosts. We very much look forward to further contacts on the present initiative and other subjects of common interest and concern.

Additional Articles

Four appear in court over alleged antisemitism shouted from convoy

Four men have appeared in court charged with shouting antisemitic abuse from a convoy of cars in north London earlier this year.
Mohammed Iftikhar Hanif, 27; Jawaad Hussain, 24; Asif Ali, 25; and Adil Mota, 26, were seen covering their faces as they arrived and left Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
They are charged with using threatening, abusive or insulting words, or behaviour with intent likely to stir up racial hatred.
All four men from Blackburn entered not guilty pleas, with Mr Mota’s lawyer telling the court that his client was travelling as part of the convoy but wasn’t involved in the incident.
Read More :
https://www.thejc.com/news/uk/four-appear-in-court-over-alleged-antisemitism-shouted-from-convoy-1.521120

Addressing anti-Semitism in schools: UNESCO and OSCE launch framework curricula for teacher trainers

UNESCO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) are publishing new resources for teacher trainers, titled Addressing Anti-Semitism in Schools: Training Curricula. Launched online on 24 November (5pm CET), the publication responds to an alarming rise in anti-Semitism, which is threatening the security of Jewish communities and individuals around the world.
The publication reflects the view that education plays a crucial role in raising young people’s awareness of anti-Semitism and helps them resist the harmful messages of hate speech. In 2019 alone, anti-Semitic hate crimes increased by 13% in Germany and 14% in the United States, for example. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a new wave of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, while studies in the United States and Europe show a marked increase in Holocaust denial and distortion, both on- and off-line.
Supporting educators in particular, UNESCO and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) are publishing new resources for teacher trainers, titled ‘Addressing Anti-Semitism in Schools: Training Curricula’. The publication will be launched online on 24 November at 17.00 CET.
Recognizing that schools are not immune to messages and acts of hate, UNESCO and ODIHR’s new publication prepares teachers and school directors to resist anti-Semitism through education and to address it when it arises in an educational environment. Divided into four distinct volumes, the publication includes targeted curricula for trainers of teachers in primary, secondary and vocational education, as well as school directors. The resources were developed with the support of the University College London Centre for Holocaust Education, as part of ODIHR’s Turning Words into Action to Address anti-Semitism project and within the framework of UNESCO’s programme on Global Citizenship Education.
The curricula follow a human rights-based approach and provide pedagogical knowledge and concrete activities, designed to strengthening learners’ critical thinking, understanding, and rejection, of anti-Semitism, prejudice and discrimination. Each volume includes a comprehensive list of good practices as well as examples of scenarios and methodological suggestions. Adding to the publication, the USC Shoah Foundation UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education is developing a website that will link the curricula to existing online teaching resources.
The new publication is based on UNESCO and ODIHR’s 2018 guidelines for policymakers on Addressing anti-Semitism through Education. In 2019, the guidelines informed a series of capacity-building workshops, which reached policymakers from more than 60 countries.
The online launch on 24 November will feature statements by Katarzyna Gardapkhadze, Officer-in-Charge of ODIHR, Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Education, and German Ambassador Michaela Küchler, who holds the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Chair. A panel discussion will focus on The role of education in addressing antisemitism with the participation of Maram Stern, Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, Sharon Nazarian, Senior Vice President of International Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Stuart Foster, Executive Director of the University College London Centre for Holocaust Education. It will be moderated by Stephen Smith, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation and UNESCO Chair for Genocide Education. The framework curricula will be introduced by Ruth-Anne Lenga, Programme Director, and Arthur Chapman, Associate Professor in History Education of the University College London Centre for Holocaust Education.
The article was published in MirageNews

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
“This message comes from Wollongong, Australia where we have a small Jewish community.
I wanted to ask you if Hijman Jacobs (1843-1872) might be in your family line? His great-grandchild who was once a student at our local university (~ 1970) is told that his great-grandfather was a Rabbi in Amsterdam. ” Thus the email I received this morning from Wollongong-Australia.
Never heard of a Rabbi Jacobs from Amsterdam, but what is not may yet come. I do not mean that I have ambitions to become the rabbi of Amsterdam, but it could just be that I have discovered an ancestor whose existence I did not know. Maybe he was not a rabbi and was only called a rabbi because he was a teacher. I am certainly not a descendant in the direct line, but perhaps he was a cousin of my father and therefore a real Jacobs. And if it is even slightly correct, I should definitely share that with Claire as well. Claire, I hear you ask. Who is Claire?
Claire and I share the same great-grandparents Salomon Levie Jacobs and Froukje Jacobs-Leek, who both passed away about a hundred years ago. About ten years ago we stood together in the cemetery of the Jewish Community in Muiderberg. We look alike and according to my wife have the same facial features. I also think that we both have mixed feelings about Aletta Jacobs with whom we both have the same family relationship. Proud of her commitment to equal rights for women and the prevailing discrimination, but we both also have difficulty with certain parts of her struggle / life vision in the field of ethics.
Claire and I are both from the orthodox core of the Jewish community. My dear caring and overprotective father has always told me that there must be one more person alive from the Jacobs family. A great-niece named Claire, granddaughter of his Aunt Bella, his father's sister. My grandfather Jacobs had a sister and three brothers. All murdered with children, children by marriage and grandchildren. A cousin, Sampe, had survived the war but lost his wife and child in one of the camps. He was the only member of Jacobs's side at my parents' wedding in 1948. Sampe, my father told me, was deeply depressed and remarried a woman from Manchester. A girl is born who is named Claire. Sampe dies shortly after birth. Claire's mother remarries. With whom and where my father did not know. But I have not forgotten the name Claire.
About ten years ago I received a phone call from the Jewish Community of The Hague. A certain Claire is looking for her origins. She lives in Melbourne. I didn't have to think long, took the phone and talked to Claire, my grand-niece, the only still alive Jacobs. She wanted to know who her grandparents had been and also details about her father. Her mother had been married to him for only a short time and, in fact, knew very little about him. Because my father was on the verge of dementia at the time, I told Claire that if she wanted to hear more details from my father about her grandfather and grandmother, she should come now. And so I met Claire a week later. That feeling was very special. Even now, when I think back, tears come to my eyes. My grandfather and her grandmother were brother and sister. After she met my father, we went to Muiderberg together and stood before the graves of Salomon Levie Jacobs and Froukje Jacobs-Leek, our joint great-grandparents. Claire was raised by her mother and second father. But she was not told that her stepfather was not her real father. That stepfather never distinguished between Claire and the children born later. Mother and stepfather did not want to burden her with the real father who was no longer there.
Whether that was ethically correct or incorrect is no longer relevant. So her mother and stepfather had decided with the best of intentions in the world. Two weeks before her chuppah wedding, they told her husband-to-be that Claire's real father is no longer alive. He, the husband-to-be, wanted Claire to find out, too, but because of the potential emotional blow, they decided to wait until a week after the wedding. She heard it, absorbed it, processed it emotionally, but did nothing with it. She was just married, building a family, then children ... and then, ten years ago, when the children had left home and she and her husband had the wealth to themselves, she wanted to know: “Who were my grandparents and who was my father? ”
I was able to find someone who knew her father very well. We found the graves of her father's parents and we found each other. Actually, we are just distant relatives, two people who had never met each other before. But we are both descendants of the same great-grandparents, we live in their footsteps, are both known to be the only survivors of that large Jacobs family. We both thanked G-d for being allowed to stand there together in the cemetery of the Jewish Community of Amsterdam, because we realized that most of the graves in the Jewish cemeteries will never be visited by anyone, because there is no one left. And while I was close to closing my diary, I received an email invitation from Claire to the chuppah of one of her grandchildren on January 5th in Monroe New York.
And now that e-mail from Wollongong, Australia. Maybe another Jacobs will turn up after all: Hijman Jacobs. I'm waiting!

The Labour party approves a draft action plan against antisemitism to be submitted to the government’s anti-racist body

The Labour party’s ruling national executive committee (NEC) has approved a draft action plan against antisemitism it is required to submit to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the government anti-racist body,  ahead of a deadline later this week, The Jewish Chronicle reported.
The plan comes in response to  recommendations  of the EHRC report into antisemitism in the party.
The Labour’s action plan comprises the 18 key recommendations of the EHRC report, including the setting up of an independent complaints process to handle  allegations of antisemitism, other forms of discrimination and bullying.
The party had receive a 10 December deadline to produce a draft action plan in response to the findings and recommendations of the report released by the government anti-racist and equality body.
A Labour spokesperson said: ”Labour’s national executive committee has given its approval to the draft action plan it is required to submit to the EHRC this week.
“It covers all the EHRC’s recommendations and is an important step towards Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner’s commitment to rebuilding trust and confidence with our Jewish members and the Jewish community.”
The action plan is believed to contain details on how  Labour intends to live up to Keir Starmer’s zero tolerance commitment to reports of antisemitism in the party in the future, how it will introduce training sessions on anti-Jewish racism to be conducted by the Jewish Labour Movement, and how it will effectively monitor improvements to ensure lasting change within the party.
Asked to comment the process in the Labour party by its new leader Keir Starmer, Gideon Falter, Chairman of the UK-based Campaign Against Antisemitism, who has been in the forefront of the battle to refer the party  to EHRC because it was not taking its complaints against former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn seriously, said: ‘’‘’The point is that this is a man, Jeremy Corbyn, who put 47% of British Jews in fear of their future in this country.He surely cannot be allowed by his political party, which claims to be anti-racist, to go without answer for that. He must be held to account in a fair, independent disciplinary process.’’
Falter added during a webinar hosted by the European Jewish Association: ‘’If this is going to be polluted by Keir Starmer’s  political considerations about who has the power in Labour, then I don’t think the party has learned his lesson. The Labour party has to secure justice against anti-Semites.’’
Last month, Starmer decided not to readmit Corbyn in its parliamentary ranks despite the fact that a Labour disciplinary panel lifted the suspension of Corbyn’s party membership.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation identified serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process of handling anti-Semitism complaints.
Its report said the party was responsible for three breaches of the Equality Act: political interference in anti-Semitism complaints, failure to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints and harassment.
Read More
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