New Cooperation with Nederlands Israëlitische Gemeente De Achterhoek

May 11, 2020

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 Nederlands Israëlitische Gemeente De Achterhoek.
We are sure that this cooperation will bring with it beautiful and important accomplishments. We look forward to working for the betterment of Dutch and European Jewry together.

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EU steps up fight against antisemitism

The European Jewish Association welcomes the European Council declaration on fighting antisemitism that reaffirms its commitment for a common security approach in Europe to protect Jewish life and make it more visible as part of Europe’s identity.
"We welcome the acknowledgement of the European Council of the Member States shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life in Europe and the acknowledgement of the contribution of Judaism and Jewish life that have indeed considerably shaped European identity and enriched Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage.  We look forward to working with EU institutions and national governments across policy areas as we continue the fight against antisemitism together," stated EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
you can read more about it here:

The European Council welcomed on Friday a declaration on mainstreaming the fight against antisemitism across policy areas.

In its conclusions, the European Council condemned “all forms of attacks on the freedoms of expression and religion or belief, including antisemitism, racism and xenophobia, and underlines the importance of combating incitement to hatred and violence, as well as intolerance.”

The Declaration, which was approved last week by the Justice and Home Affairs Council, describes antisemitism as an EU-wide phenomenon and emphasises that the fight against it is a cross-cutting issue involving various levels of government and policies at local, national and European level.

The Council expressed its concern at the increase in threats to Jewish people in Europe, and the resurgence of conspiracy myths, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increase in antisemitic incidents and hate crime.

It stresses that antisemitism has developed into various forms and must be combated with complementary public policies. Illegal hate speech and online terrorist content must be removed promptly and consistently by internet service providers. A strong and systematic judicial response to antisemitic acts is also necessary.

Education about the Holocaust, antisemitism and Jewish life remains one of the most important tools in preventing antisemitic prejudices. Sharing good practices to foster media literacy and awareness of conspiracy myths is also key.

The member states welcomed the European Commission’s decision to make the fight against antisemitism a priority, as well as the strengthening of the institutional basis for the coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life.

The Declaration states that, “Judaism and Jewish life have contributed considerably to shaping European identity and enriching Europe’s cultural, intellectual and religious heritage. We are grateful that 75 years after the Holocaust, Jewish life, in all its diversity, is deeply rooted and thriving again in Europe. It is our permanent, shared responsibility to actively protect and support Jewish life.”

“As a researcher on contemporary European antisemitism, I welcome the Council Declaration on the fight against antisemitism,” commented Lars Dencik, a Swedish professor in social psychology. “The appeal to fight antisemitism ‘in a holistic way’, i.e. across policy fields and member states, is highly relevant.”

“To organize systematic data collection and analysis of antisemitism across all member states would be most valuable,” he added. “To focus on the upsurge of antisemitic conspiracy myths appears also adequate and necessary. The point of actively protecting and supporting Jewish life and making it more visible as part of European identity is very well taken.”

The European Commission presented also on Wednesday a a new Counter-Terrorism Agenda for the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and boost the EU’s resilience to terrorist threats. Among others, the EU will step up efforts to ensure physical protection of public spaces including places of worship through security by design.

The Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, confirmed at a press conference that special resources will be dedicated to protect churches, mosques and synagogues. “We are giving cities the means to protect open public spaces through good design and we are ensuring that we can respond quickly and more efficiently to attacks and attempted attacks.”

Preventing attacks by addressing radicalisation and countering spread of extremist ideologies online is important and the Commission proposes to adopt rules on removing terrorist content online as a matter of urgency. The same goes for antisemitic hate speech, according to the Council Declaration.

“Antisemitic hate speech, including public condoning, denying or grossly trivialising the Holocaust, is increasingly influential and is shared online often without any consequences for those who produce and/or disseminate it. Crimes committed online should be punished just as crimes offline are and must be adequately addressed by means of effective prosecution and other measures.”

The Declaration underlines that The Council Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law (2008/913/JHA) must be transposed and effectively implemented by the Member States, including for crimes committed on the internet.

New forms of antisemitism

Dencik, the researcher of antisemitism, is sceptical and thinks that it borders on wishful thinking to have global internet providers monitoring and removing hate speech on their platforms. He adds that somewhat unnoticed in the Council Declaration are emerging problems of “antisemitism in disguise” and “latent antisemitism” and refers to conspiracy theories and attacks on individual Jews and Jewish institution emanating from hatred against Israel.

The Declaration does mention that recent studies, for example by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), show that antisemitism in all its forms is increasingly prevalent in Europe.

Reaffirming their commitment to a previous Council declaration in December 2018 on the fight against antisemitism, the EU member states also referred to the non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism employed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“We welcome the fact that 18 Member States have already followed up on the Council declaration of 6 December 2018 by endorsing the IHRA working definition as a useful guidance tool in education and training. Member States that have not yet done so are invited to join the other Member States and endorse the IHRA working definition as soon as possible.”

The borderline between antisemitism and legitimate criticism of Israel and its government is often blurred and has become politicized, including in Israel. “Criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” says the definition and distinguishes between legitimate criticism and verbal attacks against Israel that might be fuelled by antisemitism and antisemitic stereotypes.

The list of such examples includes denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, accusing Israel of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, and applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

The Commission has been forced to strengthen the fight against antisemitism almost every year. “The 20th century had many deseases. The only on that remained incurable is antisemitism,” Commission Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in 2018. He criticised some EU member states for their identity politics. “If you choose identity policy, it will sooner or later refer to minorities and the first minority to be hit is the Jews.”

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Coronavirus heavily impacts French Jewish community, ZAKA buries victims

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Peretz, head of ZAKA France, alerted the Jewish community, saying that "We are counting bodies, and you are still debating the quarantine measures" 

As of Wednesday night, France reported that 11,539 people were hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus and 1,331 people  died from the virus, including some Jewish people.

On social media, including many Facebook groups, a list of French Jews infected with the coronavirus was published and is being updated almost daily, people urging the community to pray and read tehillim for them.

In a recent statement, ZAKA claimed that many victims from the coronavirus in France are Jewish and that the organization's volunteers are burring Jewish victims every day. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Peretz, head of ZAKA France, alerted the Jewish community, saying that "we are counting bodies, and you are still debating the quarantine measures."
"We are in difficult times, we have a very hard job as we take care every day of the Jews who died as a result of the virus," he added. "It is very difficult to describe the situation with what we face here every day."
Rabbi Peretz said that important Rabbis from the community are among the victims.
"Last Saturday, Rabbi Touboul, head of the Beit Hanna and Chaya Mushka schools in Paris, some of the largest Chabad schools for girls in Europe, died suddenly," he said.
"We worked to fulfill Rabbi Touboul's will to be buried in Israel. We were able to reach an agreement with the Israeli Ministry of Health, we received very strict instructions on how to treat the deceased according to Jewish law and the Health Ministry guidelines in order to bury him in Israel."
Rabbi Touboul was buried on Tuesday at the Mount of Olives Cemetery in Jerusalem.
ZAKA's French head also added that tonight, a French aircraft will land at Ben Gurion Airport, carrying three coffins with the bodies of Jews who died in France from the coronavirus to be buried in Israel.
Among them will be Rabbi Hamou, a major rabbi and community leader of the Mekor Chaim community in Paris, who fought for his life for about a week in the hospital.
In the statement ZAKA begs the Jewish community in France, in Israel, and around the world, to stay home.
"Please, for your own benefit and for your families, apply the Ministry of Health guidelines to stay home, to stay alive,"  ZAKA said.
Actualité Juive, a major Jewish newspaper in France, asked in a recent report if the Jewish community is over-represented among those infected with the coronavirus in the country.
"There was, without any doubt, a certain skepticism in the community," recognized the Chief Rabbi of France Haïm Korsia. "At first, people may have thought that the risk could not exist in their immediate family," he added.
But today, the Jewish community has realized the emergency of the situation and the importance of staying at home, according to Actualité Juive.
The article was published in the JPost

COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi 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.
Here, the Rabbi offers his unique and refreshing take on the portion. For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl and then: scroll down.
On Freedom of Speech
 
Freedom of opinion and speech is a great asset and therefore everything must be said.
 
And if I am allowed to say everything, I also have to accept everything and not moan when I myself become the target of taunts. Agree!
 
But why then get upset about anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, the anti-Semitic floats in Aalst or the umpteenth anti-Semitic cartoon in the Volkskrant?
 
Everything can be said, right? A cartoon that insults the heart of Islam must be possible, right? And what's wrong with black Pete? Do dark skinned people feel offended? Don't complain, freedom of speech!
 
But that opinion should of course not be every opinion, because if parents want to teach their children that the family with a mom and dad is the cornerstone of society, it could be seen as discriminating towards people who have a different orientation…
 
A befriended non-Jewish, non-Christian, non-Muslim and unmarried journalist (thus of impeccable behaviour!) Has warned me not to write that I am in favour of freedom of expression, but that that freedom must have restrictions.
 
That nuancing "but" would bring a torrent of criticism on myself. "But" I don't get that, because if freedom of speech is to be cherished, then I am allowed to express my opinion, even if that opinion differs?
 
And so with this my opinion, straight from ancient Judaism (Proverbs of the Fathers 2: 1): “What is the right way that man must choose? Any way that gives honour to him who follows him and by which he is honoured by men. ”
 
In other words: Black Pete really had nothing to do with discrimination for me. But if normal thinking people with a black skin colour now experience this as discriminating, then we have to stop.
 
Fanaticism is no good, neither from the right nor from the left, not from religion, but also not from secularization. Because secularization can also be fanatic, compulsive and intolerant.
 
But just before writing this, I got a call from a secular mayor friend: "Binyomin, if you ever need to, you can count on me." This again shows: friendship and solidarity, between secular and religious, standing up for each other, that is not only possible but eminently desirable.

EJA Open Letter Calling on Polish Government to Scrap Kosher Ban Plans

EJA INITIATED OPEN LETTER FROM DOZENS OF PARLIAMENTARIANS ACROSS EUROPE AND JEWISH LEADERS CALLING ON POLISH GOVERNMENT TO SCRAP KOSHER MEAT BAN PLANS
Dozens of parliamentarians from across Europe and Israel, including Senators, MPs, MKs, MEPs and the UK House of Lords, and Jewish community leaders from all over Europe have joined forces in a letter calling on the Polish Government to scrap part of an animal welfare Bill to be voted on in the Polish Senate on Tuesday 13 October.
The Bill, if passed as currently written, would see a ban on the export of Kosher meat from Poland, a move that would severely impact Jewish communities across the continent who, either by size or limited resources, rely heavily on Poland as a supplier of kosher meat.
The Bill - to the clear concern of the many parliamentarians and Jewish leader signatories – also sets a dangerous precedent: it puts, animal welfare rights clearly ahead of the fundamental European right of freedom of religion.
The signatories also raised the fact that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support claims that kosher slaughter is any more cruel than the majority of slaughter taking place day-in, day out in Europe.
In their letter to the Polish President H.E. Mr. Andrzej Sebastian Duda , H.E. Madam Elżbieta Barbara Witek, Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland and H.E. Mr. Tomasz Paweł Grodzki, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, the signatories wrote:
“By prohibiting an export of products that represents a central tenet of Jewish faith and practice for many, you are sending a strong message that laws that effectively hinder Jewish life in Europe are acceptable.
“it is for these reasons - and on behalf of the many thousands of Jews that we as Community Leaders and Parliamentarians represent - that we urge the Polish government, its Parliament and its Senators to stop this aspect of the Bill.”
Our Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin speaking ahead of the vote said,
“What appears to be a national polish political issue is nothing of the sort. The ramifications of this Bill are potentially devastating and profound to Jews eveywhere in Europe, and also to the many who value the liberty to practice freedom of religion.
“The Bill, if passed, will be seen as a declaration that it is open season to anyone who objects to aspects of Jewish law, faith and practice. It must be stopped.
“We are extremely humbled and touched that so many dsitinguished politicians, from the French Senate to the Greek Parliament and everwyhere in between, and so many Jewish community leaders agree and are backing the call for this aspect of the law to be scrapped.”
You can find a copy of the open letters and view its updated list of signatories below

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
Ukraine
Schweiz
Switzerland
Spain
Slovakia
Serbia
Russia
Romania
Portugal
Poland