New Cooperation with the Jewish Community of the Balkan

June 21, 2021

The European Jewish Association is very happy and proud to welcome another organisation to our growing roster of partners. We have just concluded and signed a Cooperation and Partnership Agreement with the Balkan Jewish Communities.
We eagerly look forward to many positive exchanges and fruitful cooperation with our new partners from the Balkan Jewish community. Together, we hope to achieve a lot of beautiful and important things, all the while jointly working towards the betterment and wellbeing of both Balkan and European Jewry.

Additional Articles

Jewish, Muslim women launch campaign to challenge hatred together

LONDON: More than 250 Jewish and Muslim women have made a commitment to being #ActiveAllies and take firm and united action against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, after declaring that “the time for talking is over” and “we are in this together”.
The women, of all ages and backgrounds and from all parts of the UK, launched the campaign at the Nisa-Nashim Annual Conference — Europe’s only such gathering of Jewish and Muslim women, which took place at the University of Westminster on Sunday, according to a press release issued here on Monday.
Nisa-Nashim’s co-chairs Laura Marks OBE and Julie Siddiqi said: “For too long in both of our faiths communities we have seen insular thinking when it comes to tackling hatred. The time for talking is over, now it’s time for us to take united action together.
“We know that both our communities are the targets of hatred and, largely, by the same type of people — people who are intolerant and despise difference. We need to face this challenge together and by standing up for each other.
“We recognise, as women in Nisa-Nashim, that both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise. The devastating attacks on innocent people in both Pittsburgh and Christchurch have strengthened our resolve and we commit to be #ActiveAllies. It’s not enough, nor is it right, to only stand for ourselves. We are in this together, as Jewish and Muslim sisters — especially when the hatred is targeted at women.”
Over 250 delegates at the conference, along with other Nisa-Nashim members around the UK, have signed up to the #ActiveAllies charter vowing to call upon every political party in Britain to review their processes for preventing, exposing and dealing with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism within their party.
The conference — titled Faith and Friendship, Shaping the Future Together — also featured a number of keynote speeches, on stage interviews, sessions and workshops. Speakers and presenters included Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Countdown star and anti-Semitism campaigner Rachel Riley, London Deputy Mayor Debbie Weekes-Bernard and the Deputy Director of Hope Not Hate Jemma Levene.
The article was published on The News

Austrian court overturns fine for showing Israeli flag

A court in Vienna has expunged a police fine against four activists who displayed Israeli flags while protesting against an event calling for the boycott of the Jewish state.
Vienna police fined four students €150 ($176) for waving an Israel flag at a protest in March 2019 against advocates of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) targeting Israel.
Benjamin Hess, from the Austrian Union of Jewish Students, told the Austrian daily Der Standard, which first reported the court decision, that it was “clearly decided” that holding up an Israel flag and expressing pro-Israel sentiments is a legitimate expression of opinion.
He asked, however, why it “is necessary in Austria at all to go to court in order to have something so fundamental to be established.”
The Vienna city authorities argued that police warnings against the Israeli activists has not deterred pro-Israel activists from showing Israeli flags, and that there was a threat of escalation between the rival groups.
A spokesperson for an organization that monitors antisemitism (Informations und Beobachtungsstelle antisemitismus), who was at the protest in March 2019, confirmed to The Jerusalem Post at the time that a police supervisor told the students the Israeli flag was a “provocation” and issued the activists a €150 fine.
“Once again there was a demonstration in Austria in which antisemitic slogans such as ‘child murderer Israel’ were present, said the spokesperson for monitoring group combating antisemitism.”
In 2020, Austria’s national parliament unanimously passed a resolution condemning the BDS campaign as antisemitic and urging that the anti-Israel movement not be supported.
“BDS, which has also increasingly appeared in Austria in recent years, makes use of this antisemitic pattern,” stated the resolution. The antisemitic pattern refers to one of the alleged antisemitic BDS goals that seeks to not “recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination,” the resolution explained.
Some 25 people attended the anti-BDS demonstration in March 2019 organized by the Austrian Union of Jewish Students and the Alliance Boycott Antisemitism. According to Der Standard, the pro-BDS group reportedly shouted antisemitic slogans, and one speaker wore a scarf from the US and EU-designated terrorist organization the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
 The anti-BDS groups shouted “Long Live Israel” and held Israeli flags while calling “Free Palestine from Hamas,” the newspaper reported.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles, told the Post at the time, “Apparently it is still a provocation for Jews to defend their people’s honor by waving the flag of Israel. SWC urges the chancellor and other Austrian leaders to publicly wave the Blue and White [Israeli flag] on Israel Independence Day in solidarity with Israel and the Jewish community. And the police? Check their obvious anti-Jewish bias.”
https://www.jpost.com/bds-threat/austrian-court-overturns-fine-for-showing-israeli-flag-679952

An Open Letter by European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism

Thank you to the European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism for their open letter regarding the upcoming annualCarnival in Aalst, Belgium.
 

Simcha Shel Mitzvah, Words by Rabbi Margolin

This week I spent a lot of time going to events marking the Shoah in Brussels. They were, rightly and fittingly, solemn occasions. But here’s the thing: at every event, I found my fellow Jews talking together, smiling, sharing stories and there was even the odd joke or two.
Even at this darkest of commemorations, there was life and a celebration of the deep bond between us that transcends the shared pain and history. And it stood in stark contrast to the others present who were sombre faced and bore the weight of history in a very different way.
It seemed to me that the reminder to stay positive and rejoice in your Judaism that I tried to leave you with last week needn’t have been said, as it was clearly and demonstrably in evidence.
Because when you think of it, and you delve a bit deeper into our faith, the reason becomes clear: Joy (Simcha), is our central artery, feeding our heart and mind and driving us forward.
Moses after leading us through trying times, through hardship, rebellion and our complaining, understood us well when he said that it is our capacity for joy that gives the Jewish People the strength to endure.
Explaining to a non-Jew our holidays often ends with the cliché “they tried to kill us, let’s eat”, but this throwaway comment masks a more fundamental truth.
Let’s pick a holiday out at random…Sukkot for instance.
On Sukkot we leave the security and comfort of our houses and live in a shack exposed to the wind, the cold and the rain. Yet we call it zeman simchatenu, “our season of joy”.
Try another: Purim.
On the face of it a deeply depressing story, and yet we overcame, and boy, do we celebrate!
Time and time again, throughout our texts, we are enjoined to celebrate life, to rejoice.
Now either we are a bunch of deeply weird people who seem to thrive on adversity, orsomething deeper is going on here. You don’t need to guess what side I’m going to lean on. But let’s dwell on the ‘weird’ idea for a minute.
The founder of the Chassidic movement was once asked: "Why is it that Chassidim burst into song and dance at the slightest provocation? Is this the behaviour of a healthy, sane individual?"
The Baal Shem Tov responded with a story about a deaf man coming across a group of townspeople dancing to a musician that he hadn’t seen, and he thought they had gone mad.
The point is, without the context, such expressions of joy can appear disconcerting or perplexing.
Our context runs deep. We are commanded to Love the Lord our G-d with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. Moses as we touched upon earlier put Joy at the heart of Judaism (even as he was reading out the curses), and our Mitzvot? Well, the concept of simcha shel mitzvah, the "joy of a mitzvah," has always been part and parcel of Jewish teachings.
Rabbi Lord Sachs, as eloquent as always, once told a story that toward the end of his life, having been deaf for twenty years, Beethoven composed one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, his Ninth Symphony. It became the West’s first choral symphony. The words he set to music were Schiller’s Ode to Joy.
Now, Ode to Joy, as any Europhiles reading this will know, is the anthem for the European Union. And Rabbi Sachs story came to mind as I was looking at the European flag at one of the events.
Because looking around the room, looking at my fellow Jews smiling, living, rejoicing in their Judaism at this tragic commemoration, and contrasting it with the others present, underlined to me not only the context I was just talking about, but how each of us, each Jew, has, as Rabbi Sachs alluded to, their own ‘ode to Joy’ within them, an ode that to those who are deaf to it might indeed appear odd, but to us comes not as second nature, but instead as the primary essence of our being.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch wrote that "The Baal Shem Tov wiped away tears from the Jewish people. He worked hard to ensure that every Jew would be happy simply because he is a Jew.”
There’s still a lot more work to be done on this by all of us, but looking around the room at those various events, it was clear to me that the joy of being a Jew remains the ‘perfect defeat’ of the Holocaust, and a reminder, if one were needed, of what a beautiful thing it is to be Jewish.
We must always continue to go out with Joy.

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