Over 25,000 people view European Jewish Association Online Holocaust Memorial Day Event

January 29, 2021

Heads of state, parliamentarians, Jewish leaders, and hundreds of participants from all over Europe and from far away as Mexico and the United States took part in our special online commemoration service marking International Holocaust Day, in one of the largest online events for the day. The commemoration was livestreamed on our social Media and to an audience across the world via the Jerusalem Post and Arutz Sheva in Israel.
The event coincided with our annual ‘Not on my watch’ candle campaign, where European Leaders light our candle and post a message on social media with the hashtag not on my watch. As always the campaign was a success with heads of state and politicians from across the continent taking part. You can find all the relevant posts here
For the actual commemoration event high profile speakers included the President of the European Council Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, Israel’s Minister for Diaspora Affairs Omer Yankelevich, European commissioners and ministers of education from across Europe, senators, parliamentarians, and ambassadors. A number of prominent Jewish leaders addressed the virtual gathering, including Joel Mergui, President of the Israelite Central Consistory of France; Milo Hasbani, President of the Jewish Community of Milan; Raymond Forado, President of the Jewish Community of Madrid; and Holocaust survivor and President of the Jewish Forum of Antwerp and Flanders, Mrs. Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, our chairman, sounded a warning to European Leaders, “The evil that existed then still exists today. All it needs is to land in the right hands and to find the right voice. We must always keep watch. We must always be alert. We must always be ready to act. And yet, here in Europe, where a few survivors still live, we see antisemitism on the rise. We are in a situation today where more Jews in Europe feel that they won’t be here in 10 years than those who think they will be. This cannot be.”
President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said that “Remembering the Holocaust is a moral duty. Not only to pay tribute to victims, but also to renew our allegiance to our deepest human values. We, Europeans, have a special responsibility to fulfill this duty. Antisemitism has no place in our societies.”
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in his message,“To the survivors and families of the victims, we promise to continue to fight against all forms of negationism and attempts to minimise the magnitude of the Shoah. We will do so with all political and legal means at our disposal.”
The Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Mr Isaac Herzog said, “ European governments have a special responsibility, not only to preserve the memory of the past, but to ensure that today’s European Jewish communities can live safe, full and open Jewish lives, and practice their traditions freely. Jewish communities feel that Jewish traditions and observance are being increasingly challenged by parts of European publics and legislators.
“I ask these leaders to reject all such legislation, which would be tantamount to outlawing Judaism as a whole, and to oppose any attempts to restrict the religious freedoms of European Jewish communities.”
Director General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay in her message said,
“Fighting oblivion is UNESCO’s mission. This mission is all the more important today to educators, teachers and pupils. We are working on new content for teachers and trainers against antisemitism in schools. We are also strongly supporting governments to fight all attempts to excuse the inexcusable.”
Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Mrs Omer Yankelevich spoke about about the rise in online hate speech saying,
“Our Ministry has responded with our own online strategy. Alongside our monitoring center, which provides comprehensive top-down reports on current antisemitic activity on social media, the Ministry is working with major social media networks including: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon to ensure accountability.
“Just as countries are responsible for the antisemitic activity within their borders, tech-giants are responsible for stamping out antisemitism from their platforms.”
Jewish Leaders from across Europe shared with those present their concerns, the challenges faced by their communities and their hopes for the future.
Mr Joel Mergui, the President of the French Consistoire said, “Antisemitism, anti-Zionism and attacks on Freedom of Religion make this a diificult time to be Jewish in Europe. As a result many Jews are asking themselves about their future in Europe. Which makes it incumbent on Europe to ask itself what it wants its own future to be.”
EJA advisory board member Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny, a holocaust survivor and the President of the Jewish Forum of Antwerp and Flanders put the onus on education. She said, “Our role as educators is to constantly underline the danger that intolerance and racism can lead to genocide. This battle of education must continue to be fought because a single person that suffers from racism or antisemitism is one person too much.”
Echoing this sentiment, Mr Milo Hasbani the President of the Milan Community said, “Our most important task is to continue working with the younger generation. Sadly as time goes by survivors and the older generation are less able to visit schools and education centres. That is why we are engaged in training the younger members of our community to take over this role and share the Jewish experience of the Shoah, an experience indelibly marked on our very being.”
The marathon event, which lasted over 4 hours of back to back interventions and speeches, finished with a powerful memorial prayer by Cantor and Rabbi Simcha Steinberg, Rabbi of the Jewish community of Endhoven.
You can watch the recording of the event here

Additional Articles

Two youths attack Austrian Jewish teen wearing Star of David ring

The victim was treated in a local hospital for cuts and bruises to his face. Police are searching for the assailants.

Two teenagers attacked a 16-year-old Jewish boy in the Austrian city of Gratz before he was able to get away.
The victim was treated in a local hospital for cuts and bruises to his face. Police are searching for the assailants.
According to a report from the Gratz Jewish community, the victim was wearing a ring decorated with a Star of David when he was accosted March 4 on the street near a high school by the two teens, who demanded to know if he was Jewish. When he answered that he was, the boys told him to “piss off.” Then one of the boys slapped and punched him in the face while calling him a “shit Jew.”
In a statement Elie Rosen, head of the Jewish community in Gratz, said local schools need help in addressing antisemitism and should not only be teaching about the Holocaust but about the history of the Middle East conflict.
“The fact is, the word ‘Jew’ is used as an insult in schoolyards,” the statement read in part. “We have to help schools prepare to take on this problem.”
“Unfortunately, Gratz is not an exceptional case,” he added. “This incident is part of a development in Europe.”
Rosen accused society in general and the political leadership of failing to take such incidents seriously.
According to statistics on antisemitism in Europe compiled by the European Action and Protection League, antisemitic incidents in Austria more than doubled in 2018 to 547 from 255 in 2014. Data for several countries was presented at the European Jewish Association annual conference in Paris last month.
With more than 150 members, the Jewish community of Gratz is the second largest in Austria. According to the European Jewish Congress, about 15,000 Jews live in Austria today, most of them in Vienna.
The article was published in the JPost

EU Attorney General’ opinion: individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion.

The EJA welcomes the EU Attorney General’ opinion that individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion. We hope that the European Court of Justice will echo his opinion in due course.

300 French personalities sign manifesto against 'new anti-Semitism'

More than 300 French dignitaries and stars have signed a manifesto denouncing a "new anti-Semitism" marked by "Islamist radicalisation" after a string of killings of Jews, to be published in Le Figaro newspaper Sunday.

The country's half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to the emergence of virulent anti-Semitism in predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods.
"We demand that the fight against this democratic failure that is anti-Semitism becomes a national cause before it's too late. Before France is no longer France," reads the manifesto co-signed by politicians from the left and right including ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and celebrities like actor Gerard Depardieu.
The signatories condemned what they called a "quiet ethnic purging" driven by rising Islamist radicalism particularly in working-class neighbourhoods.
They also accused the media of remaining silent on the matter.
"In our recent history, 11 Jews have been assassinated -- and some tortured -- by radical Islamists because they were Jewish," the declaration said.
The murders referenced reach as far back as 2006 and include the 2012 deadly shooting of three schoolchildren and a teacher at a Jewish school by Islamist gunman Mohammed Merah in the southwestern city of Toulouse.
Three years later, an associate of the two brothers who massacred a group of cartoonists at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo killed four people in a hostage-taking at a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
In April 2017, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties was thrown out of the window of her Paris flat by a neighbour shouting "Allahu Akhbar" (God is greatest).
The latest attack to rock France took place last month when two perpetrators stabbed an 85-year-old Jewish woman 11 times before setting her body on fire, in a crime treated as anti-Semitic.
Her brutal death sent shockwaves through France and prompted 30,000 people to join a march in her memory.
Condemning the "dreadful" killing, President Emmanuel Macron had reiterated his determination to fighting anti-Semitism.
"French Jews are 25 times more at risk of being attacked than their fellow Muslim citizens," according to the manifesto.
It added that some 50,000 Jews had been "forced to move because they were no longer in safety in certain cities and because their children could no longer go to school".
The article was published in The Local

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

9½ = 4

A few days ago, I received a phone call from Israel from M who claimed he was many years ago in school with one of my children. He was not the brightest of the class, but he always received high marks for Jewish subjects due to his diligence and good behavior. He called me to wish me many more years because of Sjawoe'ot and proudly informed me that he has recently obtained his education diploma and now supervises children with learning disabilities. I remember being shocked at the time that one of the mothers told me that M's 9½ should actually have been a 4 and not comparable to her son's 8.
There is no doubt that Torah study is of mayor importance. After all, we Jews are the People of the Book, of “learning”, daily and through the ages. And yet Judaism is not about the acquired knowledge. Judaism is not science, and “learning” is not studying. A high level of knowledge is not a proof of a high level of commitment.
When traveling on a train journey we know beforehand what station we want to step out.  And when we leave the train, it’s visible to everybody what the destination was.
That too is the way a good book works. In the title of the book, the beginning, in fact, the entire content is included.  And at the very end, in the last sentence or in the last word, the conclusion becomes clear and visible.
The Torah starts with the history of Creation. And our great explainer Rasjie asks an obvious question: Why does the Torah starts with the story of Creation? The Five Books of Moses are primarily intended for the Jewish People and we can only speak of the Jewish People after the Exodus from Egypt when the Torah was received on Mount Sinai. Wouldn't it have made more sense if the Torah had started with this episode and not with the creation of the world?  And Rasjie answers his own question as follows: before we start studying the Torah, we must realize and accept that there is a Creator!
The last sentence of the whole Thora tells us how Moshe broke the stone Tablets of the Ten Commandments and G'd is grateful to him for that deed! Isn’t that strange! Is this the most suitable sentence to finish the Thora?  And what was the course of Moshe breaking the Tablets which were literally a gift from Heaven? When Moshe saw that the Jews, his people, had forgotten G'd and worshiped the Golden Calf, shouldn’t he better have put aside the Tablets, go to his people and addressed them admonishing and then took back the Tablets. Why smash them? And why was G'd so pleased with Moshe's destructive act?
And again, the same answer as to the question about the story of Creation: if the Jews no longer wanted to follow Hashem our G’d Who brought them out of Egypt and instead focused on idolatry, the Torah became totally worthless and the Tablets had nothing left to offer.
The Torah is not a goal, but a means. The means to serve G’d and survive as a Jewish nation. And that's why the Torah starts and ends with that thought.
If we are aware that the Torah is the means, then we can start “learning”. And it is not about the
9½ or the 4, not about a high or a low IQ. It is about commitment, real piety and sincerity. Torah is a means, and those who see Torah as the goal they better go to study something else.
Many good, prosperous and healthy years   
גוט יום טוב
Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi
Sjawoe’ot 5781

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