President Von der Leyen at Chanukah celebration in Brussels warns of “old evil resurfacing in Europe,” announces new Jewish heritage award because Jewish culture is a ‘blessing to Europe”.

December 11, 2023

An old evil is resurfacing in Europe,’’ said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a speech before lighting  the fourth candle of a Chanukah menorah on Sunday evening in front of the European Commission and European Council buildings. 

The EuroChanukah event organized by the European Jewish Community Center (EJCC) together with the European Jewish Association (EJA). Brussels Mayor Philippe Close also addressed the participants who lit candles to remember the hostages still detained in Gaza.

“There should be no place for this hatred, especially here in Europe. And there is no justification to the rise in anti-Semitism. No war, no political argument, can excuse it,” she added.

‘’Freedom of speech and opinion, freedom of worship, and freedom from fear – that must be a reality at all times, in all circumstances, and for all human beings,’’ she said.

She continued, ‘’Chanukah is also the story of the Jewish people regaining their freedom of worship after times of persecution. This moment of celebration must also be one to say that never again will we tolerate hate against the Jewish people. Never again this is now.’’

The president of the European Commission recalled that ‘’for centuries, European Jews have shaped our common heritage. Think of Marc Chagall and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Rahel Hirsch and Hannah Arendt. And you still do shape our common heritage.’’

She announced that the European Commission will create a new award to celebrate Jewish cultural heritage.’’ Because Jewish culture is a blessing to Europe, and we should all know more about it,’’ she said.

EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, in a speech at the event said:

“The huge antisemitic demonstrations across Europe that used the war against a terrorist organization as an excuse to spread hate and violence and caused hundreds of thousands of Jews to be wary of showing their Jewishness outside was entirely predictable. But we don’t give up. And we won’t give up. 

“Millions of Jews around the world are busy spreading good: developing technologies and medicines, we are pioneers in science and agriculture, in the arts, in economics and entertainment  so that the world, as a whole, will be a better world. Indeed, year by year, more and more people in the world live better. This is the Jewish spirit that won the Chanukah holiday. This is what we celebrate today.” 

EJCC Director Avi Tawil, the co-organiser of the event, also addressed the packed event added:

“As we light the Chanukah candles, let us remember that the true miracle lies in our strength not to succumb to fear, and give in to grievances, but quite on the contrary, in our ability to keep the flame of humanity alive.

This year more than ever, as we find ourselves in difficult times, let Chanukah not only be a celebration of a historical miracle but a rekindling of our eternal flame as the light of our unity shines brighter and longer than ever before, a beacon of hope and strength for generations to come.”

Ends

Additional Articles

With war in Gaza and Europe-wide Antisemitism peak, Jews bring president Von der Leyen and other friends in Brussels to ‘shine together’ on Channukah

“Defiant and hopeful, just as we have always been,” says organisers of EU event after traumatic few months. Chanukah is first significant Jewish holiday since events on October 7th.

(Brussels 7 December 2023) European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and other European Dignitaries will be at EuroChannukah 2023, taking place between the European Council and Commission buildings at Schuman in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday evening. The Commission President will light a giant Menorah marking the Jewish Holiday of Chanukah – the festival of light.

The theme of EuroChannukah this year, which takes place in the heart of the European Quarter, is ‘Shining Together’.

Chanukkah this year takes place against the backdrop of huge spikes in antisemitism and is the first major Jewish holiday following the Hamas Massacre in Israel and subsequent war in Gaza. The organisers, the European Jewish Community Center , say that it is a showcase for unity and resilience in difficult times.

Avi Tawil, Director of the European Jewish Community Centre, speaking ahead of the event said,

“We were concerned that this year, we would hear from communities across Europe that they were scaling down Chanukah celebrations, hiding away, keeping their heads down. In fact, the opposite is true, now more than ever, the desire is to come out and celebrate the holiday. To Shine together.

“Chanukah, at its core, is a holiday about light overcoming darkness, that good can and will always prevail. Our friends, like Commission President Vpn Der Leyen, are standing with us in solidarity, in a common bond, and in this spirit of unity and resilience.

“It’s been an awful few months. But Jews are defiant in the face of darkness, and always hopeful in the light, just as we have always been, and especially during Chanukkah.”

Ends.

Letter of Support for Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi

Your Excellency Madam President Von Der Leyen,

In response to accusations against European Commissioner for Neighborhood & Enlargement, Mr Várhelyi, and calls for his resignation, we would like to make the following statement.

Following the horrific and inhumane terror attacks against civilians in Israel on 7 October, which shocked the whole world, Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi posted on social media the decision for urgent review of the entire Palestinian development portfolio, on 9 October 2023. Hundreds of innocent women, children and elderly people were killed in terrifying circumstances or taken as hostages.

The Commissioner is accused of “offense to EU’s institutions and their democratic functioning”, by claiming that his “actions undermine not only the image of our institutions, but the trust that EU citizens put in the Commission”. Whilst, in fact, his actions are the ones defending and protecting both our fundamental values and moral compass, and also vis-a-vis trust by EU citizens.

Antisemitic attacks and calls to harm Jewish people have risen by 1200% here in Europe and both national governments and EU institutions have to take action. These are staggering and deeply distressing numbers.

The announcement by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi was particularly welcomed by all our communities, as he very correctly stated “there can be no business as usual”. “The scale of terror and brutality… is a turning point” and it has to be.

Germany review of Palestinian development aid

On 8 October, German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, H.E. Ms Svenja Schulze, announced that the “attacks on Israel mark a terrible fracture”. “We will now review our entire engagement for the Palestinian territories.”

Austria development aid suspended

On the 9th of October, prior to the Commissioner’s post, the Austrian Minister for Foreign

Affairs, H.E. Mr Alexander Schallenberg announced that “We will put all payments of Austrian development cooperation on hold” and sharply criticised states that refuse to classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Sweden’s aid to Palestine suspended

On 10 October, Sweden Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, H.E. Mr Johan Forssell, stated, “We have a new situation after the 7th of October”. “Our decision today is that Sweden will … pause development aid to Palestine until further notice.”

Denmark development aid on hold

The same day, Denmark Minister for Development Cooperation and Global Climate Policy, H.E.

Mr Dan Jørgensen, confirmed that Danish development assistance to Palestine will be placed “on hold”. “Unacceptable acts, terrorism and aggression of the worst kind have happened, and we must be naturally be very sure that Danish money is not indirectly supporting that”.

The social media post by Commissioner Olivér Várhelyi was made after a truly unprecedented and deadly terrorist massacre. It followed the lead of a number of countries and the strong condemnation of the terror attacks by world leaders. Both national governments and EU institutions share very legitimate concerns as Hamas has turned agricultural and irrigation equipment, which was paid by European funds, into weapons to attack civilians, and used cement that was meant for living quarters to build death tunnels to expand its terror activities.

As Jewish organisations which represent thousands of European citizens, we believe the accusations against Commissioner Várhelyi are politically motivated and display a breathtaking and appalling insensitivity to the horrendous and barbaric loss of human life.

At a truly unprecedented time, when Europe must be united against terrorism, it is nothing less than shameful that there exist those who prefer instead to try and score cheap political points on the graves of the dead and on the hundreds of hostages still in terrorist captivity.

Were a reminder needed of what we are all up against, last night the same type of terrorism struck the heart of Europe in Brussels claiming two utterly innocent lives, this follows, of course, the brutal murder of a teacher in Arras, France.

Commissioner Varheyli enjoys the full and unyielding support of European Jewry for his noble stand, a stand that sadly is possessed by far too few political leaders in the face of atrocity, barbarism and an assault on the very European values that we all hold so dear to our hearts.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi Menachem Margolin Founder and Chairman European Jewish Association

Joël Mergui Chairman of EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board President of Consistoire of Paris, France President of European Centre of Judaism

Baroness Régine Suchowolski – Sluszny EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairwoman for Holocaust Remembrance and President of Forum of Jewish Organisations, Belgium

Ellen Van Praagh-van Aspert EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairwoman for Equity and Diversity, and President of IPOR Jewish Communities, The Netherlands

Andrew Cohen FCA EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for UK President, Federation of Synagogues, UK

Riccardo Pacifici EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for Italy and Jewish Heritage

Alexander Benjamin EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Vice-Chairman for Advocacy, European Jewish Association

Gabriel Senderowicz Mold EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member

EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member Chairman of Board of The Social & Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (TSKZ) Portugal

Yaron Zeloof EJA Jewish Leaders’ Board Member President of the Jewish Community of Cyprus

 

 

Although we can't stop the least we could do is help those in need

Dear Friends,
Jewish Communities in Ukraine are on the frontline. Our brothers and sisters there
are danger and face an uncertain future. They need your help. Urgently.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine is doing all it can, working night
and day to help the 180 communities it serves.
We are asked to help those in need. It is in our Jewish DNA to do so. Thankfully and
rarely are we asked to help Jews stuck in a warzone. But today is such a time.
I ask you humbly and gratefully to dig deep. To give all that you can to help the
Federation, in this their time of greatest need.
Know that any contribution given will go directly to four key areas.
1. Urgent kosher food packages to feed Jewish families
2. Providing medicines for those who are stuck at home and cannot get
medical help
3. Protecting Jewish Institutions and individual Jewish properties from
harm.
4. Helping those Jews who wish to escape Ukraine to do so
Thank you dear friends from the bottom of our hearts for helping Jews in need in
Ukraine.
You can do so by clicking on the link below:
I also ask you to share this link as far and wide as possible, let us do all we can to
help
. Yours gratefully,
Rabbi Menachem Margolin
Chairman.

EU Jewish leader calls on european governments to immediately grant citizenship to remaining hostages after hamas set to release 50 dual-nationals

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, EJA Chairman: “Don’t Force Jews to once again go through a selection.”

(Brussels 23 October 2023) Responding to news that Hamas will release 50 hostages of dual nationality, European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who heads the organisation that represents hundreds of communities across the continent, called on European governents to immediately grant citizenship to the remaining hostages, urging them not to put Jews through another selection process.

In a statement today, the EJA Chairman said

“If Hamas are now releasing hostages with dual nationalities the answer is clear. Every European government should immediately grant citizenship to the remaining hostages.

 “I urge European governments most sincerely, please don’t force Jews to once again go through a selection.”

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
Ukraine
Turkey
Schweiz
Switzerland
Sweden
Spain
Slovenia
Slovakia
Serbia
Russia