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.”