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

Saying ‘Never again is now’ to European Jews is an insult

Never again? If European governments are not prepared or are unwilling to turn words into action, these important words will have just been a platitude. And an insulting one at that.APRIL 12, 2024 10:54A DEMONSTRATOR holds a sign that reads “Never Again is Now” during a protest against right-wing extremism and the far-Right opposition Alternative for Germany (AfD), in Cologne, in January.(photo credit: Jana Rodenbusch/Reuters)Never again. Everybody knows those words. They are on every politician’s lips on Holocaust Memorial Day.And in 2025 we will mark the 80th liberation of the camp that prompted these words to be uttered: Auschwitz.What exactly do they mean? No more concentration camps? No more mass murder? One would certainly hope so, given Europe’s turbulent and bloody treatment of the Jewish people.And what about never allowing the circumstances that led to these barbaric and inhuman manifestations of hate to happen again? Does “Never again” mean that too?The Jewish communities across Europe certainly thought so. It appears that we were laboring under a misapprehension, brought into vivid and stark relief in the aftermath of October 7.Antisemitism continues to rise at alarming ratesSince the Hamas pogrom, reported cases of antisemitism have gone through the roof – in the UK, Spain, and France the percentage rise is over 1000%. Today, as I write this, Jews are facing levels of antisemitism last seen in 1939 in Nazi Germany.Protesters participate in a demonstration against antisemitism in Parliament Square in London, Britain, March 26, 2018 (credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)This is an unbelievable and incredible sentence to have to write.Things were already bad. Like a dormant volcano before October 7 , there were regular tremors and some eruptions, but we hoped for the best. The war awoke it. Jewish Communities are daily facing molten streams of hate everywhere across the continent.In Holland, earlier this year, they canceled Holocaust Remembrance Day events at universities over security concerns and because of vociferous opposition to the memorializing. Just recently, in Amsterdam, there were protests at the opening of a new Holocaust museum.Rabbis are slapped in the street and verbally abused. In capitals across the continent – mainly in those with significant Muslim populations – there are regular protests displaying Nazi images referring to Jews, images drawing parallels between Gaza and Auschwitz, and you can hear calls for Jewish genocide and ethnic cleansing “From the river to the sea.” You can read placards calling Jews terrorists, and the blood libel of “child killers” is regularly used.Death threats against rabbis are common. Jews are insulted on the street on a daily basis and our children cursed at.Those European citizens who have served in the IDF are outed in their communities through letter campaigns pointing out that a “child killer” is living next to them; flights arriving from Israel are tracked and met by protesters.The Jewish community president in Porto takes his child to nursery wearing a bulletproof vest. The principal Jewish organizations here in Belgium have had to write to their prime minister, urging him not to abandon them.A Brussels commune, in which NATO HQ is located, just this week raised the Palestinian flag above their town hall.To paraphrase Nietzsche, as Israel stared into the abyss, Jews in Europe have seen the abyss staring back at them in their neighborhoods in London, Paris, Madrid, and Brussels. Just because they are Jews.At least Israel can fight back. What can we do? We place our lives and our trust in the hands of our respective governments. Are we right to do so? Let’s take a minute to look at the evidence.Back in 2021, amidst a spike in COVID-related antisemitism, the EU published a detailed strategy for combating antisemitism. The strategy was handed over to the member states, and they in turn were to adopt measures and develop national plans for combating antisemitism. Many did. A great many also signed up to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, patting themselves on the back.But any strategy must ultimately pass the test in the real world. So how have these strategies, plans, and IHRA adoption held up upon meeting the post-October 7 landscape from what you have read so far?That’s right. They have no visible or demonstrable practical application across Europe today. Or to put it as eloquently and simply as a Dutch Jewish community president put it: “They are not worth the paper they are printed on.”The reality is that police departments are hamstrung at openly antisemitic protests, unsure and therefore unable to stop public manifestations of hate and overt antisemitism.A swastika is allowed because it is “context-dependent”; “From the river to the sea” is allowed in some capitals, because it isn’t explicit enough to count as hate speech. (Would they just prefer “Burn, Jew, burn”?).The courts too, seem to have little to no frameworks available to prosecute the anti-Zionists and antisemites who are making our collective Jewish life here in Europe hell.And these Jew-haters are emboldened because they can act with total impunity. They simply moved the goalposts and – when they can be bothered – have just replaced Jew with Zionist, thereby rendering the vast majority of Jews in Europe as the Azazel for their hate. It must be such a relief for them to finally give air to their sulphurous pent-up poison.As I write this, an image from a community in Dortmund has just popped up on WhatsApp. It shows a large graffiti of a Star of David with a swastika inside it.Never again? If European governments are not prepared or are unwilling to turn words into action, these important words will have just been a platitude. And an insulting one at that.The writer is chairman of the European Jewish Association, which represents hundreds of Jewish communities across the continent.https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-796594

Iran vs. Israel. Assessing the global implications

Our EIPA colleagues had a successful emergency special briefing on the following topic: Iran vs. Israel. Assessing the global implications. 

The escalating hostilities between Iran and Israel are sending shockwaves across the globe, as Arab countries join forces to intercept Iranian UAVs and cruise missiles. This unprecedented collaboration represents a seismic shift in regional power dynamics, illuminating a united front against Iran’s belligerent agenda. 

The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated, underscoring the critical necessity for advanced military capabilities and expert analysis to confront these volatile geopolitical complexities head-on. Immediate action is imperative to mitigate the looming threat posed by Iran’s aggressive posture.

Meet our esteemed experts:

  • Jonathan Spyer: A British-Israeli analyst and Director of Research at the Middle East Forum. With extensive experience in Middle Eastern affairs, he serves as the Editor of Middle East Quarterly magazine and contributes as a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.
  • Beni Sabti: An Iran Program Researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and coordinator of the INSS podcast “Voices from Iran”. Born in Iran, Sabti offers unique insights, having served in the IDF and specializing in Iranian culture and media.

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The European Jewish Association is a prominent and influential organisation dedicated to representing, advocating for, and fostering the interests of the Jewish community across Europe. Founded on unity, tolerance, and inclusivity principles, the EJA bridges diverse Jewish communities and European societies.

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EIPA Hosts Press Briefing with Israeli Minister Amidst EU Talks on Middle East Crisis

Our EIPA colleagues hosted a press briefing in Brussels featuring Israeli Knesset Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, Amichai Chikli, amidst EU leaders’ discussions on the Middle East situation post Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile strikes on Israel. Journalists from Deutsche Welle, POLITICO, and RADIO JUDAÏCA had the chance to pose pivotal questions to Chikli during the session at our Brussels office.

Amichai Chikli, born in 1981 in Jerusalem, serves as Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism. He holds degrees from University of Haifa and Tel Aviv University. Chikli founded the Tavor Leadership Academy, focusing on nurturing Zionist leaders.

He initiated a preparatory program for Israel Defense Forces service for immigrants and volunteers. Initially with Yemina, he later joined Likud and was elected to the Knesset.

Chikli advocates integrating Jewish and Israeli identities, emphasizing their significance for Jewish continuity and Israel’s social resilience. He champions conservative values, aiming to unite nationalist and Zionist principles with economic and social policies.

EIPA organized an extraordinary briefing about the current developments following Israel's Shield and Arrow operation

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