Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ת.נ.צ.ב.ה

November 9, 2020
EJA chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said this evening:
“It is with profound sadness that we learn of the passing of Rabbi Sacks.
An incredible human being, full of light, warmth and wisdom. There has seldom been such a well known, well respected and active Chief Rabbi in Europe.
His tireless work and commitment to the Jewish people meant that when he spoke, people listened.
When he pulled an alarm cord, people responded.
And when he explained the wisdom and beauty of our Holy texts, people understood.
Few of us will ever be fortunate to leave behind us such a legacy. May his memory be a blessing.”

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Stunning religious practice in Europe

If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, dealt a serious blow to ritual Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter. The court upheld a Belgian law that requires that animals must be stunned before they are killed. Neither Jewish nor Muslim law allows for stunning in the slaughter process.
Proponents of the CJEU ruling and supporters of the Belgian law assert that the stun-first approach is more humane. Critics argue that properly executed slaughter is less painful and less traumatic for the animals. Either way, the ruling is a serious setback for religious freedom in Europe. And it isn’t clear whether the ruling would also prohibit the importation of slaughtered meat that has not observed the stun-first requirement.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, urged reconsideration. “Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed,” he said.
According to the CJEU, its ruling actually protects religious practices and doesn’t prohibit any religious observance. It argued that the ruling permitted religious practices since it “allow[s] a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
That superficial analysis by the CJEU is remarkably naive and misinformed, since it improperly assumes that religious slaughter can be performed on a stunned animal. It cannot. And, besides, Jews and Muslims don’t want to “manifest” their religion — they want the freedom to practice their religions.
Two distinct elements in European society are promoting the ban on ritual slaughter. Opponents on the left are concerned about animal welfare, and see ritual slaughter as inhumane. Opponents on the far right are ultranationalists, who see Jewish and Muslim practices as alien imports to Christian Europe. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But through their issue alliance, opposition to ritual slaughter has taken on a life of its own, without regard to the sensibilities of Jews and Muslims.
According to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, had Belgium’s parliament “engaged properly with Jewish community officials before banning the practice, some satisfactory solutions could have been found, as has been the case in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the method of slaughter is not crueler or [more] painful to animals than other methods.” But no such effort was made.
Not every Jew in Europe eats kosher meat. But the availability of kosher food is one of the markers of a thriving Jewish life. In a pluralistic society, every effort must be made to enable such religious observances. If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
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Meeting at the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic. 

Yesterday, on 29 October 2019, the European Jewish Association and our partners from the Action and Protection Foundation /Hungary/ have once again travelled abroad to meet with government officials regarding the European Curriculum and Textbook Project against Antisemitism. This time, our destination has been the Slovak capital of Bratislava, situated at the very heart of Europe, in-between the Danube and Morava rivers. 

Alex Benjamin, EJA’s Director of Public Affairs, Ferenc Olti, Board Member of the Hungarian Jewish Cultural Association, and Kálmán Szalai, APF’s Secretary, have met with Maria Prekop, Director General at the Department of Minorities and Inclusive Education, and Katarína Baranyaiová, Counsellor at the Department of Bilateral and Multilateral Cooperation of the Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport of the Slovak Republic. 

During the meeting, we have had a chance to present the project, its earlier implementation process and the results achieved in Hungary, as well as discuss the Slovak system of education, particularly its emphasis on minority inclusion and social dialogue, and thus briefly touch upon the project’s compatibility with the rules and customs already in place.

It has been agreed that our proposal shall be further carefully examined by the Ministry, with a special attention towards its operational feasibility in case of potential adaptation within the national curriculum.

We greatly appreciate the forthcomingness of the Slovak authorities and the very productive discussion with Ms. Prekop and Ms. Baranyaiová. We thus eagerly look forward to hopeful cooperation with the Ministry, the local Jewish community and other partners on this important initiative.

Israel skips Poland antisemitism meet, but some still see thaw in ties ahead

KRAKOW, Poland — A Polish opposition politician expressed regret at the passage of a law this summer that limited Holocaust restitution efforts, and said he hopes ties between Poland and Israel — put in deep freeze by the legislation — will be repaired soon.
“I personally, from the very beginning, was opposed to both legislations that made so much damage to Polish-Israeli relations,” Michał Kaminski, a Polish senator and a deputy marshal of the Senate with the opposition Union of European Democrats, told The Times of Israel during an interview earlier this week. “Those legislations I opposed in both chambers, they are very unfortunate.”
Kaminski was referring to not just the legislation from July regarding Holocaust restitution, but also a 2018 law that criminalized statements implying the Polish nation played a role in victimizing Jews in the Holocaust. The law was later amended to remove the possibility of criminal charges, but the legislation caused major diplomatic tension between Warsaw and both Israel and the United States.
Three years later, a law that effectively prevents future restitution to the heirs of property seized by the Nazis during the Holocaust led to a downturn in ties between Israel and Poland that has remained in effect since the summer. Each nation recalled its ambassadors, and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called the law “antisemitic and immoral.”
Poland “turned into an anti-democratic, illiberal country that doesn’t respect the greatest tragedy in human history,” Lapid charged. Poland responded by accusing Israel of “baseless and irresponsible” behavior.

Kaminski — a former minister and former member of the European Parliament — suggested that ties between Israel and Poland would not be irreparably harmed, and claimed that support for Israel was a bipartisan issue in Warsaw.
“In terms of supporting Israel on the international stage, Polish opposition is absolutely on the same side as the Polish government,” he said. “We are supporting Israel as a state, we are supporting Israel’s fight against terrorism, and we are supporting Israel as a stable democracy in the Middle East.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) speaks at a ceremony in Rabat, on August 11, 2021. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda (right) arrives for a NATO summit in Brussels on June 14, 2021. (Shlomi Amsalem/GPO; Kenzo Tribouillard/Pool via AP)

Kaminski noted that Poland was still among the strongest supporters of Israel within the European Union, and suggested that the rift was motivated by domestic political needs on both sides, which he called “very unfortunate.”

Three months after the freeze in ties between Jerusalem and Warsaw, there were few signs of thaw at the confab in Poland, yet cautious optimism that it was on the horizon.
A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry told The Times of Israel that any improvement in ties “is basically up to Poland,” adding: “The crisis is because of the law. In order to fix the problem, they should address it.”
While politicians, ministers and parliamentarians from a wide range of countries attended the conference, including the UK, Germany, France, Hungary, Slovenia, the Netherlands and even the Congo, not a single representative of Israel’s government or parliament was present. The only Israeli on the conference agenda was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi and current chairman of Yad Vashem.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett sent a video message that was played at the conference’s gala dinner, where he stressed that “Jews should not be fighting antisemitism alone,” and declared that anti-Zionism is the “modern manifestation” of antisemitism.
A representative for Poland’s government — Wojciech Kolarski, secretary of state in the chancellery of the president — was originally slated to attend the conference but canceled for unspecified reasons. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
Instead, an adviser to President Andrzej Duda read a letter from the president at the conference, which emphasized the need to remember “all Poles” alongside Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and stressed that “contemporary Poland is a safe and friendly country” to Jews.
EJA officials said they invited Israeli Culture Minister Chili Tropper to attend, but he declined. Tropper’s office said he was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.
Conference organizers suggested that Israeli government representatives were unwilling to commit to attending the conference due to the uncertainty over the timing of critical budget votes, which wrapped up late last week.
Alex Benjamin, the director of the EJA, told The Times of Israel that the crisis in ties between Israel and Poland likely “would have been [part of the] equation” for Israeli officials choosing not to attend.
But, he said, “there are some things that transcend political disagreements,” and asserted that for Israel, “such consideration and such diplomatic rows fade into insignificance when it comes to honoring the dead in Auschwitz. There are some things that transcend political disagreements,” he added. “And visits to Auschwitz and talking about antisemitism is one of those.”
Kaminski spoke to The Times of Israel immediately after he addressed a gala dinner at the EJA gathering in Krakow on Monday. Feted as a close friend of Israel and of Europe’s Jewish community, Kaminski’s public remarks echoed Bennett’s equation of antisemitism and anti-Zionism: “Fighting antisemitism and standing with Israel and with its people — we are fighting the same fight.”
The Polish senator told The Times of Israel that while he understands Jewish and Israeli outrage over the restitution legislation, he does not believe it was aimed specifically at cases of Holocaust survivors and victims.
“The legislation about the property rights is directed in 85-90% of the cases, not against Jews, it’s directed against the Polish citizens,” he said. “I understand the anger of Jewish people, of Israeli politicians, on one side, I voted against the law. But to be honest, this law is not directed against the Jews as such.”

Artur Hofman, the head of the Polish Jewish cultural organization TSKZ, lays a wreath at Auschwitz on November 9, 2021. (Yossi Zeliger/EJA)

Warsaw says the law will bolster legal certainty in the property market, but opponents say that it is unjust to those with legitimate claims, including Holocaust survivors and their families.
The legislation places a 10-to-30-year cutoff date on contesting past administrative decisions on restituting property lost during World War II. Critics of the law argue that it will effectively cut off the ability of Jews to reclaim property that was seized before and during the Holocaust.
Poland is the only country in the European Union that has not passed comprehensive national legislation to return, or provide compensation for, private property confiscated by the Nazis or nationalized by the communist regime.
Artur Hofman, president of the cultural group TSKZ, the largest Polish Jewish organization, told The Times of Israel that while the law is problematic, the outrage ignores more local issues.
“I know that everybody in the world, in Israel, in the USA, is asking about money from property in Poland,” Hofman said. “But Polish Jews are like toys in this game. Nobody asks us.”
Hofman said that cultural buildings that once belonged to the Jewish community in Warsaw were seized by the government and never returned.
He claimed that restitution funds sought by organizations in the US and Israel are rarely distributed to Holocaust survivors, and that the money should instead remain in the Polish Jewish community and go toward remembrance and education projects.
https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-skips-poland-antisemitism-meet-but-some-still-see-thaw-in-ties-ahead/

Dozens of European Jewish leaders urge US-based auction house to cancel auction of Nazi items

The items to be auctioned by Alexander Auctions in Maryland include a gold watch belonging to Hitler, a dog collar belonging to Eva Braun’s terrier, Wehrmacht toilet paper and cutlery and champagne glasses of senior Nazi figures.

This is not the first time that the auction house has sold such items.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of  Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA) called the sale of the items ‘’abhorrent.’’ “This auction, whether unwittingly or not, is doing two things: one, giving succour to those who idealise what the Nazi party stood for. Two: Offering buyers the chance to titillate a guest or loved one with an item belonging to a genocidal murderer and his supporters,” he stressed,

In a letter co-signed by 34 Jewish leaders, Rabbi Margolin urged the auction house to cancel the auction. He wrote: ‘’The sale of these items is an abhorrence. There is little to no intrinsic historical value to the vast bulk of the lots on display. Indeed, one can only question the motivation of those buying them. Europe suffered egregiously because of the perverted and murderous ideology of the Nazi party. Millions died to preserve the values of freedom that we take for granted today, including almost half a million Americans. Our continent is littered with memorial mass graves and the sites of death camps.’’

“Jews of course bore the brunt of Nazi hatred. Every Jewish family living today had relatives murdered or who were interned simply for being Jewish. Over six million of us alone. Whilst it is obvious that the lessons of history need to be learned – and legitimate Nazi artifacts do belong in museums or places of higher learning – the items that you are selling clearly do not. That they are sold to the highest bidder, on the open market is an indictment to our society, one in which the memory, suffering and pain of others is overridden for financial gain.’’0

 

 

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