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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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
Diary 20 Jan. 2021
That such a figure should commemorate my family …….
It is now 23:15 on Wednesday. I just got home. Gave a lecture in Gorinchem. Of course without a visible audience, but in a professional studio and several hundred who were watching at home and many thousands of them are expected to watch the broadcast at a later date. I am used to it by now. If I can immediately speak to visible people again, it will take some getting used to giving a lecture to real listeners.
A lecture with a 15-minute break with tea in the middle. Audience that can just see me in real life and I can look at those present. Now you should know that I used to read from the faces whether I needed to dig deeper into the matter, whether it was time for a parable or a joke to keep people on their toes.
Since I am now starting to realize that we can hardly go outside at the end of this week (good for my health? Not so much.) Today I did my fast walk of one hour instead of the usual 25 minutes.
In the meantime, the condolences keep coming in by e-mail (Chief Rabbi Jacobs recently lost his son – Editor), on facebook (so I was told, because I don’t get on facebook myself) and the phone hardly stops ringing. So many warm and beautiful words.
Also an email advising me to repent. Well-intentioned, but I firmly rejected the proposal without any consideration. Should the author of that lengthy e-mail read this diary, she will hear that I was not charmed by her attempt at conversion, nor did I bother to respond to her e-mail.
Conversion is a loaded topic for us Jews that are still alive. “But”, I hear you think, “you are so good with the Christians for Israel, aren’t you?” Dear people, they do not seek to convert! I know their motives, I know their background, I am aware of their statutes and I am in almost daily contact with them. Together we fight for Israel and against anti-Zionism. To convert? They have many fellow believers who strongly disapprove of their pro-Israel action and point out their flaw that they do not serve as missionaries amongst Jews. But they do try and convert, but of a very different kind. They are trying to convert the churches to change their anti-Israel stance to a pro-Israel approach!
Why am I raising that now? Not because of that dorky letter from that lady, but because the Jewish Agency has stopped working with a Canadian Christian organization called Return Ministries because of a rumour that they are trying to convert people. The president of that organization is a Messianic Jew. And although every person is responsible for himself and is allowed to do what he cannot resist, this is disturbing.
A Messianic Jew who wants to bring Jews to Israel? Who himself has thrown his Judaism overboard? For me a contradiction interminis! And so, I fully understand the Jewish Agency.
And while that lady tries to swindle me away from Judaism, I read today in the authoritative British daily the Guardian that a recent survey shows that many British Jews are afraid to show signs of their religion, such as wearing a kippah or a Star of David in public. Rising anti-Semitism, which is increasingly becoming the “normal”! Let that converting lady spend her time on that and leave me alone. Linking this conversion attempt to the death of our son is unsavoury to say the least.
In the meantime, the sheer number of statements of support resulting from my diary shows that I have built up a wide readership. Apparently, I’m not the only one who knows that.
Because, and now it comes, today I have been approached from four different sides with the request to pay attention in my diary to the choice of the speaker at the annual National Remembrance Day on May 4. The Committee for 4 and 5 May actually chose a figure who has made anti-Semitic remarks on various occasions. The Jewish Telegraph Association (JTA), which is generally well-informed and meticulous, has devoted an entire article to it, and the statements the speaker is said to have made do not lie. I am sure that this week’s NAV will also pay substantial attention to it.
It is incomprehensible that this Abdelkader Benali, who has nothing to do with the 1940s and 45s, will speak at the same commemoration where last year our King Willem Alexander brilliantly expressed exactly what the especially Jewish Netherlands had been waiting for, for so long. What an encouragement that was! And now this figure comes…? I don’t get it, I feel like May 4 is being taken away from me, but I hope I misunderstood everything, that the JTA was misinformed and the various quotes emails that are far from Jew-friendly just on a misunderstanding and were never expressed.
But in the unlikely event that everything is right: That such a figure should commemorate my family … this I just don’t understand.

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Les Juifs français les plus inquiets quant à leur sécurité parmi 12 pays européens

Selon une étude, cela pourrait s’expliquer par les attaques terroristes antisémites comme la tuerie de l’école juive Otzar Hatorah en 2012 ou l’attaque contre l’Hypercacher en 2015

La France est le pays dont la communauté juive se sent le moins en sécurité, en dépit des actions menées par l’État, selon un index portant sur 12 pays européens publié mardi dans le cadre d’une rencontre organisée par l’Association juive européenne (EJA).

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Une association juive outrée par la représentation de l'étoile jaune à la manifestation contre les règles corona

La European Jewish Association a réagi outrée dimanche à l’étoile jaune représentée sur l’une des bannières de manifestants participant à la marche organisée dimanche à Bruxelles contre les mesures sanitaires prises par le gouvernement pour endiguer la propagation du coronavirus. “Il est difficile de dire à quel point c’est une erreur“, a déclaré le rabbin Menachem Margolin, président de l’association.
J’ai du mal à voir la similitude entre le fait qu’on vous demande de vous faire vacciner pendant une pandémie, -ou d’en assumer les conséquences si vous ne le faites pas- et l’extermination systématique de six millions de Juifs dans des camps de la mort, des chambres à gaz ou dans des fosses communes à ciel ouvert“, a déclaré M. Margolin.

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Cela me rend malade de penser que si peu de gens comprennent la douleur que de telles bannières provoquent, et que si peu de gens réalisent vraiment l’énormité et l’ampleur de l’Holocauste. À ceux qui ont défilé aujourd’hui avec une grande étoile jaune, je dis: ne faites pas ça. Peu importe ce que vous pensez des restrictions sanitaires, personne ne vous tatoue les bras, personne ne vous case dans des camions à bétail et personne ne veut que vous, votre famille et vos proches meurent. Tout d’abord, assurez-vous d’avoir les connaissances et de savoir ce que cette étoile jaune représente réellement“, a encore souligné le président de l’association
https://www.rtbf.be/info/societe/detail_une-association-juive-outree-par-la-representation-de-l-etoile-jaune-a-la-manifestation-contre-les-regles-corona?id=10892119

Chairman of EJA, Rabbi Margolin's Words on the Latest Poll on Antisemitism

Have you ever been stuck in a dire situation where someone wants to help you with a problem, but you know their approach isn’t going to work? And you don’t want to offend them by saying as much as their intentions are good?

In ordinary life, it’s a dilemma. But when it comes to the Millions of Jews living in Europe, the time for such niceties and politeness is now officially over.

On Tuesday, the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and the European Commission published their second survey on discrimination and hate crime against Jews in the EU. The FRA’s director said the findings “make for a sobering read”.  That would be understatement.

With 28% of respondents indicating that they have been harassed at least once in the past year, with 79% of Jews who experienced anti-Semitic harassment in the past five years not reporting this to the police or another organisation, with 34% avoiding visiting Jewish events or sites because they do not feel safe, with 38% considering emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews in Europe, and with 70% considering that efforts by Member States to combat Antisemitism are not effective, this is not sobering. This is an unmitigated disaster.

The report, as brutal and stark as its findings are did not shock me in the slightest. It simply confirmed all the feedback, all the phone calls and all the reports that we at the Europaen Jewish Association had been getting, and made the red lines that we ratified at our conference in November all the more pertinent and pressing.

Before we get to the red lines, let us ask the most pressing question. Why is Europe failing so badly in making Jews feel secure? It does after all say all the right words, publishes reports and invests in people to fight the scourge of this oldest hatred. How can it be that 70% of Jews don’t believe it will make a difference?

The answer is wrapped up in the same word that entangles much of the good intentions of the EU institutions, and that word is competence.

Competence is basically which areas the EU can have a say (or interfere depending on your position). So, the EU can, if you are a Member State, tell you how many fish you can catch a year but not where your army should be deployed. It happens that human rights and freedom of religion, indeed the very subject of antisemitism itself is not an EU Competence. That means in essence that all the fine words, all the reports, and all of the various agencies looking at this in Brussels cannot compel, sanction or effectively reprimand any breaches. That, therefore,  makes human rights, freedom of religion and antisemitism voluntary instead of compulsory and open to interpretation or political manipulation.

That’s problem number one. For example, during the religious slaughter debate in Denmark, it was said that animal welfare takes precedence over Freedom of Religion. When it comes to circumcision, a similar argument over the right of the child to choose is being habitually made, in many countries. We can, and often do, get into public discourse of the minutiae of such debates, on scientific, health and any number of grounds, but this misses the central point. Is Freedom of Religion (and freedom to practise) a fundamental right or not? Everyone says so, so it must be right? Then why are we, as a Jewish Association engaged every year in efforts across the continent to defend Kosher slaughter and Brit Milah? It is increasingly apparent that there is nobody to police, much less defend, this vital part of the foundation on which the EU is built.  We as Jews are left with the Animal Farm scenario, where “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The other words that get us all tangled up are political and expediency. And this is problem number two, that of Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israelism. It is clear in a number of countries, and from the EU’s own statistics from the last few years, that there are massive spikes in anti-Semitism whenever Israel is involved in defensive actions, such as operations in Gaza, or efforts to break the navy blockade. The BDS movement, and their followers in the left wing stir up hate speech, draw false parallels with South Africa under apartheid and raise modern blood libels. Anti-Zionism is, make no mistake, the modern ‘acceptable’ face of anti-Semitism. Looking at the report, over 85% of respondents in Belgium and France feel that the arab-Israeli conflict affects their feelings of safety “a great deal”. Whether you support the Israeli government or not, whether you are secular or not, that Israel affects you as a Jew is undeniable.

Which makes the EU’s position on the matter all the more ridiculous. Anti-Semitism is a no-no, but criticism of Israel is free speech. This from the mouth of the EU’s High Representative herself. Where is the red line on this free speech? Does it stop at Jewish Nazi? Zionist child killer? Israeli Organ harvester? There isn’t a clear answer, allowing the Israel haters and the modern anti-Semites in the far left and BDS movement to act and talk with impunity.

Let us recap. On two of the biggest touch-paper issues affecting anti-Semitism across the continent – whether real or perceived – the EU is either incapable in the first instance, and unwilling for the sake of political expediency to act on the second. 

As I opened with, the time for niceties is over. Nobody is questioning the intentions of the European Institutions and European countries to tackle the problem, and we genuinely thank them for this commitment, but you can’t and wont tackle the oldest hatred leaving the competence question open ,nor by maintaining a two-faced approach to anti-Semitism where Israel is concerned. It really is the political equivalent of using a bucket to take the water out of a boat, without blocking the hole in the first place!

And that right there – those two gaping holes in the hull – are why the Jews interviewed by the survey – all 70% of us – don’t have any faith that efforts will be effective.

So, what can be done? The EJA sent every European political party “Jewish Red Lines” that were ratified by democratic vote by our members across Europe.  None of them are rocket science, but they can and would plug the holes.

Our members said that Political parties and their leadership must sign up to the full IHRA definition of Anti-semitism. That Every European Country must appoint a dedicated Special Representative to combat anti-Semitism where one already doesn’t exist. That all political parties pledge to exclude from government parties or politicians that espouse anti-Semitism as defined by the IHRA definition. That all political parties must pass, in accordance with their respective rules of procedure, binding resolutions that reject BDS activities as fundamentally anti-Semitic, and lastly that all political parties support in writing and in party documents their support for freedom of religion and freedom of practice at Member State level and EU level.

These red lines are the bare minimum that is needed to make a real difference. Europe’s principal leaders and parties were sent them, will be aware of them, and should adopt them immediately if they are serious about tackling anti-Semitism and gaining the trust of Jews who feel literally cast adrift from the very people who tell them they want to help.  If you really want to help us, the message is clear. Listen to us, adopt the red lines and let’s consign reports like this to the dustbin of history. Otherwise, expect a worse report next year. And the year after that too.

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