Rami Levy and Rabbinical Centre of Europe in Beautiful Tefillin Project

June 12, 2020

Multi-faceted Jerusalem businessman Rami Levy, best known for his chain of discount supermarkets, is helping to provide tefillin (phylacteries) and prayer shawls for needy European Jews.

Multi-faceted Jerusalem businessman Rami Levy, best known for his chain of discount supermarkets, is helping to provide tefillin (phylacteries) and prayer shawls for needy European Jews who do not possess these essential religious accoutrements and cannot afford to purchase them. Levy has made a very handsome contribution to the Rabbinical Center of Europe at the request of the organization’s CEO Rabbi Arye Goldberg, who initiated the tefillin project in memory of the late Rabbi Benjamin Wolf, the
spiritual leader of the Jewish community of Hanover, who fell victim to coronavirus two months ago. This is not the first time that Levy has been involved with the RCE. He continues to donate to another of its projects, which is to bring European bar mitzvah boys to Israel.

■ FOR THE past 38 years, Jeff Seidel has been running student information centers in Jerusalem as well as Shabbat and Jewish home hospitality for lone soldiers, students and tourists. It was very tough during lockdown, because there were tourists and students who had not left the country and there were plenty of lone soldiers. Things are a little easier now that restrictions have been relaxed and greater social interaction has been permitted. A lot of people are still wary of going to restaurants, weddings and bar mitzvahs, and there are some who are also very cautious about admitting guests to their homes. For those who want to get back into the swing of hosting guests on Shabbat and showing them the brighter side of Israel, Seidel can be contacted at (02) 638-2634 or 052-286-7795. Last Friday, Seidel managed at the last minute, to find Shabbat hospitality for a group of gap year students.
TRAGEDY IS one of the most unifying factors in Israeli society. Political and religious differences are put on the back burner as the nation comes together to help to hope, and too often, to grieve. That was the case six years ago when three teenage yeshiva boys Eyal Yifrah, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel unknowingly hitched a ride with Hamas terrorists, who kidnapped and murdered them.

The boys were standing outside Alon Shvut in the Etzion Bloc, waiting for a car that might be going their way.

For 18 agonizing days, the nation came together and joined the three families in praying for the safe return of the three boys.

Only after the discovery of their bodies was it learned that they had been killed soon after their capture. The nationwide outpouring of solidarity with the families during the waiting period, at the funeral and after the tragedy, prompted the creation of the annual Jerusalem Unity Prize.

Nir Barkat, who was then the mayor of Jerusalem, during a condolence visit to the families suggested that something be done to commemorate the three teenagers, and together with the Gesher organization and the three sets of parents – Iris and Uri Yifrah; Bat-Galim and Ofir Shaer; and Rachel and Avraham Fraenkel – in September, 2014, decided to establish the Jerusalem Unity Prize, with an official announcement to that effect at the President’s Residence in January, 2015.
Since then, the prize has awarded annually in June to individuals, organizations and initiatives in Israel and the Jewish world at large whose activities are instrumental in promoting mutual respect amongst Jews in times of crisis and in everyday life.

This year’s awards ceremony was broadcast on video with only President Rieuven Rivlin and his closest aides, Barkat and his wife Beverly, the prize winners and the Yifrah, Shaer and Fraenkel couples in attendance.

The ceremony was held against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis and national political divisiveness over the possibility of proposed annexation or application of Israeli sovereignty on the Jordan Valley.

The prize ceremony, said Rivlin, sends a message of conciliation.

Speaking on behalf of the families, Uri Yifrah said that when the boys were still missing, before their fate was known Rabbi Haim Druckman told them: “We are looking for the boys and we have found ourselves.” Yifrah said: “That sense of looking inward finds what brings us closer together, an understanding of who we are, why we are here and how close we truly are.” He emphasized, “Alongside the disagreements and the differences of opinion, we must pause as individuals and examine whether, in the heat of the moment, we are not losing the great and true path we seek, which includes those with whom we do not agree. For he, too, seeks the good of our people. We go on together because that is our duty and that is how we will continue to build our country. The winners of the Unity Prize are those who know how to look inward, to bridge the gaps and to put what is important to the fore.”

The winners this year were: In the “local” category, the Center for Community Mediation and Dialogue in Rehovot for creating a space for respectful dialogue between the various elements of Israeli society and for leading the conversation on tolerance and acceptance of the other.

In the “national” category, the Joint Council of Pre-Military Academies (Mechinot) for their work to bring together different views and building trust between the member institutions for the good of the national mission of educating the next generation.

In the “international” category, Hakhel, the incubator for Jewish intentional communities for opening a door and building communities for every Jew, whoever and wherever they are, and for strengthening Jewish identity.
The article was published on the JPost

Additional Articles

A Letter by Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

In these trying times, our advisory board member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs (Netherlands) has some wise and inspiring words for those of us lamenting our confinement. His personal “dear me” letter is a must read and share! Thank you Rabbi.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs- Our New Head of Committe for combatting Antisemitism

We at the EJA are proud to announce that Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs has accepted our invitation to head up our Committee for Combatting Antisemitism.
As Chairman of the Committee, Rabbi Jacobs will be our roving ambassador, working with other local EJA committee co-ordinators across the continent, identifying the local issues and the challenges relating to antisemitism faced by communities and advocating at the highest levels of government, both at a bilateral and EU institutional level, to find solutions and enact changes to safeguard Jewish life and practice in Europe.
The EJA places this fight at the top of our agenda. Such an important issue requires a person who is respected, who has gravitas, and who understands the mechanisms and personalities involved in the political process, as well having a forensic and thorough knowledge of the Jewish issues at hand.
So, when we envisaged the creation of this Committee, the natural and obvious choice was Rabbi Jacobs to Chair it.  We have long admired his skill in advocacy in his native Holland at Eerste and Tweede Kamer’s in the Hague and at local Dutch administrative level.
We are delighted to share this important appointment with you and we look forward to sharing news with you about the Committees actions and outcomes in the near future.

Which European countries are best for Jews? Answers may surprise you

First-of-its-kind index is based on a study that combines polling data and policy information to create a single quality-of-life metric for Jews in the 12 European Union countries with sizable Jewish communities

Antisemitic sentiment is especially prevalent in Italy and Hungary, according to multiple surveys. But a first-of-its-kind index combining different measures of Jewish experience found that they are also the best countries in Europe for Jews to live in.

The index, unveiled Monday, is based on a study that combines polling data and policy information to create a single quality-of-life metric for Jews in the 12 European Union countries with sizable Jewish communities, according to Daniel Staetsky, a statistician with the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research who wrote the report for the European Jewish Association in Brussels.
“The goal with this report is to take the excellent data we already have about how Jews feel, about how prevalent antisemitism is, and combine it with government policy measurables,” Staetsky said during a conference held by the European Jewish Association in Budapest.
He said the results may challenge preconceptions about which EU countries are most hospitable to Jews. For example, Germany scored high when it came to government policies relating to Jews. But Jews there report a weak sense of security, leading to an overall middling score.
The index is primarily a tool “to demand concrete action from European leaders,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association. “We welcome statements against antisemitism by European leaders. But more than statements are needed.”
The European Jewish Association will make individual recommendations to each country surveyed, Margolin added at the press event. It was part of a two-day event sponsored by multiple Jewish organizations, including the Consistoire in France, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government, about how European Jewish communities can aid the one in Ukraine.
Titled “Europe and Jews, a country index of respect and tolerance towards Jews,” the study gives Belgium, Poland and France the lowest scores with 60, 66, and 68 points out of 100, respectively. The three top countries have 79, 76 and 75 points, followed by Britain and Austria (75), the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Spain (74, 73, 72, 70.)
To come up with the ranking, Staetsky gave each surveyed country grades on multiple subjects, including the Jewish sense of security, public attitudes to Jews and the number of Jews who said they’d experienced antisemitism. The grades were based on major opinion polls in recent years, including those conducted by the Action and Protection League, a group that monitors hate crimes against Jews in several European countries, and the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
The study combined those scores with scores the author gave to countries’ government policies, including their funding for Jewish communities, whether they had adopted a definition of antisemitism, and the status of Holocaust education and freedom of worship.
Under that scoring system, Germany received an overall score of 72 despite having the best score (89) on government performance on issues related to Jews and a solid 92 when it came to the prevalence of antisemitism. But a relatively low score on Jewish sense of security (46) hurt its overall score, among other factors.
In the case of Hungary, “the score it received reflects the reality on the ground,” according to Shlomo Koves, the head of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH umbrella group of Jewish communities in Hungary. “Jews can walk around here, go to synagogue, without the slightest fear of harassment,” he said.
But the prevalence of antisemitic sentiments in Hungarian society — an Anti-Defamation League survey from 2015 found that about 30% of the population hold them — “shows there is work to be done here, too, in education and outreach,” Koves said.

EJA Open Letter Calling on Polish Government to Scrap Kosher Ban Plans

EJA INITIATED OPEN LETTER FROM DOZENS OF PARLIAMENTARIANS ACROSS EUROPE AND JEWISH LEADERS CALLING ON POLISH GOVERNMENT TO SCRAP KOSHER MEAT BAN PLANS
Dozens of parliamentarians from across Europe and Israel, including Senators, MPs, MKs, MEPs and the UK House of Lords, and Jewish community leaders from all over Europe have joined forces in a letter calling on the Polish Government to scrap part of an animal welfare Bill to be voted on in the Polish Senate on Tuesday 13 October.
The Bill, if passed as currently written, would see a ban on the export of Kosher meat from Poland, a move that would severely impact Jewish communities across the continent who, either by size or limited resources, rely heavily on Poland as a supplier of kosher meat.
The Bill – to the clear concern of the many parliamentarians and Jewish leader signatories – also sets a dangerous precedent: it puts, animal welfare rights clearly ahead of the fundamental European right of freedom of religion.
The signatories also raised the fact that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support claims that kosher slaughter is any more cruel than the majority of slaughter taking place day-in, day out in Europe.
In their letter to the Polish President H.E. Mr. Andrzej Sebastian Duda , H.E. Madam Elżbieta Barbara Witek, Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland and H.E. Mr. Tomasz Paweł Grodzki, Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, the signatories wrote:
“By prohibiting an export of products that represents a central tenet of Jewish faith and practice for many, you are sending a strong message that laws that effectively hinder Jewish life in Europe are acceptable.
“it is for these reasons – and on behalf of the many thousands of Jews that we as Community Leaders and Parliamentarians represent – that we urge the Polish government, its Parliament and its Senators to stop this aspect of the Bill.”
Our Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin speaking ahead of the vote said,
“What appears to be a national polish political issue is nothing of the sort. The ramifications of this Bill are potentially devastating and profound to Jews eveywhere in Europe, and also to the many who value the liberty to practice freedom of religion.
“The Bill, if passed, will be seen as a declaration that it is open season to anyone who objects to aspects of Jewish law, faith and practice. It must be stopped.
“We are extremely humbled and touched that so many dsitinguished politicians, from the French Senate to the Greek Parliament and everwyhere in between, and so many Jewish community leaders agree and are backing the call for this aspect of the law to be scrapped.”
You can find a copy of the open letters and view its updated list of signatories below

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