Red Lines Follow-Up: Meeting with Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU

January 23, 2019

Earlier today, the EJA’s Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Alex Benjamin, and its Political Affairs Advisor, Mr. Mihails Vorobeičiks-Mellers, have had the honour of once again meeting with Mr. Ján Figeľ, Special Envoy for Promotion of Freedom of Religion outside the EU. With the function itself created only in May 2016, Mr. Figeľ, former EU Commissioner and Deputy Prime Minister of Slovakia, became the first person to hold the position. The policy framework for the Special Envoy’s mandate is regulated by the “EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief”, which have been approved by the EU Member States back in 2013.

With the nearing European Parliament elections coming in May this year, the meeting took place at a time of notable significance, both to the EU – and wider Europe – as a whole and its Jewish community in particular. A number of topics have been touched upon, including the continuing rise in popularity of the more radical political ideologies on both ends of the political spectrum, possible – and, regrettably, nowadays observable – legal limitations to the freedom of religion, the European Commission’s role in promoting and protecting the respective rights of the EU’s inhabitants as well as the 5 red lines, which have been recently adopted during our conference back in November 2018.

Since Mr. Figeľ’s mandate encompasses the entirety of the world outside the Union, and the EJA is active throughout Europe, this meeting has been particularly important to us. Thus, during the discussion special attention has also been given to the EU candidate countries and other European states neighbouring the Union. Along with the present and future lives of the local Jewish communities, such topical issues as the legality of ritual slaughter and circumcision have been specifically raised. 

We very much look forward to a continued dialogue and cooperation with Mr. Figeľ on issues of mutual interest and concern.

Additional Articles

It’s sad that Holocaust denial needs to be criminalized.

Chief Rabbi Jacobs:
Last Thursday was a special day. I was in Leeuwarden, a city in the north of The Netherlands, for the unveiling of a monument with 544 names of Jews who were murdered, 80% of what used to be a flourishing Jewish Community. It was not only an impressive ceremony, but a full day filling program. First a reception in the former Jewish School, then a tour of the former Jewish quarter where in front of the various houses and shops large photos of the former Jewish residents were placed: all murdered! And then: the unveiling wasn’t supposed to start till 4pm and it was only 2pm? After the tour of the Jewish neighbourhood, we were directed to a nearby hall. Just before the occupation, in 1939, the wedding reception of Barend Boers and Mimi Dwinger, had taken place in this hall. More than a hundred guests were present. And in that same hall, we set now, awaiting the unveiling of the monument. And then, quite unexpectedly, it started. We were in the middle of a play. The chuppah took place around us, we were the guests, and the lives of the bride and groom were acted. But it was not all festive. The Nazis occupied The Netherlands. Jews were arrested. The young couple decided to escape. Their flight from the Netherlands, their trek across the Pyrenees, we saw it all happen. The various people whose houses we had just passed by, performed and talked about their lives and their deaths in Sobibor, Auschwitz or elsewhere. I actually would have preferred not to experience this performance because it hit me hard. It was a tough confrontation.
And then, after the confrontational play, we left the hall in silence and walked to the unveiling of the monument. And there, at that ceremony, 6 students pretended to be former residents of the Jewish Community of Leeuwarden: my name is x and in 1943 I was murdered in Sobibor. The mayor of Leeuwarden talked about his Jewish grandmother and the secret surrounding her Jewishness. When the mayor’s aunt passed away, of natural causes, not so long ago, a briefcase was found and her Jewishness, her carefully hidden identity, was revealed. Because my ancestors originated from Leeuwarden, I had this personal feeling: how nice that my ancestors finally, after more then 75 years, got a gravestone, a matsewa! But a gravestone without a grave. A memorial prayer was recited followed by an intensive silence.
How could a large Jewish Congregation be massacred, gassed, exterminated? It was not just the fault of the small percentage of collaborators. The problem lay with the large silent mob that showed herd behaviour and chose the path that yielded them the most at the time: Fl.7.50 money per head for every betrayed Jew. And in better times even Fl. 40 pp!
Because of that herd mentality, which drove society in the completely wrong direction during the occupation, there was something like a collective guilt among the average Dutchman after the war. A few months ago, when 18 Orthodox Jewish girls were expelled from a KLM flight, I spoke to a former Minister and told him that thanks to my network I was able to arrange for them not to have to stay at Amsterdam Airport on Shabbat. And, I went on, whether it was right or wrong for the girls to be kicked off the plane, I don’t know, because they might have misbehaved themselves. But I was corrected fairly brutally by the former statesman with the words: As a Dutch society we must always stand up for the Jew, because during the Holocaust we, the Dutch, failed miserably. I fully agree with that failure, but to go so far that it is no longer allowed to check whether straight is crooked and crooked straight is a bit too far for me.
I agree that it is justified that also in the Netherlands it is being considered nowadays to criminalize denial of the Holocaust. But the fact that this needs consideration, is sad, because apparently it is no longer felt how radically, inhumane and criminally the Nazi regime acted, supported by the majority of the Dutch population. Result: 544 names of murdered Jews. The monument is impressive, but the history unacceptable.

Red Lines Follow-Up, Iceland

Eja director of public affairs was meeting the director of human rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives from the human rights ministry in Reykjavík this morning to discuss Jewish red lines with a particular focus on recent Icelandic parliamentary efforts to outlaw and criminalise Brit Milah (male circumcision).
In an open and frank dialogue, it was clear that circumcision is very much an alien concept to Icelandic people, but there is no Antisemitic motivation behind it. It is just not on their radar whatsoever. When Alex explained that nonetheless such legislation can be used as an enabling tool by those who espouse antisemitism they were receptive to this message. There is more work needed with political parties to get this message through, but it was a good start with Icelandic government officials.

Mishloach Manot Handout for Purim

Purim is approaching and we are happy to announce our Mishloach Manot handout to the community has begun.
Free shipping and handling- while stocks last.
Order your Mishloach Manot here: https://purim.eu

Half of Jewish college students have hidden their Jewish identity - survey

Half of Jewish students have at one point hidden their Jewish identity, according to a survey conducted by the Cohen Research Group in conjunction with The Louis D. Brandeis Center last April. Additionally, 65% of Jewish students stated that they had felt unsafe on campus.
The survey also states that the longer Jewish students stay on campus, the more they feel they must hide their connection to Judaism rather than embracing it. The poll was conducted among students belonging to predominantly Jewish fraternities and sororities.
Other main findings of antisemitism in the survey included 50% of members at the leading Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi (AEPi) and 69% of the members at the leading Jewish sorority Alpha Epsilon Phi (AEPhi) have personally experienced an anti-Semitic verbal attack.
Read More:
https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/half-of-jewish-college-students-have-hidden-their-jewish-identity-survey-679895
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