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

Europese joden reageren met afschuw op afbeelding gele ster tijdens coronabetoging

"Ik heb moeite om de gelijkenis te zien tussen gevraagd worden om een vaccin te nemen tijdens een pandemie, of de gevolgen te dragen als je dat niet doet, en tussen het systematisch uitmoorden van zes miljoen Joden in vernietigingskampen, gaskamers of massale schietpartijen aan open graven", aldus Margolin.

"Het maakt me ziek om te bedenken hoe weinig mensen de pijn begrijpen die dergelijke spandoeken veroorzaken, en hoe weinig mensen echt begrip en waardering hebben voor de enorme omvang en magnitude van de holocaust. Aan degenen die vandaag marcheerden met een grote gele ster, zeg ik dit: doe dit niet”, vertelt hij. “Hoe je je ook voelt over de coronabeperkingen, niemand tatoeëert jouw armen, niemand drijft jou op veewagens, en niemand wil dat jij, jouw familie en jouw geliefden sterven. Zorg er in de eerste plaats voor dat je kennis vergaart en dat je weet wat deze gele ster werkelijk vertegenwoordigt", aldus de rabbi.

https://www.hln.be/binnenland/europese-joden-reageren-met-afschuw-op-afbeelding-gele-ster-tijdens-coronabetoging~aff4335f/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.be%2F

COVID Diary- Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi 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.
Here, the Rabbi offers his unique and refreshing take on the portion. For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl and then: scroll down.
On Freedom of Speech
 
Freedom of opinion and speech is a great asset and therefore everything must be said.
 
And if I am allowed to say everything, I also have to accept everything and not moan when I myself become the target of taunts. Agree!
 
But why then get upset about anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, the anti-Semitic floats in Aalst or the umpteenth anti-Semitic cartoon in the Volkskrant?
 
Everything can be said, right? A cartoon that insults the heart of Islam must be possible, right? And what's wrong with black Pete? Do dark skinned people feel offended? Don't complain, freedom of speech!
 
But that opinion should of course not be every opinion, because if parents want to teach their children that the family with a mom and dad is the cornerstone of society, it could be seen as discriminating towards people who have a different orientation…
 
A befriended non-Jewish, non-Christian, non-Muslim and unmarried journalist (thus of impeccable behaviour!) Has warned me not to write that I am in favour of freedom of expression, but that that freedom must have restrictions.
 
That nuancing "but" would bring a torrent of criticism on myself. "But" I don't get that, because if freedom of speech is to be cherished, then I am allowed to express my opinion, even if that opinion differs?
 
And so with this my opinion, straight from ancient Judaism (Proverbs of the Fathers 2: 1): “What is the right way that man must choose? Any way that gives honour to him who follows him and by which he is honoured by men. ”
 
In other words: Black Pete really had nothing to do with discrimination for me. But if normal thinking people with a black skin colour now experience this as discriminating, then we have to stop.
 
Fanaticism is no good, neither from the right nor from the left, not from religion, but also not from secularization. Because secularization can also be fanatic, compulsive and intolerant.
 
But just before writing this, I got a call from a secular mayor friend: "Binyomin, if you ever need to, you can count on me." This again shows: friendship and solidarity, between secular and religious, standing up for each other, that is not only possible but eminently desirable.

A new memorial tombstone on a mass grave of Jews in the City of Sadigora, Ukraine

The Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) has unveiled yesterday morning a memorial tombstone on a mass grave of  the Jewish community of the City of Sadigora in Ukraine, that were slaughtered in 1941 by gangs of Ukrainians and Romanians that were granted “24 hours to do what they wanted with the Jews” by the Russian Command
“We played together – all of the children and suddenly our Jewish friends began to disappear"
RCE General Director, Rabbi Arye Goldberg:
“We are in the midst of an extensive operation to detect and establish tombstones on other mass graves of Jews who were slaughtered in Ukraine”
Israel's ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Leon:
I call upon the new President of the Ukraine and Members of the Rada (parliament of Ukrain to adopt the Anti-Semitic definitions of the IHRA
Thursday, July 25, 2019, Ukraine, The Jews of Sagura in southern Ukraine, near the border with Romania and Moldova, thought that the Russian army's victory over the German Nazi army during the fighting in the region in July 1941,  was the end of the war, and the end of the attacks on them by the Romanian Army who controlled the area and cooperated with the Nazis.
However, the Russian command allowed local Ukrainian and Romanian gangs a “24-hour window to do with the Jews as they will”. The relief sensations of the Jewish community of the region became a murderous nightmare: “We played together – all of the children and suddenly our Jewish friends began to disappear one by one" said this morning in a trembling voice, an elderly Ukrainian woman who was present at the time of the acts during the unveiling ceremony of the tombstone established by the  Rabbinical Center of Europe over the mass grave in which , about 1,200 Jewish children women and men were murdered and burried – some of them when they were still alive.
The mass grave and the hidden testimonies were found in part by Rabbi Mendi Glitzinstein of the nearby city of Chernivtsi who harnessed the RCE in order to establish a headstone on the mass grave. The unveiling ceremony that took place this morning, saw the distinguished presence of the district’s Governor, Eiom Vasilovitz, , Israel's ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Leon, RCE General Director, Rabbi Arye Goldberg, Chief Rabbi of the nearby Jewish Community of Jetimore and Western Ukraine, Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, members of the small Jewish community who survived  the massacre and Ukrainian neighbors, some of whom testified how they could feel the “earth burning underneath their feet” even days after the terrible massacre took place.
RCE General Director, Rabbi Arye Goldberg, said during the ceremony that the Rabbinical Center of Europe,  and its over  700 rabbi Members across the continent,  took this very important mission upon itself  and is now in the midst of an extensive operation of  locating and establishing tombstones on other Jewish mass Graves in the Ukraine. “We collect evidence and testimonies as much as possible from elderly Jews and Ukrainians who still remember. We than locate the mass graves and only after a team of experts confirms the findings, we establish tombstones for the memory of the victims."
RCE and EJA Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, made it clear that the special activity for locating and establishing tombstones on the tombs of the victims was held in parallel with the effort to further and renew Jewish life throughout the Ukraine, as well as the restoration of synagogues and mikvehs.
Israel's ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Leon who carried the Kaddish prayer in the ceremony, thanked the RCE for the initiative and its implementation in the field, and said that the embassy was conducting a special program for training Ukrainian teachers on how to teach the  lessons of the Holocaust in schools throughout the country. I call upon the new President of the Ukraine and Members of the Rada (parliament of Ukrain to adopt the Anti-Semitic definitions of the IHRA
 

 

New Cooperation with The TSKŻ, Poland

The European Jewish Association is proud and delighted to welcome another organisation to our growing roster of partners and communities.

We have just concluded and signed a memorandum of understanding with Poland’s TSKZ.

The TSKŻ (The Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland) is the most important organization representing the interests of the Jewish community of Poland with 16 branches and nearly 2,000 active members.

TSKŻ aims to organize and to promote cultural events and Jewish art exhibitions, to consolidate and preserve the cultural heritage of Polish Jews, the Jewish culture among Jews and Poles, Yiddish language courses and publishing projects. The organisation is very active in preserving the memory of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and of the Shoah.

They are also organizing conferences and lectures on Jewish and Israeli topics.

TSKŻ is managing welfare and health programs for its elderly members.

TSKŻ is also operating summer camps for youth and a Training & Holiday Center “Śródborowianka” in Otwock, as a place of regular meetings of the Jewish community from all over the country.

When two dynamic and active Jewish organisations get together and agree to work closely together, beautiful and important things flow from this. We look forward to working for the betterment of Polish and European Jewry together.

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