The latest reflections from our esteemed colleague and advisory board member Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

April 27, 2020

I am a tightrope walker
With fear of heights

You probably know those images of a tightrope walker who has strung a rope between two gigantic high-rise buildings In Manhattan and walks on the tightrope with a stick in his hands. One slip and the show is over! It is vital that the tightrope walker constantly concentrates, does not get distracted, keeps his goal in mind and is not afraid of heights. In this week's Sidra as well as in the Pirkee Awoth - Proverbs of the Fathers that we will learn this Shabbat, I meet myself as the tightrope walker. And on the eighth day he must be circumcised on the foreskin of his body (Leviticus 12: 3). In the Halaga, Jewish law, it is stated that although the Brit Mila, the circumcision, can be performed during the whole eighth day, it is nevertheless better to fulfill this mitzvah early in the morning. Keeping a commandment or any good deed should not be delayed! We learn this lesson from patriarch Awraham. When he was ordered by G’d to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, he did not postpone thatorder, but he got up early to do what was required of him.
Knowing this, the question arises: Why didn't Awraham circumcise himself in the morning, but delayed his Brit Mila until later that day? One of the answers I found was that Awraham didn't just think about himself. He wanted others to hear what he was doing. He wanted the entire society to stop idolatry. He hoped that everyone would realize that there is only one G’d and that He demands of the men to be circumcised. He understood that if he fulfilled this mitzvah early in the morning, hardly anyone would notice. And so, for the sake of publicity, he decided to do it later that day. So that others would be inspired.
In the Proverbs of the Fathers (chapter 2:1) we read: What is the right way for man to choose? Any way that honors him who follows him and at the same time honors him by the people.
From this we see that Awraham's position is a general rule. In everything we do we have to look at the context. What is the influence of my behavior on my environment? Judaism is not black or white. On the one hand you always have to walk the right way, but on the other hand, depending on the situation, you sometimes have to choose an alternative route to achieve the same goal.
So life is a continuous tightrope walk. If you only look up, you lose sight of the road you have to walk. If you only look down, you will be overwhelmed by the fear of the abyss. Especially in this difficult period in which we all find ourselves, it is vital
not to think black and white. It will be fine and I will ignore all the adapted rules that the Government and the physicians require from us, is a one- sided and therefore completely wrong position. It is like that tightrope walker who has no eye for reality and only tries to reach the other side with his head up. But also just looking into the depths, seeing everything
black, letting your thoughts be determined solely by screaming terrifying media reports, is a wrong position.
I feel like a tightrope walker. I make sure that I am not getting sick by alarming headlines on FB, newspapers, radio and TV. At the same time I have to consciously observe new rules and good advice. I must not shut myself off from reality. I also have to realize that I am constantly observed and that my unstable behavior can also instill fear or indifference in others.
Dear people. Do not take this column personally. I just wanted to show you how I am constantly balancing. I am a tightrope walker who refuses to look down due to fear of heights. But I also know that only my view upwards is not the Jewish and right way. I try to keep my balance. Do you do that too!
Binyomin Jacobs, Chief Rabbi

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EJA Meeting with European Parliament Vice-President Roberta Metsola

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Vice-President Metsola is responsible for Article 17 matters: Dialogue with churches, and religious and philosophical organisations, and is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of European Jewry, particularly in light of rising antisemitism due to the pandemic, but more recently the surge in antisemitic sentiment related to the recent Gaza conflict.
The EJA noted with appreciation the Vice-President’s fire and determination on combatting antisemtism and countering ignorance about Jewish life, practice and faith in Europe. In a political environment often marked by platitudes, such an approach was wonderfully refreshing. We agreed to pursue a number of projects and activities together in the months ahead and look forward very much to deepening our relationship with Mrs Metsola and her capable, efficient and dynamic offices.

EJA Welcome Serbia's Move to Adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism

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European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin today welcomed the move:
“Serbs, along with Jews, suffered the worst excesses of Nazism, as Hitler blamed both for the first world war. We welcome Serbia to the fold of countries that understand the danger of resurgent antisemitism across the continent and are rigorously committed to stamping it out and clearly stating what it is, without equivocation.
We continue to urge other countries who have not signed up in full, to do so. The coronavirus will, thank goodness, pass and eventually be eradicated. We still have much work to do to eliminate the virus of antisemitism. “

Antisemitic graffiti found at Auschwitz-Birkenau site

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum and Memorial preserves the Auschwitz death camp set up on Polish soil by Nazi Germany during World War Two. More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, perished in gas chambers at the camp or from starvation, cold and disease.
The graffiti included statements in English and German, as well as two references to often-used Old Testament sayings frequently used by antisemites, the Memorial said in a statement published on Twitter.

"An offense against the Memorial Site – is above all, an outrageous attack on the symbol of one of the greatest tragedies in human history and an extremely painful blow to the memory of all the victims of the German Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau camp," the memorial site tweeted.
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Babi Yar, le premier grand massacre de la Shoah par balles

e 27 janvier, c’est la journée internationale dédiée à la mémoire des victimes de l’Holocauste. Cette date coïncide avec le jour de la libération du camp d’extermination d’Auschwitz-Birkenau. Entre 1941 et 1945, environ 6 millions de personnes, principalement des juifs, seront tuées par les nazis. La plupart de ces victimes sont décédées dans les camps d’extermination. Mais, une grande partie ont aussi été tuées lors de ce qu’on appelle " la Shoah par balles ".

Babi Yar, symbole de la Shoah par balles

En 1941, l’Allemagne nazie envahit l’Union soviétique. La Wehrmacht entre dans la ville de Kiev en septembre. Le 29, les occupants nazis ordonnent aux juifs de Kiev de se rassembler, avec leurs affaires personnelles. Ils sont emmenés près de ravins sur le site de Babi Yar. C’est là que le massacre commence. Les nazis les tuent avec des fusils. Babi Yar reste l’un des massacres les plus emblématiques de cette " Shoah par balles ". En deux jours, les nazis exécutent près de 34.000 juifs. Leurs corps sont jetés dans les ravins.

Site de Babi Yar, Ukraine
Site de Babi Yar, Ukraine Aurélie Didier
Entre 1941 et 1944, entre 120.000 et 150.000 personnes, des juifs mais aussi des Tsiganes et des prisonniers sont fusillés dans le pays.
" En Ukraine, il y a eu plusieurs centaines de Babi Yar, des petits Babi Yar dans beaucoup de petites villes. Pourquoi est-ce si important de s’en souvenir ? Parce que maintenant les nouvelles générations ne savent pas ce qu’il s’est passé. Et si on ne sait pas, si on ne s’en souvient pas, cela peut se reproduire à nouveau. ", insiste le plus grand Rabin d’Ukraine, Moshé Reuven Azman.

80 ans après, la liste des noms de dizaine de soldats nazis

Après la Seconde Guerre mondiale, les autorités soviétiques occultent les massacres des juifs de Babi Yar. La situation n’évolue qu’après l’éclatement de l’URSS en 1991. Progressivement, des recherches sont menées en Ukraine avec des universitaires occidentaux et des associations juives.
Des monuments sont érigés à la mémoire des victimes. Et cette année, pour les 80 ans du massacre en septembre 2021, le nouveau centre de commémoration de la Shoah a publié une liste de noms de dizaines de soldats nazis qui ont participé à la tuerie.

Site de Babi Yar, Ukraine
Site de Babi Yar, Ukraine Aurélie Didier
Sur le site de Babi Yar, un mur des lamentations a été érigé afin de se souvenir. Pour ces juifs d’Ukraine et d’Europe, les mouvements militaires russes, occidentaux et américains font craindre le pire.
" Aujourd’hui à la frontière ukrainienne, il y a des soldats, des armes qui veulent prendre la liberté des gens. Babi Yar, c’est bien sûr le passé mais c’est aussi une alarme pour le futur", prévient Alexander Benjamin, directeur de l’Association Juive Européenne (EJA) en Belgique.
L’Ukraine qui se souvient du passé, c’est aussi important stratégiquement et politiquement. Cela permet au pays de se rapprocher encore plus de l’Europe et de sa mémoire collective de la Shoah. Les Ukrainiens font en effet tout pour renforcer leurs liens avec les alliés occidentaux face à la Russie.
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