UNESCO-listed Flemish festival comes under fire for anti-Semitic floats

March 28, 2019

A famous Belgian carnival has run into trouble with the authorities because of the way it is said to portray Jewish people.
The annual carnival in the Belgian town of Aalst is a 600-year-old ritual, drawing up to 100,000 spectators each year. The event is described by the local authorities as a symbol of the town’s identity in the region.
One of the floats in the parade, however, entitled “Shabbat Year,” features two giant puppets, depicting Orthodox Jews complete with traditional side-curls, wearing pink suits, and standing amidst bags of money among rats, which the mayor of the Flemish described as “humoristic.”
The portrayal has caused an outcry among Jewish groups who have branded the float as “racist and anti-Semitic”, accusations that have led to the launch of a protest petition which has been signed by over 15,000 people.
In a new development, UNESCO, the Paris-based United Nations body for education and culture, is now considering whether to “de-list” the carnival from its prestigious Convention on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
“UNESCO had to be vigilant and uncompromising” in ensuring that the regulations of its Convention are fully respected, a source for UNESCO said while adding that a decision will be made on the matter later this year.
Earlier in March, the Assistant Director-General for Culture at UNESCO, Ernesto Ottone, was highly critical of the floats, saying, “The satirical spirit of the Aalst Carnival and the freedom of expression cannot serve as a screen for such manifestations of hatred.”
Ottone spoke of the float’s “indecent caricatures” which, he said, are contrary to the “values of respect and dignity embodied by UNESCO”.
The European Commission has also weighed in on the controversy with a spokesman commenting that “it should be obvious to all that portraying such representations in the streets of Europe is absolutely unthinkable…74 years after the Holocaust.”
The three-day folk carnival, arguably the most famous of its kind in Belgium and a favourite of young and old alike, has been on the UNESCO list since 2010.
The article was published on New Europe

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#LightingEurope Fourth and Fifth Day of Chanukah13-12-2020

As a part of our #LightingEurope canpaign we are happy and honored to have EMIH Unified Hungarian Jewish Congregation Executive Rabbi Slomó Köves for the fourth candle and Dr Leah Floh, Chairperson of the Mönchengladbach Jewish Community for the Fifth candle with some special words for Chanikah
You can read the translation of Dr Floh here:
My dear Jewish friends in the entire world but especially in Israel!
Dear friends and supporters!
The Jewish Community of Möchengladbach [Northrhein-Westphalia, Germany] and all Jews from throughout Germany want to wish all of you a Happy Chanukah – a festival of lights, of love, of hope and of solidarity.
Please stay healthy or return quickly to good health. Remain optimistic and always remember to support each other.
Dear Shoah survivors, dear Child Survivors: you have great capacity for resilience and with it you could infect others with your positive outlook on life.
I’m convinced that we will be able to celebrate together next year.
Am Israel Chai עם ישראל חי [the people of Israel live!], l’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim לשנה הבאה בירושלים‎ [next year in Jerusalem!].
Chag Chanukah Sameach חג חנוכה שמח [Happy Chanukah Holiday!]
Amen!

Sites where Germans killed Jews are dedicated in Poland

The Polish witnesses of the German crime in Wojslawice lived for decades with the memories of their Jewish neighbors executed in 1942. They remembered a meadow that flowed with blood, a child who cried out for water from underneath a pile of bodies, arms and legs that still moved days after the execution.
 

In the years that followed, those who had seen the crime shared their knowledge with their children, warning them to stay away from the spot behind the Orthodox church where some 60 Jews, among them 20 children, were murdered on that October day.
“When I was a young boy I was running around these meadows but the elders were saying: ‘please do not run there because there are buried people, buried Jews,’” said Marian Lackowski, a retired police officer whose late mother witnessed the execution in the small town in eastern Poland.
Born after the war, Lackowski has devoted years to ensuring that the victims receive a dignified burial, a mission he finally fulfilled Thursday as he gathered with Jewish and Christian clergy, the mayor, schoolchildren and other members of the town.
Beginning at the town hall, the group walked solemnly down a hill to the execution site, their silence broken only by roosters and barking dogs. After they arrived at the spot, church bells rang out from the town’s Catholic church and a trumpet called at noon. Jewish and Christian prayers were recited and mourners lit candles and placed stones in the Jewish tradition at a new memorial erected over the bones. “May their souls have a share in eternal life,” it reads.
The mass grave site in Wojslawice is tragically not unique. During the German occupation of Poland during World War II, the Germans imprisoned Jews in ghettoes and murdered them in death camps including Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor. But they also shot them in fields and forests near their homes, leaving behind mass graves across Poland, many of which have only come to light in recent years.
 Read More:
https://www.ynetnews.com/article/bkrav99ry

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Red Lines Follow-Up: Meeting with German Ambassador H.E. Mr. Martin Kotthaus

Earlier today, the European Jewish Association has had the honour of meeting with the recently appointed Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Kingdom of Belgium, H.E. Mr. Martin Kotthaus. While His Excellency has earlier already attended some of our events, including the recent EJA annual conference back in November 2018, this has been the first occasion, which presented an opportunity to have a very comprehensive discussion on a number of different topics.

These subjects, amongst others, included the issues European Jewry is faced with nowadays across the continent, the situation in Germany itself, especially with regards to the present political climate and the upcoming elections at regional and EU levels, various topical matters at hand and everyday life of the Jewish community, as well as prospects for the future. Both sides have expressed their hopes for a continued productive cooperation between the German authorities and the country’s Jewish community. The recently adopted Red Lines have been touched upon as well, with Mr. Ambassador kindly offering to report back on them to his homeland’s government.

We very much look forward to a long and fruitful cooperation with His Excellency and the Embassy on questions presenting mutual interest and concern.

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