With war in Gaza and Europe-wide Antisemitism peak, Jews bring president Von der Leyen and other friends in Brussels to ‘shine together’ on Channukah

December 7, 2023

“Defiant and hopeful, just as we have always been,” says organisers of EU event after traumatic few months. Chanukah is first significant Jewish holiday since events on October 7th.

(Brussels 7 December 2023) European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen and other European Dignitaries will be at EuroChannukah 2023, taking place between the European Council and Commission buildings at Schuman in Brussels, Belgium on Sunday evening. The Commission President will light a giant Menorah marking the Jewish Holiday of Chanukah – the festival of light.

The theme of EuroChannukah this year, which takes place in the heart of the European Quarter, is ‘Shining Together’.

Chanukkah this year takes place against the backdrop of huge spikes in antisemitism and is the first major Jewish holiday following the Hamas Massacre in Israel and subsequent war in Gaza. The organisers, the European Jewish Community Center , say that it is a showcase for unity and resilience in difficult times.

Avi Tawil, Director of the European Jewish Community Centre, speaking ahead of the event said,

“We were concerned that this year, we would hear from communities across Europe that they were scaling down Chanukah celebrations, hiding away, keeping their heads down. In fact, the opposite is true, now more than ever, the desire is to come out and celebrate the holiday. To Shine together.

“Chanukah, at its core, is a holiday about light overcoming darkness, that good can and will always prevail. Our friends, like Commission President Vpn Der Leyen, are standing with us in solidarity, in a common bond, and in this spirit of unity and resilience.

“It’s been an awful few months. But Jews are defiant in the face of darkness, and always hopeful in the light, just as we have always been, and especially during Chanukkah.”


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European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin asked Mr Musk to come to Auschwitz “to walk there, to feel it, to understand it”.

In a wide ranging live discussion with key Jewish leaders and figures across the world this evening on his X platform, European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin asked Mr Musk to come to Auschwitz “to walk there, to feel it, to understand it”. Mr Musk, reflecting on the question posed by the Rabbi gave a tentative yes to the proposal.

The EJA, one of Europe’s largest Jewish organisations representing hundreds of communities across the continent regularly brings European leaders for combined symposiums and remembrance visits to Auschwitz-Birkenau, to remember but also to find ways of combatting antisemitism and ensuring that its lessons are learned.

In a statement this evening, Rabbi Margolin welcomed Mr Musk’s tentative commitment to join the EJA delegation, which includes many European Leaders.

“It is one thing to read a history book or see pictures. But to really understand what the end station of antisemitism looks like, to really understand the depths to which the freedom of the Jewish people was denied and obliterated, to fully understand why we Jews are so worried about antisemitism, a visit to Auschwitz is a necessary and life-changing experience.

“We have brought many European Leaders to Auschwitz-Birkenau, many of whom have never been, and it changes them. It drives them to fight the hate.

“Mr Musk has said he supports the Jewish people, and he supports Israel. I believe that him visiting our ground zero will not only help him understand better the battle ahead against antisemitism and what is at stake, but will reassure Jews everywhere that he is taking the battle seriously.

“We are very much looking forward to turning the tentative to a firm yes in the weeks ahead.”

A tough week…reflections always worth reading from Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs.

While the world at large is rightly concerned about Russia-Ukraine, a years-long effort to save Levi has failed. Levi has been imprisoned in appalling conditions in a primitive country since 2016 just because he is Jewish. After years of attempts to free him with the mediation efforts of another country, that route has failed. I was a small link in that liberation campaign, one without success I was told on Friday from the US.
A feeling of helplessness takes over me. Powerlessness and incomprehension too about Ukraine and Russia. The rabbis in Ukraine are in a very difficult situation. Some have fled and are now without a source of income, mostly in Israel, neck-deep in worries. Others have stayed, and don’t really know what to do, completely at a loss as to which way it will go.
I spoke to the chief rabbi of Dnieper on the phone. He can’t leave, he told me, because the older members of the congregation can’t leave either. There isn’t a single hair on his head that contemplates leaving his community, of abandoning his (sinking?) ship, as long as the majority of his crew members and passengers cannot or do not want to take that escape route.
More and more I think about my parents and their generation and the decisions they had to make to survive. My parents made the right decisions and that is why I exist and the second generation exists. But the great majority of then made the wrong decision and literally and figuratively had no way out. At the time, many thought that everything would not go so smoothly and that the Netherlands, like in World War I, would be able to escape the macabre dance again
And since I already started this new week from a low point, I can add something to it. Some of the Ukrainian rabbis or teachers have fled and are now elsewhere in Europe. They thought they could dedicate themselves to the Jewish Ukrainians who also fled to become their rabbi again, as it were, but outside of Ukraine. But it’s not all that simple. The interest in maintaining Jewish contacts is very low for the vast majority of people. For most, Judaism was a ticket to get away and seek shelter. But now that they’re gone and the first shelter is over…
Whether it is war or not, man remains human in times of war and also in his selfish behaviour. Some of the rabbis I know from Ukraine really couldn’t go back and are now in Israel, caring for their Ukrainians in the Holy Land. And I can again be a small link to financially support those rabbis and therefore be a part of their commitment, as it were. The rabbis who really can’t go back because their congregations have been totally destroyed are also supported. The stragglers too. But that in-between group? To return or not to return? And what about wife and children? That intermediate group is having a hard time, because they are either viewed as heroes or/and as traitors.
By the way, amidst the gloom, I also received a nice message. A Jewish-Dutch family that has been trying to settle in Israel for more than a year has finally managed to go through the long bureaucratic road of forms and signatures and can now finally make Aliyah. And another positive message is my appointment as a jury member. You see: no complaints about rabbinical variety. You may remember the discussion about the German war cemetery in Ysselsteyn. The result, after many discussions and meetings, was that a
monument was erected in memory of the 102,000 Jews, Roma and others who were not allowed a grave, unlike the murderers. Six artists can give a presentation of ‘their’ artwork and I will be one of the jury members. And so, I will be in Ysselsteyn on November 22. You will read about it here first!

UANI and European Jewish Association Co-Host Event at Sveriges Riksdag to Expose Iranian Regime's Presence in Sweden

In a significant collaborative effort, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) and The European Jewish Association joined forces to host a pivotal event within the esteemed halls of the Sveriges Riksdag in Stockholm. This event served as a platform to unveil the findings of UANI’s extensive investigation into the Iranian regime’s infiltration within Sweden.

Attendees gathered with a shared commitment to shed light on the presence and activities of the Iranian regime within Swedish borders. The event brought together influential figures from diplomatic circles, government officials, advocacy groups, and concerned citizens, all united in their determination to address this pressing issue.

Throughout the event, speakers highlighted the alarming implications of the Iranian regime’s infiltration, emphasising the need for vigilance and coordinated action. They underscored the importance of raising awareness and implementing strategies to counter such interference, safeguarding Sweden’s sovereignty and security.

With the spotlight firmly on the findings of UANI’s investigation, attendees gained valuable insights into the extent and methods of the Iranian regime’s presence in Sweden. This comprehensive analysis provided a crucial foundation for informed discourse and strategic planning moving forward.

As the event concluded, participants departed with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve. Armed with knowledge and collaboration, they stood ready to confront the challenges posed by the Iranian regime’s infiltration, safeguarding Sweden’s interests and upholding the principles of democracy, security, and sovereignty.

Belgian university maintains collaboration with Israeli institutions despite protests demanding to cut ties

About twenty demonstrators protested Thursday in front of the rector’s office at  Leuven University      (KUL) in Belgium on Thursday to demand that the university immediately end its collaboration with Israeli institutions. But the university said it has decided to maintain current collaboration with its Israeli partners, daily La Libre reported. 

Participants at the protest action waved Palestinian flags and wore black and white scarves. They chanted slogans such as “Shame on KUL, break up with Israel”, “Free Palestine” and “Stop the genocide”.

Several actions have already taken place in recent months to denounce the links between Israeli universities and KU Leuven. “We have the impression that the University of Leuven will not put an end to these collaborations,” a protester was quoted as saying.  “That’s why we’re keeping up the pressure: links with institutions linked to the arms industry and the Israeli security apparatus are extremely problematic,” he added.

The rector of KU Leuven, Luc Sels, will receive some of the protesters to discuss the issue next Tuesday but the university said that it has decided to maintain its current research projects with various Israeli universities, following a decision taken on by the relevant ethics committee.

The university has “thoroughly evaluated” the current collaborations, particularly on the basis of human rights. “The general position is one of restraint”, the Rector wrote on his blog.

The leuven university has no structural links with Israeli universities, but does have project-based collaborations. These involve some fifteen projects, mostly in larger consortia funded by the European Horizon research program.

“The content of each project was thoroughly examined: it was checked whether there was any risk of the content being misused or used for military purposes,” Luc Sels said.

“The projects were also assessed to determine whether they presented a risk of human rights violations and whether the partners were not involved in human rights violations,’’ he added.

He continued: ‘’On the basis of this screening, it was decided to continue with the current projects. “We are opting for a balanced, fine-tuned approach. New collaborations with Israeli partners must first be submitted to the ethics committee for assessment. The committee not only applies human rights criteria but will also assess with the necessary rigor whether the research has possible military applications.’’

At another Belgian university in Ghent, an association titled ‘’Students4Palestine’’ also called on the Board of Governors and Rector to cut all collaborations with Israeli institutions which they accused of being ”complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.’’ They are threatening to occupy the University if their demand is not met.

Last November, Ghent University issued a clear statement saying that it always decides to cooperate with partners, universities or companies and not with countries as such.’’ ‘’Within the framework of our human rights policy, it is therefore actual our potential partners we assess and not the country in which they are located,’’ the statement said.

Belgian university maintains collaboration with Israeli institutions despite protests demanding to cut ties

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