Words for Pesach by the Chairman of EJA, Rabbi Margolin

April 24, 2020

The pandemic has upended so much of our daily lives, including the most sacred: our holy days.
Millions of Jews around the world will be celebrating Pesach this evening in ways that up until a few weeks ago was unimaginable, without family around them, without the bustling celebration around the table. It will of course be hard for all of us.
Of course, the irony of celebrating our holiday of freedom whilst we are in confinement due to a plague – the coronavirus, will not be lost on us.
And yet, even amongst this adversity, we are being given the opportunity to celebrate Pesach in a unique way, loaded with significance that can, in fact, bring us closer to the story of our exodus from Egypt. How?
Let us be honest, how many of us really appreciate what freedom means? In our modern lives the vast majority of us are free to come and go as we please. This pandemic has given us a flavour of what it is like to lose freedoms that we take for granted, and in the process brings us closer to our ancestors, who lost theirs under Pharaoh. It brings the holiday alive.
Truly both nights will be different from all the others, they remind us to truly appreciate the everyday blessings that the almighty bestows on us everyday, our families, our jobs, our friends.
I wish you, and your families a Pesach Sameach, and G-d willing next year in Jerusalem!

Additional Articles

EU seeks to rally against anti-Semitism

Under Germany’s presidency, the member states are planning to take decisive action against antisemitism in Europe in light of increase anti-jewish conspiracy theories during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December, the heads of state and government seek to adopt a declaration at the next EU summit to establish a uniform approach within the European community against all forms of hatred towards Jews.
“It is our constant, shared responsibility to protect and support Jewish life actively,” says the draft resolution, which is set under the preamble: “Anti-Semitism is an attack on European values.”
The initiative to develop binding guidelines was put on the agenda by Germany, which holds the EU Council Presidency until the end of the year. Two years ago, the member states committed themselves to national strategies against anti-Semitism the first time.
Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was observed how anti-Semitic prejudices were openly conducted.
Among other things, the declaration calls for “awareness of anti-Semitism in all political areas” and the tackling of “a cross-cutting issue in which various government agencies and policy areas at local, national and European level should be involved.”
Recently, a study by the Israeli foreign ministry indicated how anti-Semitism significantly increased ever since the pandemic had started, particularly in regard to conspiracy theories.
According to the analysis, most anti-Semitic statements connected with the world health crisis were posted online in the US, France, and Germany.
The EU’s plan states that “anti-Semitic conspiracy myths are often the first step that can lead to hatred, hate speech, incitement to violence, and hate crimes.”
The latter is why the heads of state and government and the European Commission seek to upgrade the European anti-Semitism commissioners’ work.
In drawing up the declaration, they worked closely with the Jewish organizations and responsible specialist politicians in Europe. There is positive progress at the European level; however, the effects are not yet reaching the Jewish Europeans. The latter is why the EU Commission also seeks to present a common strategy with further concrete measures against anti-Semitism next year.
Within the member states, the new EU agreement is intended to provide authorities such as public prosecutors and police forces and social institutions such as schools in the future as a practicable basis for assessing anti-Jewish tendencies.
Germany’s council presidency has been under the radar due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The upcoming December declaration, however, could mark a significant moment, nonetheless.
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New Cooperation with Šiauliai County Jewish Community, Lithuania

The European Jewish Association is very happy and proud to welcome another organisation to our growing roster of partners. We have just concluded and signed a Cooperation and Partnership Agreement with the Jewish Community of Šiauliai County, Lithuania.
We eagerly look forward to many positive exchanges and fruitful cooperation with our new partners from the Lithuanian Jewish community. Together, we hope to achieve a lot of beautiful and important things, all the while jointly working towards the betterment and wellbeing of both Lithuanian and European Jewry.

Bukovina Governor Made a Surprise Announcement: Historic Nationalized 'Jewish House' to be Returned to Community

A series of historic events commemorating 'Eighty Years of Tragedy' and in memory of the Holocaust victims of the Bukovina region, took place last week in the ‘Jewish Shtetel’ of Chernivtsi, Ukraine. Hundreds of dignitaries, public figures, guests, and members of the Jewish community attended the events. During the events, the regional governor made a surprise dramatic announcement: the ‘Jewish House’ nationalized during the Communist regime will be returned to the community and serve as a warm home for education and enrichment programs.
Under the auspices of the Jewish community of Chernivtsi, led by Chief Rabbi Menachem Mendel Glitzenstein and the head of the community, Mr. Leonid Milman, and with the assistance of local government bodies and other Jewish organizations, six memorial events were held on Tuesday and Wednesday (July 6-7). These events took place in memory of those murdered in the Holocaust and to commemorate the tragic historical events that began eighty years ago and led to their murder.
The climax, during which the region’s governor surprised the participants with the historic declaration, took place during a memorial meeting on the corner of Bryanska and Pizkulturna streets, where the Maccabi stadium was located and from where thousands of Chernivtsi Jews were deported in 1941 to their deaths in the ghettos and in the camps of Transnistria. A commemorative plaque was unveiled and inspiring speeches were delivered by the Israeli and German ambassadors to Ukraine and by the regional governor Mr. Sergei Osachuk. During his speech, Mr. Osachuk announced that the famous Jewish building called the “Jewish House” would be returned to the local community and will serve as an educational and cultural center benefiting community members and tourists from across the globe.
Following the governor’s announcement, during an official meeting with the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine that took place between the events, the ambassador Mr. Joel Lyon asked the Governor to authorize the return of the magnificent 'Temple' building to the community. In response, the governor promised “to do everything possible to return it soon.”
Additional events included a memorial service in the square from which thousands of Jews were taken - exactly 80 years ago - to the mass graves; reciting of the Yizkor prayer in the ‘Valley of Killing’ near the town of Baila, led by the city's Rabbi and Israeli ambassador to Ukraine, Mr. Joel Lyon; a historical exhibition curated by the local Jewish Museum under the direction of Mr. Nikolai Kushnir; an Intellectual Forum for the History of the Bukovina Holocaust, with the participation of rabbis, politicians, experts and journalists, and a special film festival focused on the memory of the Bukovina Holocaust. Many of these events took place at the premises of the Jewish House.
"These events have an additional purpose," explains the Chief Rabbi and Chabad emissary to Chernivtsi, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Glitzenstein. "Beyond commemorating the memory of the Holocaust victims and events, we must boldly look at the spread of anti-Semitism in the world and do everything we can to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again. We must celebrate our Judaism with pride and without fear, spread light, and make the darkness disappear. The might of the events that have just been commemorated in the city, with the participation of government representatives and guests from across the world, prove that this is possible and in our hands."
Tens of thousands of Jews from Chernivtsi and the Bukovina region are scattered around the world. Many of them are eager for information about their roots and relatives who lived in the city. The Jewish community has set up a commemorative project that helps them in a variety of ways to commemorate their loved ones and discover information about them. You can contact the community at the following email: ‏‪jewishczernowitz@gmail.com

Polish newspaper runs front page list on ‘how to spot a Jew’

MP says it is ‘absolute scandal’ such ‘filthy texts, as if taken from Nazi newspapers’ sold in parliament
A right-wing newspaper in Poland has published an article on its front page instructing readers on “how to recognise a Jew”.
The Tylko Polska, or “Only Poland”, ran a list of “names, anthropological features, expressions, appearances, character traits, methods of operation” and “disinformation activities” which it said could be used to identify Jewish people.
“How to defeat them? This cannot go on!” the front page also said, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The article was printed alongside a headline reading “Attack on Poland at a conference in Paris”, a reference to a Holocaust studies conference last month whose speakers were accused of being anti-Polish.
The newspaper caused an outcry among Polish politicians when it was distributed in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament.
Michal Kaminski, an MP for the centre-right Poland Comes First party, said it was an “absolute scandal” such “filthy texts, as if taken from Nazi newspapers” were sold in the Polish parliament, Polsatnews reported.
Mr Kaminski asked for an explanation from parliament speaker Marek Kuchcinski, a member of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party, for how such an “antisemitic” front page was made available in parliament.
The director of the Sejm Information Centre, Andrzej Grzegrzolka, initially said his office could not take action as the paper was being sold from kiosks inside the Sejm who were responsible for the choice of newspapers.
He also suggested a court could look into the front page and decide whether the title should be suspended under Polish law, which bans hate speech motivated by race or religion.
However, Mr Grzegrzolka later announced his office would request the publication be removed from the Sejm’s press kit.
The newspaper’s front page also featured an image of Jan Gross, a Polish-Jewish academic at Princeton University who has courted controversy for suggesting Polish people were complicit in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.
Mr Gross’ argument that Poles collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War has made him a regular target of outrage by Polish nationalists.
The article was published by the Independent

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