European Jewish Association

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

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Binyomin 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.

For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl

Every day in my e-mail box I receive statements of support like this: “I would like to wish you a lot of strength and wisdom because of the hatred for Jews that is raging throughout Europe. It all started in the 3rd century when the Church Fathers changed the policy by excluding the Jews. Lies they made up back then are still going around. My heart weeps, and I pray for you and all the Jews, that the Lord will protect you all. ”

Today should have been an ordinary day. From 9:00 am – 11:00 am I had my annual guest lecture at a Theological University, then a visit to a seriously ill woman in hospital, then home to answer emails, followed by an online meeting about kosher slaughter with a European Commissioner, a pastoral meeting at my house, ticket booking for grandson’s bar mitzvah in the US and then some chores to finish the day. I would end it with a brisk walk with a good friend and then, as a kind of ritual closing of the day writing my diary.

But it went differently than planned. I usually have good control over myself emotionally. But today I didn’t. It started with the emailed statement of support that hit home hard the reality of rampant anti-Semitism, with the result that when I was asked about the situation in Israel during my guest lecture, I expressed myself too emotionally:

After I delivered it, I received the following message from an Assistant Professor:

“Thank you for your impressive lecture. But we were shocked by your remark that if you weren’t Chief Rabbi, you probably would already have moved to Israel. The image you painted of a captain prevented from leaving a sinking ship was as shocking as it was telling in that regard. Thank you for the open, personal and vulnerable tone of the conversation, which also touched me personally. Strength and wisdom in championing the importance of a safe place for the Jewish people in our country,”

I don’t know if I should have expressed myself in that way, because in the end I have no intention of allowing myself to be expelled from my native country, which I have been a part of for at least ten generations. But the recent hatred was so visceral, so all pervading, that it exhausted my usual high levels of enthusiasm.

The European Union Commissionner was friendly and politically correct. She will stand up for kosher slaughter, but I did not get the impression that the antisemitism, which forms the basis of the attempted ban by Poland, was felt by her. This did not add to my mood I must say.

And so again, in my view, I made a mistake and mentioned that in my daughter’s street in London loudspeakers were heard calling on the rape of Jewish women and girls as part of protests. It is a pity that one even needs to mention and underline the obvious to make the point.

But let us go back to animal welfare for a moment on which kosher slaughter is under scrutiny. If there is one religion that attaches great importance to animal welfare it is my own. Why not tackle the real and demonstrable animal suffering: the transporting across hundreds or thousands of kilometres of animals? In any case, why on earth are we discussing animal welfare while antisemitic slogans are being shouted at across Europe during anti-Israel demonstrations? Is this a priority while the vile spectre of jew-hatred is rising again? It feels to me like the politicians are fiddling while Rome burns!

As if to compound this impending sense of Jews being cast adrift, the Prime Minister here in Holland and 5 of his ministers had a falling out about Israel. The five believe they should ask forgiveness from the Palestinians for allowing Jews to move to Israel after the Holocaust.

So yes, my sanity tells me that moving to Israel would be wise. But a captain is never the first to leave asinking ship. And my heart belongs in Holland.

I am certain that there are an increasing numbers of Jews from all over Europe who are actively weighing up their options. That their hearts belong in Europe, but common sense in the face of repeated attacks on them pulls them towards Israel. The fact that we even have to weigh up such a choice is indicative of a deep malaise in society and politics here, where Jews are having to defend things that shouldn’t even need defending – our very freedom of religion – whilst the elephant in the room – increasing antisemitism and particularly its new variant antizionism, run amok.

I go to bed and am grateful for the many expressions of support and hope for better times and a better frame of mind for myself. I hope.