Brussels, September 28th, 2016 – Only three days after an ECI delegation returned from the 71st session of the UN General Assembly in New York, where a Jewish holiday has been recognized for the first time in the history of the UN as an official UN holiday, a new survey by the European Rabbinical Centre showed that 70% of the Jews living in Europe will avoid attending synagogue during the upcoming Jewish High Holidays because of security concerns.
In a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday, ECI founding director Tomas Sandell asked how this can still be the case in a Europe which prides itself on fundamental rights and freedom.
“Do not these rights and freedoms also include the Jewish communities?” he asked.
The pessimistic mode was also reflected in a high-level conference in the European Parliament later in the afternoon on ”The future of the Jewish communities in Europe”, to which ECI was invited alongside Members of the European Parliament and Jewish community organisations.
In interventions from Jewish community leaders from across Europe, many openly asked if there is a future for them and their children. Statistics show how the exodus from Europe is growing, with about 10,000 Jews leaving Europe for Israel last year, among them 8,000 from France.
“If Jews do not feel safe in Europe, they leave,” explained former Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks in his keynote speech.
“Would you stay in a country where you need armed police to guard you while you prayed? Where your children need armed guards to protect them at school? Where, if you wear a sign of your faith in public, you risk being abused or attacked?” he asked the audience.
He went on to explain how anti-Semitism mutates over time and takes different forms in different ages.
“Today the Jews are hated because of their nation state, the state of Israel, and the new justification for anti-Semitism is human rights. That is why Israel—the only fully-functioning democracy in the Middle East with a free press and independent judiciary—is regularly accused of the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide.”
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy agreed with Lord Sacks that anti-Zionism is a new form of anti-Semitism.
He called the BDS (boycotts, sanctions and divestments) movement of today ”recycled fascism”, which is using old methods from the 1930s to demonize Jews.
But Lévy was more optimistic in assessing the overall threat to the Jewish communities.
”The anti-Semites of today are skinheads and illiterates, not the intellectual class. The political institutions of our countries are clearly on the side of the Jewish people,” he argued.
His point was well illustrated in the opening and closing speeches by the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Vice-President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (picture), who both affirmed their support for the Jewish people.
”Europe is not Europe without its Jews. Europe is your home,” said President Schulz, who during his presidency has made the Holocaust Remembrance Day an official annual EU event.
”As long as I am the President of the European Parliament, the European Parliament will be your friend,” he assured the Jewish communities of Europe.