In the heart of Madrid, something important was taking place. The Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) had gathered to discuss an issue that has become increasingly urgent in recent years: antisemitism. From March 20-22, 2023, the Committee held a series of meetings to explore the ways in which this dangerous trend can be combated. And, as it turned out, they had some remarkable guests on hand to help them do just that.
Katharina Von Schnurbein, the European Commission Coordinator on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, was one of the panelists who shared her insights. She spoke about the need for policies and strategies to combat antisemitism, and noted that a survey of perceptions of antisemitism is currently being carried out in Europe. The results of this survey, she suggested, will help guide future efforts to combat this dangerous trend in Europe.
United States special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism Prof. Deborah Lipstadt was also present, and she had a powerful message to share. “We the Jewish people must find reasons not only to fight against but also to fight for,” she said. Her words were a reminder that the Jewish community must not simply defend itself against antisemitism, but must actively work to create a better future.
And Commissioner to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism of the Organization of American States, Fernando Lottenberg was on hand to provide a global perspective on the issue. He spoke about the importance of adopting an official definition of antisemitism, one that would enable legal action to be taken when incidents occur. Without such a definition, he noted, it’s hard to know how to respond.
The location of the meeting was no coincidence. Spain is set to assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union in July of this year, and the Jewish community wanted to make sure that their concerns about antisemitism were front and center. We met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss this issue and to request that Spain reinforce the fight against antisemitism in the region.
But the highlight of the meeting was undoubtedly the audience with His Majesty King Philip VI of Spain. The King showed a deep sensitivity to the history of the Jews in his country, and committed to continue working to remember and honor their contributions. He also listened carefully as the Jewish community shared their perspectives and concerns, and committed himself to their cause. It was clear that King Philip is a true ally of the Jewish people.
The world is changing rapidly, and the political and economic landscape is becoming increasingly uncertain. But in the midst of this uncertainty, the Jewish community has an opportunity to fight for a better future. As Ambassador Ronald Lauder noted, “There is nothing that makes a Jew more Jewish than having been attacked for being so.” This attack, however, can serve as a rallying cry for the community to come together and work towards a brighter tomorrow.
The meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Madrid was a reminder of the importance of standing up to hate, and of the power of solidarity in the face of adversity.
As we look towards our future, let us stop to reflect on how our actions are shaping our possibilities.