Europe’s Jews Need Friends

On December 7 the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) honoured President Macron of France in the Élysée Palace, his official residence, with the distinguished Lord Jakobovits Prize.

In recent weeks, Jewish communities throughout Europe have been facing a growing hostility. Shockingly, uncertainty and uneasiness have rocked Jewish people’s sense of security across Europe. In the first six weeks after Hamas’ brutal massacre within Israel’s southern border on 7th October, the French Ministry of Interior reported that more than 1,500 anti-Semitic acts have been recorded in the country. In the UK, London’s Metropolitan Police stated last month that anti-Semitic incidents in the capital had increased by over 1,350 percent. Sadly, the scenes of rallies filled with hate speech and incitements and the threats on synagogues and Jewish schools throughout the continent now often read to us as a litany of statistical data, with figures and the arrows of graphs shooting upwards since early October. These headlines all coalesce into a single message: Jews across Europe are unsafe.

Wider political trends in Europe have also been at play to create this growing sense of unease. In the Netherlands, in mid-November, Geert Wilders of the Party for Freedom won the general elections and now must form a government. His Party’s manifesto calls for the “irreversible stunning” and a ban on “ritual slaughter”. Whilst Wilders has gained the support of some within the Dutch Jewish community, these threats, if carried out, this ban on Shechita will irrevocably damage Jewish life in the country. This sharp lurch to the right across European politics is a worrying sign for its Jewish communities. To combat this frightening hostility, we need vocal friends.

We need more political, religious, and lay leaders who will be prepared to stand up and defend our safety, security, and rights. The Lord Jakobovits Prize is awarded annually to precisely such personalities who have shown this friendship, offering support for European Jewry. In recent months, President Macron has shown such support and thus demands recognition.

We require a collective sign of friendship that transcends the bounds of religious and ethnic divisions and is not limited to a country’s president or prime minister. Moderate Muslims, everyday citizens across our Western democracies, must come to our aid, defending Jewish people’s right to live safely, not to be accosted or attacked on the streets of Europe. Such advocacy would further help foster greater understanding, dispel any damaging stereotypes, and promote a united commitment to peace and tolerance for Europe’s future. Where, however, are they?

This Thursday, after the ceremony of awarding President Macron with the Prize for such friendship, we also lit the candle of the first night of Hanukkah. This Jewish festival of light celebrates how, despite persecution in the Seleucid era and beyond, the Jewish nation has not only prevailed but shone its values and cultural contributions to those in their midst. In today’s age, keeping such light aglow demands unity of voice and purpose. People throughout Europe must stand up to any incitement, political or physical, against our communities. The true prize will then be a peaceful, positive Europe, a light for the world to follow.

About the Author
Dr. Boris Mints is a businessman, philanthropist and committed supporter of cultural and social projects. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of Patrons of The Conference of European Rabbis (CER), which is the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe. He is also a President and Founder of The Boris Mints Institute, which is based at The Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences in Tel Aviv University, and honorary Professor of Tel Aviv University. In 2016, Dr Boris Mints expanded his family philanthropic contribution by creation of The Mints Family Charitable Foundation. He also established the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow in 2014.
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