On Wednesday, I was, like most Jews in Europe, in synagogue. On the holiest day of the year, we prayed for repentance. But very suddenly, the mood changed. We knew something was wrong when masked special forces with machine guns showed up around noon. And something was very wrong indeed.
Security is an everyday reality for Jewish communities in Europe. Passing metal detectors is something we all grew up with, we used to joke, that my school looked more like a prison. At EUJS we don’t normally publish the location of our events and We know that even our children will probably have to play behind barbed wire. But when it happens you are never prepared. It could have been us.
In Halle, the state, however, failed to take such security measures. It is only thanks to the vigilance of the local community, and frankly, luck, that the attack didn’t end much worse. This is shameful.
The attack didn’t just happen on any day. The attack happened on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. The day where Jews around the world pray for repentance and do Tshuvah. The day where we pray for peace for the whole world. So this was an attack on our values. On our core beliefs. While we yearned for light, the attacker yearned for a closed and dark world. A world where no one stands up for one another, where everyone is left to fend for his/herself and where collective identities, defined by arbitrary features like race, belief, color of skin or place of birth, are pitted against each other in a battle for “superiority”. This isn’t our world our future. His vision will not succeed we will remain vigilant for our Jewish and human values; We will continue to fight for peace for the whole world.
It is young people, it is Jewish Students who are standing at the frontlines of that fight. Whether they are physically guarding Jewish institutions as volunteers or are the ones who are filling Jewish communities with new life.
And he is not succeeding! Even after news of the attack broke, Synagogues were full, Jewish life was vibrant all across the continent. We won’t let fear win. We will continue to go to Synagogue, we will continue to celebrate our identities, we will continue to be a critical voice. Jews are part of Europe. And we will fight for that.
This attack also made clear once again that far-right ideology will always remain a mortal danger to the Jewish People. Its logical conclusion is antisemitism, is to kill Jews. We can never work with them, cooperate with them. They can never be an ally and must be opposed in all their forms.
So don’t be mistaken – this was no lone wolf, the attack didn’t happen “out of the blue.” Pittsburgh, Poway, Christchurch and now Halle. There is a globalized movement that is out to kill. Germany, Europe, the Western World has collectively ignored the dangers of the ascendant far-right. Those that looked the other way and didn’t take the threat seriously are also responsible. We demand that Europe does better. That Europe learns. We must fight them in cellars, on the streets, and in Parliaments.
In times like these, we must be there for each other and help where we can according to the principle Kol Yisrael arevim ze la ze. But that isn´t enough anymore. We must rise up and speak out for our world, our values our belief system, against the ideology which motivated the Terrorist in Halle, against the anti-democratic forces gaining traction all over the world. We can no longer stand idly by as far-right beliefs become more and more mainstream as antisemitism, racism and xenophobia become more and more normalized. We always prevailed, and we will this time. But the times we live in aren´t normal times, our life in security, democracy, and relative prosperity isn´t self-evident. It´s our duty to fight these forces – and the groups enabling them for short term political gain – together we will be successful and hate stands no chance.
At the end of Yom Kippur we sing Lshana Haba be Yerushalayim. With this, we pray for a free world, where we, the Jewish people, as well as all other minorities, can live freely, without fear of oppression or persecution. Let’s ensure that we reach that “Yerushalayim”, that this becomes a reality- in Israel, Europe, and the rest of the world.
Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. May the memories of the deceased be a blessing. יהי זיכרם ברוך.