JCRC Update | January 23, 2015

The Future of Jews in Europe
Last week’s tragic events in Paris shook most people all over the world, and it is necessary for all of us to mourn and speak up against this kind of violence. We have seen Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Ahmed and Je Suis Juif as signs, status updates and hashtags everywhere. We also saw 3.7 million Frenchmen (including Christians, Jews, and Muslims) take to the streets to demand an end to violence against innocent people.

But last week’s attack is only the latest of tragedies befalling the Jewish communities in Europe. Jewish communities have endured virulent anti-Zionism, harassment in the streets, fire bombings of synagogues and Jewish-owned stores and, sadly, deadly shootings in Toulouse, France; Belgium; and of course, Paris.

Subsequent to all of these incidents, emigration from many countries in Europe has increased its pace. Last year, 5,000 Jews left France for Israel, and some are predicting that number will double this year. In addition, many other French Jews have left for Canada and the U.S. In fact, Jewish communities throughout Europe are questioning their future there, with one recent survey of British Jews showing a majority of Jews there do not see any future in Britain.
Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, decimated by the Holocaust, are generally unaffected by this anti-Semitic violence (although Hungary has become more hostile to its Jewish community in recent years). No, it is the Jews of Western Europe who have lived in these countries for over a thousand years who are questioning their future there.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made a much-publicized trip to France in the aftermath of the attacks, and arm-in-arm with other world leaders, marched for freedom of expression and an end to religiously inspired terrorism. But he also came with a message to the Jews of France that it is time for them to make aliyah, implying that the country was no longer safe for them.

While it is vitally important that Israel remain a refuge for Jews who are suffering from persecution and violence, emigration should really be a very last resort. The Jews of Europe have earned the right to live in the countries of their birth, free from discrimination and persecution.

If the governments of Europe need to redouble their efforts to ensure the safety and freedom of their Jewish citizens, then they must do it. No Jewish person should be afraid to walk down the street in Europe (or anywhere else) while wearing a yarmulke.

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz (January 27), what some consider the beginning of the end of the darkest time in Jewish and European history. It is long overdue for Jews to feel safe in their European countries of origin.

Speaking of 
Prime Minister Netanyahu…
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presence and behavior in Paris were sharply criticized by some and lauded by others. All sorts of stories have emerged (many of them confirmed by all sides) that Netanyahu initially was not planning to come but changed his mind when he saw political rivals attending. It was reported that he pushed his way to the front of the march, and that he insulted the Jewish leaders of France by suggesting that France was not their home and Israel is. He was also treated to a very large standing ovation when he walked into the largest synagogue in Paris.
Prime Minister Netanyahu believes himself to be not just Prime Minister of Israel, but a leader of World Jewry. One thing we should all hope for is that if he does believe that, he will be careful with his words and act accordingly, with great caution and consciousness of image.

The lines between World Jewry and Israel seem to be blurring in some circles, I hope that as the rest of the world DOES look at Israel/Jews, and Netanyahu as their leader, that the Prime Minister is up to the challenge.
The image of him walking arm-in-arm with the other leaders of the world in protest of the horrible tragedies that befell Paris that week was a powerful one. The image of him walking with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was equally powerful.

One more thing we should hope for is that in light of what happened – that Netanyahu and Abbas make concerted effort to reject extremism and unilateral acts, and make good faith efforts to resume peace negotiations.

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