JCRC Update | January 22, 2016

One Year Ago…
This week marks the one year anniversary of the attacks in Paris at the headquarters of the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Kosher Supermarket, a horrific day that seemed to galvanize French citizens and French Jewish citizens to root out terrorism and radical theology.

Of course, since that time, things seem to have gotten worse. We had the horrific attacks in Paris in November which killed over 130 people. Attacks against the Jewish community in particular have also not abated as some sort of physical attack afflicts the Jewish community on an almost weekly basis.

Last week, subsequent to one of these physical attacks against a Jewish teacher in Marseilles (who was stabbed), the head of the Marseilles Jewish community called on Jews there to avoid wearing kippot (or anything identifiably Jewish) in public out of concern for their safety. The idea is that no religious obligation is worth risking your life.

The Chief Rabbi of France subsequently rejected that call, saying hiding one’s Jewish identity would surely be giving in to terrorism, something that cannot be allowed to happen. French politicians are outraged at the call to hide one’s Jewish identity, and polls conducted in France show that 70 percent of French citizens oppose the call for Jews to be hiding their Jewish identity.

There is even a movement in France for all people (including many politicians) to wear a kippa at a certain date and time to express solidarity with the Jewish community…and yet the safety of the Jewish community is a huge question mark. The current Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, has rejected all calls for French Jews to emigrate (including calls from Prime Minister Netanyahu), reiterating that the Jewish community of France is a necessary part of France.

Synagogues and other Jewish institutions still require heavily armed soldiers to protect them. French Jews are taking self-defense courses in record numbers. A majority of French Jews are now questioning their future in Jewish communities in Western Europe, and record numbers of French Jews made Aliyah to Israel last year despite calls from community leaders and government officials to stay.

The anti-Semitism in France and the rest of Western Europe is on the rise, tied to the rise of radical Islamist organizations like Islamic State that are having at least some influence in Europe. Considering the history of the Jewish community in Europe, it is quite disconcerting that Jews feel unsafe there … unsafe enough to consider leaving their homes, professions and culture.

Let’s hope that the sense of security for Jewish communities there is restored and that these communities, decimated during the Holocaust will flourish and thrive. We stand by the French Jewish community and continue to call on world leadership to address the rise of global anti-Semitism.

Nostra Aetate
This year is the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, a breakthrough decree from the Catholic Church that calls for dialogue with the Jewish community and absolves Jews of the centuries old canard of collective guilt for the death of Jesus.

All our current good relationships with the Catholic community, here in Louisville, nationally, and internationally, are because of this document as the Pope at the time, John XXIII, made it a priority to right this historic wrong. We will be having further commemorations, stay tuned for more details.

The relationship between Jews and the Catholic Church continues to thrive, as each successive Pope since John XXIII has made an effort to improve it. Pope Francis is particularly interested in solidifying this relationship.

Long before he was Pope, he fostered great relationships with Jewish leaders in his native Buenos Aires. As Pope, he has condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including specifically denouncing anti-Zionism.

Just this week, he went to Rome’s Great Synagogue and said, “Christians, to understand themselves, cannot fail to refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church … recognizes the irrevocability of the Old Covenant and the constant and faithful love of God for Israel.”

For 1900 years this statement was impossible but now it is a natural progression of Catholic feelings towards Jews which began with Nostra Aetate 50 years ago.

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