Among communal activists, there is widening concern that the clouds are darkening over Europe’s Jewish population.
On the street, in certain circles, economic turmoil and decline has prompted the rehashing of typical age old hateful stereotypes of Jewish wealth, control and market manipulation, typically the domain of the nationalist right, these accusations have also recently found expression in liberal camps such us the ‘occupy’ crowd. This coupled with the rapid spread of political Islam and its illicit bedfellows and enablers on the left, takes on the form of rising boulders that threaten to crush between them Europe’s demographically small and relatively politically submissive Jewish institutions.
The recent unspeakable massacre in Toulouse France was one manifestation of this horrifying trend that captured headlines around the world. On Saturday night French and Jewish media outlets reported that a group of three Yarmulke bearing Jewish youths were set upon by an Islamist mob that beat them with hammers and metal rods. What many do not know, is that according to Ariel Goldman Vice President of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France), speaking to Le Figaro columnist Gaetane Morin, “In the month following the Merah incident we have counted 140 similar (to the Lyon attack) acts.” 140 is an astronomical number.
On Tuesday the Jerusalem Post reported on an incident that starkly demonstrated just how the growing hatred of the right and of the left moves in a circular fashion, eventually meeting and joining forces forming a frightening mutation of a movement bubbling over with anti-Jewish sentiment. In Jena, Germany, “the local branch of the neo-Nazi party (NPD) expressed solidarity for the campaign calling for a boycott of Israeli products that is supported by the….Social Democratic Mayor Albrecht Schröter and the left-wing NGO Pax Christi.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center contemplated issuing a formal travel advisory to the Jewish Diaspora warning against travel to the city. This alliance of prejudice threatens to set a precedent for similar companionships in the future.
On Monday, I was invited to host a group of British Jewish bikers visiting New York for one day of their four week journey from Toronto to Miami discovering American Jewish life along the way. The trip is being filmed for a documentary that will be aired on Sky Atlantic and other channels entitled ‘Jews on Bikes.’ Regular guys, they weren’t observant, particularly learned or communally active, but they were impressionably genuine, sincere and fun loving. During the course of the day, we discussed many fundamental issues of Jewish interest and concern, among them the evolving threats to Europe’s Jews.
Participants in Sunday’s Israel Day Parade in New York, they remarked on how unique they found the Parade to be as an overt expression of Jewish pride. “Something like this just doesn’t exist in London,” they told me. One of the rugged Harley Davidson riders relayed how he had once attended a parade for Israel in Trafalgar Square and marched with a draped Israeli flag over his shoulders, “after it was over” he said, ” I folded it up and hid it in my pocket.”
Growing up as a ‘conspicuous Jew’ in England, I also experienced my fair share of verbal and other anti-Semitic assaults.
Over the coming months and years, whatever the future holds, it is our response to these challenges that will influence the future of Jewish life in Europe.
On one thing all agreed, and that is that there is no marked historical precedent to indicate that Jewish interests have been served by passivity, complacency, silence, patience or submission.
As Europe endures yet another bout of chronic moral scoliosis, our duty is to heed the words of Elie Wiesel writing for the Algemeiner in the wake of the Toulouse horror, “when we are persecuted, our response must be (to)…… do everything to become more Jewish.” I would add, that this Jewishness should be asserted in every which way.