European Antisemitism Driving Jews Away From Jewish Life, Says Leading Rabbi (INTERVIEW)
The recent string of attacks against Jews in Europe has driven many Jews away from an active Jewish life, said the president of one of Europe’s leading Orthodox Jewish networks on Tuesday.
“We’re dealing with a large number of Jews who because of the risk involved, and terrorist attacks, have stopped coming to Jewish events,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt told the Algemeiner. “It’s more important [for these Jews] to stay alive than to stay Jewish.”
The 51-year-old Swiss-born Conference of European Rabbis (CER) president, who is also Chief Rabbi of Moscow, said apathy was a greater risk to the Jews in Europe because as an issue it is more elusive than both antisemitism and assimilation.
“While assimilation and antisemitism can be addressed directly, apathy is a much harder issue to address … There is a certain percentage of Jews saying I’d be better hiding,” he said. “Our message to our community is that this is not the answer.”
On Monday, the CER awarded French Prime Minister Manuel Valls with its Lord Jakobovits Prize for European Jewry, for his “exemplary determination in the fight against antisemitism.”
Valls said he “can’t imagine a France without Jews,” Goldschmidt related.
“He’s going to make sure that Jews and community centers and synagogues or going to be protected” as long as the need exists, said the chief rabbi, adding that Valls pledged just a few days ago a “new program of 100 million euros ($112 million) to combat antisemitism on the Internet and on the streets.”
This was the third year the CER awarded the Jakobovits prize. Last year it went to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the year before that to Polish Prime Minister and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.
Meanwhile, the recent Islamist attacks against French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people were killed, and subsequent attacks in France including at a Kosher supermarket, showed Europeans that the problem was not uniquely Jewish, said Goldschmidt.
“It is not a problem with the Jews, it is a European problem,” he said.
In Moscow, however, Goldshmidt painted a more secure picture of Jewish life.
Because of the “stronger government … it is much safer to walk the streets of Moscow than a Western European city,” he said.
The 29th convention of the CER will take place in Toulouse, France, this week, to honor 70 years since the Nazi regime’s surrender to Allied powers.
Toulouse was also chosen “out of respect for those who were affected by the brutal attack at the Otzar HaTorah School just three years ago,” and the CER will hold a memorial service in their honor.