‘’Swastikas have been painted on the homes of Jews. Synagogues have been vandalised. Jewish children have been locked in their schools because the streets are not safe for them,’’ said Ursula von der Leyen. ‘’This is horrific, and it is painful.’
”Jewish culture is a blessing to Europe,” she said.
Several thousand march against antisemitism in Brussels.
‘’An old evil is resurfacing in Europe,’’ said European Commission President in front Ursula von der Leyen in a speech during an event to light the fourth candle of a Chanukah menorah Sunday evening in front of the European Commission and European Council buildings.
An event organized by the European Jewish Community Center (EJCC) together with the European Jewish Association (EJA).
Brussels Mayor Philippe Close also addressed the participants who lit candles to remember the hostages still detained in Gaza.
‘’Swastikas have been painted on the homes of Jews. Synagogues have been vandalised. Jewish children have been locked in their schools because the streets are not safe for them,’’ she added in a reference to a spike of antisemitic incidents across Europe since the 7th of October Hamas massacre in southern Israel in which 1200 people have been killed and 240 kidnapped and detained in Gaza.
‘’This is horrific, and it is painful,’’ said von der Leyen.
“There should be no place for this hatred, especially here in Europe. And there is no justification to the rise in anti-Semitism. No war, no political argument, can excuse it,” she added.
‘’Freedom of speech and opinion, freedom of worship, and freedom from fear – that must be a reality at all times, in all circumstances, and for all human beings,’’ she said.
She continued, ‘’Chanukah is also the story of the Jewish people regaining their freedom of worship after times of persecution. This moment of celebration must also be one to say that never again will we tolerate hate against the Jewish people. Never again this is now.’’
The president of the European Commission recalled that ‘’for centuries, European Jews have shaped our common heritage. Think of Marc Chagall and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Rahel Hirsch and Hannah Arendt. And you still do shape our common heritage.’’
She announced that the European Commission will create a new award to celebrate Jewish cultural heritage.’’ Because Jewish culture is a blessing to Europe, and we should all know more about it,’’ she said.
The EU Commission has already announced an array of measures to tackle rising hate speech and crime including additional funding to protect places of worship.
In his address, EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said : “The huge antisemitic demonstrations across Europe that used the war against a terrorist organization as an excuse to spread hate and violence and caused hundreds of thousands of Jews to be wary of showing their Jewishness outside was entirely predictable. But we don’t give up. And we won’t give up.
“Millions of Jews around the world are busy spreading good: developing technologies and medicines, we are pioneers in science and agriculture, in the arts, in economics and entertainment so that the world, as a whole, will be a better world. Indeed, year by year, more and more people in the world live better. This is the Jewish spirit that won the Chanukah holiday. This is what we celebrate today.”
EJCC Director Avi Tawil, also addressed Sunday’s event: “As we light the Chanukah candles, let us remember that the true miracle lies in our strength not to succumb to fear, and give in to grievances, but quite on the contrary, in our ability to keep the flame of humanity alive.”
Meanwhile several thousand people marched in Brussels earlier on Sunday to denounce antisemitism, some holding placards reading: “You don’t have to be Jewish to march against anti-Semitism.”
‘’Jews need to fell that they are not alone,’’ said Yves Oschinsky, president of CCOJ, the umbrella group for Jewish organisations in Belgium, said as marchers gathered in front of the Justice Palace, close to the Great Synagogue of Brussels and the Jewish Museum.
In Berlin too, several thousand people marched against antisemitism as Germany deals with a large increase in anti-Jewish incidents following the October 7 massacre.
The marchs in Brussels and Berlin were the latest in a series rallies in European capitals that have expressed support for Jewish communities. Previous marches in Paris and in London drew tens of thousands of people.