Thursday, 22 Oct 2020 - 4 of Heshvan, 5781

EU Commission Vice-President : ‘Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem’

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Margaritis Schinas was entrusted with the task of leading the EU’s efforts to combat antisemitism. ‘’It was very clear to me that fostering Jewish life should be an integral part of this work. A Europe free from antisemitism means a Europe where Jewish people feel safe and free to lead their lives, work, study, practice and celebrate their faith like every other member of society,’’ he said.

By the end of this year, a first group of European Union countries will adopt and present national strategies on combating antisemitism, EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas announced.

‘’My ambition is to work towards a solid, cohesive framework at EU level to better support and coordinate these efforts,’’ he added at a Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) reception organized Tuesday by the European Jewish Association (EJA) and the European Jewish Community Centre (EJCC) in Brussels.

Schinas was entrusted by EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen with the task of leading the EU’s efforts to combat antisemitism. ‘’It was very clear to me that fostering Jewish life should be an integral part of this work. A Europe free from antisemitism means a Europe where Jewish people feel safe and free to lead their lives, work, study, practice and celebrate their faith like every other member of society,’’ he said.

‘’During these first months of my mandate, I was inspired by the richness and diversity of Jewish communities in Europe. Be it Ashkenazi or Sephardi, orthodox or reform, in Greece – my home country, in Austria or here in Brussels,’’ he added.

‘’I was struck by how closely the idea of European unity seems to have been internalized by Jewish communities already a long time ago.’’

He continued: ‘’Antisemitism in Europe is unfortunately on the rise. While observing Yom Kippur this year it would be impossible not to think of the dreadful deadly attack at the Halle synagogue a year ago. This memory is a painful reminder of the need to step up our efforts to fight antisemitism at all levels. Antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem. It is not just a local problem. It is a European, and a global issue.’’

Earlier on Tuesday, at a special meeting of European Jewish community leaders and EU officials initiated by the European Jewish Association, Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevich addressed rising antisemitism in Europe and across Europe.

She in particular pointed to debates taking place within several countries regarding attempts at prohibiting Jewish religious practices such as shechita (ritual slaughter) and brit milah (circumcision).

“Let me be clear,” the minister said. “Denying the Jewish freedom of religion implies denying the ability for Jews to live in Europe.”

She explained that “the solution to the rise of antisemitism is not hiding Judaism or removing kipot in public. On the contrary, the solution is to allow and strengthen Jewish identity.”

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