The annual coinference of the European Jewish Association in Porto was titled 'Shaping the future of European Jewry, together'
Margaritis Schinas, who is in charge of the fight against antisemitism, spokes via video message during the annual conference of the European Jewish Association (EJA) in Porto titled 'Shaping the future of European Jewry, together' in the presence of Jewish community leaders from across Europe, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.
“We must ask ourselves what kind of future we want to see? And what part all of us can do to make that vision a reality? We are one community undivided by borders, when we speak with one voice, we are stronger together," said EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
“Antisemitism is on the rise and unfortunately, Jewish institutions across the continent are required to invest more and more in security,” said European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas.
The commissionner, who is in charge of the fight against antisemitism, spokes via video message during the two-day annual conference of the European Jewish Association in Porto titled 'Shaping the future of European Jewry, together' in the presence of more than 100 Jewish community leaders from across Europe.
“The data show that 38% of the Jews in Europe are considering leaving Europe because they feel unsafe. This is a shame and it’s the responsibility of every government in the EU to protect its Jewish citizens,” he said.
He added that 19 EU governments have so far released national action plans to combat antisemitism.
In his opening remarks to the conference, EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin declared: “How many people here have actually been asked by a government official or politician what a Jewish future should look like, or what should be in any plan? Not nearly enough. We must change this. Right now, as we meet, governments across Europe are coming forward with plans affecting Jewish life in Europe. We must ask ourselves what kind of future we want to see? And what part all of us can do to make that vision a reality?’’
"We are one community undivided by borders, when we speak with one voice, we are stronger together," he said.
In a video message, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs and Combatting Antisemitism, Amichai Chikli said that Israel’s government is troubled by trends in Europe, citing the plan of the European Students Union to “embrace the BDS movement.” He noted that the move would make life difficult for Jewish students on European campuses.
“Against these threats and many more, we will have to work together, determined and wisely,” Chikli said.
He added, “In times of tension here in the Middle East, the Jews in the diaspora, whether it’s Europe or the States, unfortunately, are suffering as well. We are working constantly to make sure that every community will be protected.’’
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Associazion addresses the organization’s annual conference in Porto, 15 May 2023. Picture from EJA.
Gabriel Senderowicz , President of Jewish Community of Porto, stressed that ‘’many European governments confuse Jewish life with Jewish heritage. They think of Judaism as ancient houses that have been rehabilitated and some municipal museums that open on Shabbat. I am honored to be president of a community that has synagogues that respect traditional Judaism, that has kosher restaurants, films of history, a Jewish museum closed on Shabbat, and a Holocaust Museum that welcomes 50,000 children a year and teaches them that the aim of the Final Solution was to exterminate the Jews and not minorities in general.”
The conference included panel discussions on national plans for combating antisemitism, online hate, a new youth leaders program for campus activity and youth experiences of hate, as well as a campaign against the sale of Nazi memorabilia.
Lord John Mann, UK government cordinator against antisemitism, mentioned the fact that almost 100 % of universities in his country have signed to the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. "But this is the start not the end of the process," he added.
The conference was also addressed by the General Secretary of the French Inter-ministerial delegation for the fight against racism and antisemitism, Elise Fajgeles, the Personal Representative of Chairman in Office on Combating antisemitism from OSCE Rabbi Andrew Baker, Chair of the Woman’s Impact Forum at the World Jewish Congress Ruth Wasserman Lande, World Zionist Organisation Head of Department for combating antisemitism Raheli Baratz-Rix and the CEO of NGO Monitor Prof. Gerald Steinberg.
The conference ended with a visit of the Holocaust Museum, Jewish Museum and Kaddorie Mekor Haim synagogue of Porto.
A motion was adopted by the conference participants calling for antisemitism to be separated from other forms of hate and urging other Jewish groups to reject “intersectionality,” a theoretical framework that separates groups into “oppressed” and “privileged”.
“Antisemitism is unique and must be treated as such,” according to the motion, which notes that unlike other hatreds, it is “state-sanctioned in many countries”, “given cover by the United Nations” and denied to be racism by other groups.
“There is little to no solidarity or empathy towards Jewish communities from other groups affected by hate when antisemitic atrocities occur or when Israelis are murdered in terrorist acts,” reads the motion.
It also calls upon EU leaders to initiate législation preventing those with avowed antissemitic positions from running for office in EU institutions.
And the mortion stated ”our unreserved support for the State of Israel, including any democratically elected government”. It called on the political leadership of all parties in Israel ”to rise above their differences while fulfilling the order that "kol Israel arevim ze la ze”. (“All of Israel are drawn to each other”).
Last year, the EJA conference took place in Budapest. This year, the organization, which represents Jewish communities across Europe, wanted to go a bit more westwrds and take a more Sephardic outlook. That’s why Porto, which witnesses a revival of the Jewish community, was chosen. Next year the conference will be organized in Amsterdam. The Dutch city is sometimes dubbed as the ”Jerusalem of the West.”