As part of its Diplomatic Encounter Series, B’nai B’rith International hosted His Excellency Henne Schuwer, ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States, on Jan. 20. Schuwer spoke on the Dutch presidency of the European Union, the current refugee crisis and anti-Semitism.
Schuwer took his post as Dutch ambassador in September 2015. He has extensive knowledge of U.S.-Dutch relations, having previously served in Los Angeles and as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Washington. After first joining the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1979, Schuwer also held positions in Vietnam, India and Belgium.
In his opening remarks, B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin cited the Netherlands as a place of refuge for persecuted Jews, including Anne Frank and her family, before the German occupation led to their deportation during the Holocaust. As of today, only 30,000 Jews remain in the Netherlands.
In 1947, the Dutch government extended an official commendation to B'nai B'rith for its "innumerable tangible evidences of brotherly love" in providing post war relief during "the time of their greatest need."
“The history of Jewish life in the Netherlands began, and nearly ended, in tragedy: The first Jews came after being expelled from Spain, and the huge community was decimated 350 years later by the Holocaust,” Mariaschin said.
Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled their homes, and are stuck at borders without basic necessities such as food, water and shelter. Schuwer emphasized that a refugee should not be identified by his or her skin color or gender. “A refugee is a refugee,” he said.
The ambassador also addressed the rise in global anti-Semitism and how to combat it.
“We [need to] educate in our school systems and in social [settings] that not everybody is of same of faith or the same color. I think that is the main thing we can do,” Schuwer said.
The B’nai B’rith Diplomatic Encounter Series brings together diplomats, think tank experts, Washington, D.C. professionals and B’nai B’rith members and supporters for intimate discussions with ambassadors in the nation’s capital on current trans-Atlantic issues.