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(Washington, D.C., Dec. 11, 2019)—“Words should be weighed, not counted.” President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen commenced her speech this way at this week’s high-level conference jointly hosted by the European Parliament Working Group on Anti-Semitism, the European Jewish Congress and B’nai B’rith International.
“There are no speeches…that can take away the pain of what happened in Halle,” she continued, announcing that in response, she will dedicate an entire team under Vice President of the Commission Margaritis Schinas to work together with European Commission Coordinator on Combatting anti-Semitism Katharina von Schnurbein.
The conference brought together numerous members of the European Parliament, officials of permanent missions to the EU, Jewish community representatives and civil society representatives. The summit began with an early Hanukkah reception.
Powerful witness testimony was submitted by Anastassia Pletoukhina, an activist and educator in the Jewish community of Berlin, visiting Halle on this year’s Yom Kippur service. Pletoukhina recalled “for me and my family, who chose to live in Germany, it was very devastating to know that we are not as protected as we actually wish for.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, addressed the need for a moral reconvergence of world leaders and called attention to the opportunity presented by the upcoming World Summit ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day organized at Yad Vashem by the World Holocaust Forum and President Reuven Rivlin. He warned that “the crisis of anti-Semitism is a slippery slope to a global catastrophe.”
B’nai B’rith International Director of EU Affairs Alina Bricman drew on the event taking place on Dec. 10 – the anniversary of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “The declaration mandated that all people have the right to live securely. Today we fall short of this fundamental promise, and thus policy makers have a special responsibility to act. We are grateful to have such strong cross-party allies in the Working Group to make this finally a reality.”
Perspectives on contemporary anti-Semitism were shared on an expert panel moderated by Bojan Pancevski, Germany correspondent, the Wall Street Journal; Günther Jikeli; Jean-Yves Camus; and Marina Chernivsky. Each shared their insights into current manifestations of anti-Semitism, their effect on the Jewish community and the way they fit into broader socio-political trends seen in the world today.
The bureau of the European Parliament Working Group (MEP Karoline Edtstadler, chair; MEP Juan Fernando Lopez-Aguilar, vice-chair; and MEP Sergey Lagodinsky) outlined the political and policy avenues they identified in tackling anti-Semitism within the EU institutions.
The conference was concluded by Vice President of the European Parliament Nicola Beer from Germany, who also serves as vice chair of the Working Group on Anti-Semitism.
We look forward to seeing policy-makers and relevant stakeholders engaged year-long on a proactive and engaging agenda put forward by the working group.
B’nai B’rith International has advocated for global Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1843. B’nai B’rith is recognized as a vital voice in promoting Jewish unity and continuity, a staunch defender of the State of Israel, a tireless advocate on behalf of senior citizens and a leader in disaster relief. With a presence around the world, we are the Global Voice of the Jewish Community. Visit