B’nai B’rith International Welcomes EU Strategy on Combating Anti-Semitism and Fostering Jewish Life
(Washington, D.C., Oct. 5, 2021)--B’nai B’rith President Charles O. Kaufman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the ambitious first-ever European Union Strategy on Combating Anti-Semitism and Fostering Jewish Life, for the 2021-2030 period.
On the heels of mounting concerns faced by Europe’s Jewish communities—from physical attacks to online harassment, hurdles placed on religious practice and dwindling knowledge about the Holocaust—the document is a comprehensive response to a multifaceted challenge and recognizes the invaluable contributions of Jewish Europeans to the continent’s fabric.
The strategy promotes the adoption by member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, the appointment of national coordinators and the preparedness of national equality bodies to address anti-Jewish hatred. Of critical importance is the recognition that anti-Semitism can “hide behind anti-Zionism” and that its manifestations can include Israel-related anti-Semitism.
We are pleased that the strategy puts due focus on external action, committing to promote the fight against anti-Semitism in the EU’s cooperation with partner countries outside the Union and to ensure no EU funds are misused for activities that promote hatred and incitement.
Especially relevant following the recent ruling by the Constitutional Court of Belgium to uphold a ban on kosher slaughter is the call on member states to put in place legal safeguards to enable Jewish communities to practice our traditions.
We are equally encouraged by stepped-up efforts to address anti-Semitism online, including strengthening cooperation with platforms to remove Nazi memorabilia, symbols and literature.
Finally, as we welcome this milestone document, we are grateful for the collaborative and consultative approach by the European Commission, and especially its coordinator for combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life, Katharina von Schnurbein, as well as the will and commitment of European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen channeled this commitment to B’nai B’rith on International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021, saying, “anti-Semitism strikes at the heart of our values: humanity, religious freedom, equality. Anti-Semitism is a poison for our society. It is up to all of us to fight it. To prevent it. And to eradicate it.” We are encouraged that these words are the opening, guiding motto of the strategy and we look forward to being continued partners in its implementation process.
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 bnaibrith.org.
B’nai B’rith Co-Hosts “After Halle - From Words to Action Against Anti-Semitism” Summit With President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen
(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 www.bnaibrith.org
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the announcement by the European Commission that it will name a coordinator for combating anti-Semitism. The new official will report to Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans, who will serve as special envoy for countering anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
B’nai B’rith and other civil society groups had urged the European Union to appoint an official to oversee the effort to fight anti-Semitism.
The continued growth of anti-Semitism across Europe requires an EU-wide approach to dealing with the problem. The appointment of a special envoy and coordinator on anti-Semitism is an important step in this direction.
We pledge to work closely with EU officials to ensure that the work of the Commission and the European Parliament yields positive results in tackling anti-Semitism.