JERUSALEM, Israel - More than 75 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is still alive and flourishing especially in Europe. So how do the Jewish people respond – run away or stay and fight?
CBN News traveled to Paris to see how two groups are fighting the oldest hatred on earth. Paris is home to the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately, the epitome of beauty and culture is also one of the places across Europe experiencing a rise in acts of anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association (EJA) and Rabbi Shlomo Koves, head of the Action and Protection League of Europe (APLE) invited some 300 world leaders to come together and confront what’s facing the Jewish Community at the annual conference of the EJA.
“We are facing threats throughout Europe and the question rises day to day, whether or not there is a present and a future for Jews in Europe,” Koves told CBN News.
Koves and Margolin both believe a future is possible if they act now.
“Unfortunately, one of the challenges is anti-Semitism and the rise of anti-Semitism, which is strengthened from all sides, whether it’s from the extreme Muslims or from the extreme left or from the extreme right,” Koves said.
Elan Carr, the US State Department’s Envoy Against Anti-Semitism, told the gathering that the US doesn’t rank forms of anti-Semitism.
“Jew-hatred is Jew-hatred. What difference does it make what ideological clothing it disguises itself in? Or from which ideological camp it comes? It has to be combatted,” Carr said.
Organizers held the conference at the new European Judaism Centre. The multi-million-dollar facility Jewish community center is located at “Place de Jerusalem” (Jerusalem Place) in the heart of Paris. They see this center as light in the midst of darkness and hope it’s a sign of good things to come for the Jewish Communities of Europe.
“It’s [a] very good place to share the values of the French Republic and of Judaism,” Paris Mayor, Anne Hidalgo said of the new center.
“As Mayor, I think that we have to fight because when people attack the Jewish community (these) people attack all our democracy and humanity,” Hidalgo told CBN News.
Koves said the way to fight is with the opposite tactics from what the anti-Semites are using.
“We have to fight darkness with light. We have to fight voices of hatred with voices of love and eternal values of Judaism and Jewish practice,” he said.
Koves, as head of the APLE, conducted the most comprehensive survey ever to measure anti-Semitic attitudes in Europe.
APLE surveyed some 16,000 people in 16 European countries that have the largest Jewish populations. Respondents were asked some 40-50 questions regarding their attitudes toward Jews, their relation to the Holocaust and Holocaust denial, and their relation to Israel.
Results showed: a fifth of Europeans believe a secret Jewish cabal controls world politics and economics; the same amount believe Jewish people ‘exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own needs’; and a quarter of the respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Israel’s policies make me understand why some people hate Jews.’
“Once we learn the battlefield, so-called, then we can challenge anti-Semitism and we can attack anti-Semitism with tools of love, as I said, and this main tool is education,” Koves said.
Rabbi Margolin said Jewish organizations have done as much as they can by themselves. Now, he sees only one way to beat anti-Semitism on the continent.
“We truly believe that only governments could really take their right steps in order to eradicate anti-Semitism,” Margolin told CBN News.
That plan includes government legislation that would mandate: educating citizens on anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the history of Jewish contributions to Europe.
The proposed laws would also ban anti-Semitic stereotypes in the public arena – like recent carnivals in Belgium and Spain, plus the sale of Nazi memorabilia.
“We could condemn. We could speak. We could try to have dialogue, but at the end of the day, there are too many other anti-Semites and this issue is so old,” Margolin said.
And then there’s the so-called “new” anti-Semitism of the left.
“Many in the Jewish community are now saying that anti-Semitism is actually or goes hand-in-hand with anti-Zionism. It’s very difficult to divide the two if at all,” Ambassador Talya Lador-Fresher, Israel’s Charges d’Affaires in Paris, told CBN News.
“Anti-Semitism is anti-Semitism and in the last decades, anti-Semitics were looking for another reason or another excuse to act against Jews and they found Israel as an opportunity to attack Jews,” Margolin said.
“But most important, the fact is every time people attack Israel, or would like to attack Israel, they also attack Jews in Europe,” he added.
In Paris, Jewish institutions, like the European Judaism Centre is heavily guarded and protected against attacks. Fear also prevents many Jews from wearing their kippas (yarmulkes) or head coverings.
Margolin, an Orthodox Jew says his family has experienced this bigotry in their home country of Belgium yet they will not back down.
“We will insist to walk like that because we like to see all other people to see us and to understand that we intend to stay. We intend to continue to fight for our right and we intend to pass the message that all Jews should be proud about who we are,” he said.