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Amsterdam ‘emergency summit’ to address security of Jews in Europe

“European leaders do not even issue statements against Jew hatred. They don’t seem to care anymore,” Jewish leader says.

A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protest at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands on May 7, 2024. Credit: Dutchmen Photography/Shutterstock.
A pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protest at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands on May 7, 2024. Credit: Dutchmen Photography/Shutterstock.

A two-day “emergency summit” on antisemitism slated for Monday and Tuesday in Amsterdam will address the security of Jewish communities, Holocaust education and freedom of religion.

The event, organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA) in Brussels and titled “Fighting back for our future,” is expected to draw more than 100 Jewish leaders.

The conference is being organized in collaboration with the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism, the Centraal Joods Overleg (the umbrella group of Dutch Jewry), the Jewish communities of Hungary, Paris and Porto, Portugal, the Federation of Synagogues (U.K.), Christians for Israel and others.

“Jewish communities all over Europe are facing one of the most challenging times in decades,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of EJA, told JNS.

“Not only are we experiencing a rise in antisemitism but also ignorance and a lack of responsibility on the side of governments,” he continued. “In the past, governments had stated that they were committed to fighting this and had wanted to show it. That’s no longer the case

“European leaders do not even issue statements against Jew hatred. They don’t seem to care anymore,” Margolin added.

Accordingly, one panel discussion at the conference will focus on policies and solutions to strengthen European governments’ response to antisemitism; another will center on their responsibilities to ensure the safety of Jewish communities and institutions and the steps needed to build resilience. Yet another panel will outline practical self-defense techniques, including Krav Maga.

Amid the rise of Jew hatred on European university campuses, a session will be dedicated to providing solutions to Jewish and Zionist students.

Conference participants will visit Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, the National Holocaust Museum and the Hollandsche Schouwburg (Dutch Theater) museum, which was used as a deportation center during the Holocaust. They will also tour the Anne Frank House, a museum dedicated to the young diarist who hid in Amsterdam with her family and eventually perished in the Holocaust.

Margolin said that a rise in antisemitic attacks on the streets of European capitals, widespread anti-Israel demonstrations and a spike in online incitement and anti-Zionist statements by politicians have together created a general sense of insecurity for Jews across the continent.

“We keep in constant contact with members of parliaments, ministers and heads of states all around, we inform them of issues and demand action,” Margolin said. 

“When it comes to spreading the truth about Israel, we work to have experts featured on European media who explain what is happening in the Middle East, what Hamas did to Israel on Oct. 7 and why and how Israel is fighting back. We organize trips to bring journalists to Israel, briefings for journalists in European capitals. This is important since the dramatic rise of antisemitism is closely linked to the situation in the Middle East,” he added.

Margolin said the EJA works to strengthen Jewish identity, expand Jewish activities in Europe and defend Jewish interests, including by creating political initiatives against the BDS movement and by representing Jews in European conversations affecting minorities.

“One of the projects we’re working on involves having European authorities allow Jews to report antisemitic attacks online to make it easier and more efficient for them to do so. In some countries, it already exists. Once every country in Europe adopts this, we will encourage Jews to report those incidents to give a more accurate picture of the situation to the authorities, who will have no other choice but to address it,” he added.

Belgium-based Margolin said that some of Brussels’ 40,000 Jews have already left. In Antwerp, the ultra-Orthodox community has grown over the years but their future will depend on the situation on the ground. 

“Every person deserves to live in a safe and secure environment. If the situations worsen, more Jews will start to leave,” he said.

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