European Parliament Rejects Anti-Semitism Task Force


In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, allow me to inform you: Europe has a serious anti-Semitism problem. I mean massive, violent, large-scale anti-Semitism. Masses chanting “Jews to the gas” throughout Belgium, Germany and France. “Jewish-looking” citizens attacked in the streets, synagogues firebombed, and the horrific murders at the Brussels Jewish Museum.

In the current European climate, Jews have immigrated to Israel in record numbers. The director of the BBC, who is Jewish, is quoted saying “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. …You’ve seen the number of attacks rise, you’ve seen murders in France, you’ve seen murders in Belgium. It’s been pretty grim actually…Having lived all my life in the UK, I’ve never felt as I do now about anti-Semitism in Europe.”

If the picture is not clear enough, here’s one final detail: Children have often been the target of this reckless violence.

So you can understand why it seemed, if only for a moment, like a boon for European Jews when the European Parliament expressed great initial support for a task force on anti-Semitism. Preliminary reports stated that over 100 MEPs had expressed support for the potential task force—evidently something became warped in the process. The task force was ultimately voted down, leaving the Jewish community in a sore predicament.

The EU Parliament seems to be treating the need to combat increasing anti-Semitism with complete disregard. At this point in time, the safety of the Jewish community is more than a question—it is a priority. The situation currently stands like this: the next opportunity for the EU Parliament to create a similar task force will not arrive for several year, until new elections.

Let me remind you that after the Brussels museum attack and other attacks across Europe, European leaders pledged to deal with anti-Semitism with Europe-wide cooperation.  The promise has yet to be kept.

I believe that Stephan Kramer of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on anti-Semitism explained the situation best.

He said “Anti-Semitism is an abomination which has been around for a very long time. It has its specific roots and specific driving forces, not to mention the horrible results it produced in Europe – more so than anywhere else…Therefore, combating anti-Semitism in as efficient a way as possible would have been aided by a special framework designed to do just this. I think that most of those who voted the proposal down realize this. Therefore we have to assume that they succumbed to a warped political correctness which frowns upon calling anti-Semites anti-Semites. This is a terribly wrong signal. I am afraid that it will be interpreted by more than just a handful of people as a wink that hating Jews is, sort of, acceptable.”

I sincerely hope that European Jewish organizations will take a similar line. The time for making vague statements condemning anti-Semitism is over. Europe must take action.


New York’s Ultra-Orthodox at Risk for Anti-Semitic Attacks: The UJA-Federation of New York Must Do More

As overt anti-Semitism rises worldwide, Jewish communities in every corner of the globe are experiencing increased manifestation of Jew hatred. Symbols of Judaism are often the easiest targets; synagogues, cemeteries and people wearing religious items, such as kippot or tsitsit. Orthodox Jews, whose style of dress and religious accoutrements easily identify them as Jews, are increasingly the victims of anti-Semitic crimes. In New York City, with the largest population of Orthodox Jews living outside of Israel, I am concerned that not enough is being done by major Jewish organizations to protect this vulnerable segment of the population.

This week in Brooklyn, home to the majority of New York City’s Ultra-Orthodox community, three assailants shouted anti-Semitic epithets and attacked a 53 year old Ultra-Orthodox man and a bystander, who tried to intervene, in a Williamsburg train station. This follows attacks on Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Belgium and a series of anti-Semitic crimes in London’s Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Stanford Hill. I fear such attacks will only increase in the short-term and New Yorks’s Jewish community must act fast before more Jews are hurt.



The UJA-Federation of New York, which boasts being the world’s largest local philanthropy, bringing pooled donor resources to the aid of Jewish causes, is best positioned to address the protection of New York City’s Ultra-Orthodox community. Being as large as it is, the UJA-Federation is able to make a large, critical and sustained investments in the protection of New York City’s fast growing Ultra-Orthodox populace, who already account for more than 36% of Brooklyn Jews and number 77,000 in the Williamsburg neighborhood alone. Smaller local organizations, like the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn are too narrowly focused on social services, whereas the UJA-Federation specializes in addressing a broad spectrum of Jewish community needs. Through its grant writing abilities, the UJA-Federation must designate funds for community education campaigns across the city, stressing the importance of tolerance, respect for diversity and the harms of anti-Semitism.

Awareness, education and vigilance are the keys to pre-empt future attacks on Jews, especially some of our most visible, the Ultra-Orthodox. While anti-Semitism may be rising, if we stand together across denominations and sects, we can tackle this scourge.