Anti-Semitism in the UK Prompts a Grassroots Response, Rallying a New Jewish Generation

nwfoi

The disturbing rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK was initially received by the Jewish community with a bleak and weary sort of recognition. The community was hesitant to react to an overwhelmingly unruly crowd, after all their safety was threatened. But as the danger grew, with no sign of slowing, UK Jews began to question the lack of action on the part of major Jewish organizations. Where was the British Board of Jewish Deputies? Who was working to protect the Jewish community?

Eventually, a group of anonymous UK Jews issued a full-page ad in the Jewish Chronicle, addressed to the “elected” Board of Deputies of British Jews and “self-appointed” Jewish Leadership Council. The ad “demanded action after months of silence and bland assurances of “work behind the scenes” which few are buying.”

It continued to ask, “What are you actually doing about this situation? Apart from issuing the odd press release,” and then for direct action such as large-scale rallies protesting anti-Semitism.

(Source)

It would be wrong to say that no positive elements developed from the leadership void. One of the most significant developments has been the founding of new grassroots Jewish groups, a new generation of Jews becoming socially active, getting involved in leadership issues.

An example of this would be the recent Manchester rally against anti-Semitism, which was organized by the grassroots North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI).

The rally brought together around 2,500 people, a diverse crowd that took to the streets with signs proclaiming that anti-Semitism and racism are totally unacceptable. NWFOI organized the rally alongside an active social media campaign, as well as a huge publicity campaign targeting schools, synagogues, shops, and the press.

Ralphi Bloom, co-chair of NWFOI says that the group “was formed on the back of the boycott protests outside the Kedem shop in Manchester over the summer of 2014. It started off as a group of individuals who wanted to take action to counter the lies and the anti-Semitism that was going on outside the shop. It has since grown into a more organized body with a committee and voluntary roles, with a pro-active agenda moving forward.”

(Source)

Here’s what I’m taking from the situation. The North West Friends of Israel is a group working outside of major Jewish organizations. There was a need and a void that they filled- one that the more established Jewish organizations failed to address. And while the major organizations do need to step up to the plate and become more active, it’s a positive development to see a new generation of Jews become involved in social activism.

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Did Moshe Kantor Fund His Way To European Jewish Congress Presidency: Centropa

Centropa

I’ve had the suspicion for quite some time that Moshe Kantor became president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) through electoral fraud- buying votes.  I suspect that Kantor not so coincidentally created the European Jewish Fund (EJF) in 2006, only a year before his election, with the aim of funding various projects of European community leaders in return for the electoral support of their communities.

Yet Moshe Kantor is not one to generously spend his billions. You can see proof in the projects funded by the EJF. Micro projects such as one-off meetings and summer camps could scarcely be called substantial. I strongly suspect that by “donating” small amounts to art projects and the like he buys individual votes of community leaders.

For example, the Centropa Professional Development Seminar in Frankfurt. “The main aim of Cenropa’s educational programs is to create a European-wide network for history and English teachers of Jewish schools. Centropa seminars act as a professional development course and meant to provide teachers with a platform so they can share best practices and learn from one another on how to use new technologies, digital storytelling, English and Holocaust education—all in a single course.”

(Source: European Jewish Fund)

It’s a very enjoyable event for a small and specific group of people. But this is not a serious contribution to communities. This is not building solid Jewish infrastructure. And neither is it pageantry. So why would a billionaire spend these insignificant sums? It appears to me to be the “funding” of individual community leader’s votes.

Though I leave the question open, I would like to stress the consequences of Kantor’s election. His position is one of importance to European Jewish leadership. His voice is the Jewish diplomatic voice, and in the wake of renewed anti-Semitism and Iranian nuclear proliferation….that voice is critically absent.

Could Dieter Graumann Save the European Jewish Congress?

Graumann faz.net

photo via faz.net

The future of Jews in Europe has not looked so uncertain in decades.  The anti-Semitic uproar that took place these last few months has yet to fizzle out, and frankly I see so evidence that it will.

If you’re reading this you probably are already aware of the dangers European Jews face. Physical and verbal anti-Semitic attacks, the threat of ISIS “lone wolves,” and a threat to the safety of being Jewish “in public.”

Quite understandably, this has had a powerful effect on the way Jewish people see their place in Europe. But the issues that arose were not only the actions of aggressors. The response of Jewish leadership was far too often too little, too late.

If European Jews are to continue living in this dangerous climate, they urgently need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. European Jews deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.

So I’d like to ask the question that seems to me to be most imperative: who should be considered as future leaders for European Jewry?

A great example would be Dieter Graumann, a prominent lawyer, economist, and business owner.

As a Jewish community leader from Germany, Graumann has real world experience combating anti-Semitism in the diplomatic sphere. And he did just that this past summer, even writing an article for Huffington Post in July, drawing attention to the severity of German anti-Semitism.

As for credentials, Graumann currently serves as Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and is the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. He is a trustee for the charitable Leo Baeck Foundation, aimed “at expanding and strengthening European Jewry and at creating perspectives on interfaith dialogue”

(Source: Leo Baeck Foundation)

“Graumann has also repeatedly and openly criticized Germany for its extensive business ties with Iran, calling them “despicable” and “a disgrace.”

(Source: WWRN)

This is the kind of active, exemplary leadership that European Jews deserve, but are currently lacking. The current head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, has not only neglected his diplomatic duty to combat anti-Semitism, but also lacks the experience needed to address the issue. Kantor is a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. It’s little wonder that he has neglected the Jewish community.

But the facts are clear- in a time of necessity, Kantor has failed to address the needs of Europe’s Jewish communities. The time has come to find a competent successor, thus empowering and protecting European Jewry.

Antisemitism on Twitter: The Importance of Jewish Leadership

Twitter is the social media front-line of the anti-Semitic battle.

If you’re a twitter user, or someone who has explored it even remotely, you’re aware of the way anti-Semitism manifests itself there. Only recently the Liverpool FC team posted a new year’s greeting for Jewish fans, which was taken down immediately due to the mass of anti-Semitic responses it inspired.

Any engagement referring to Jews or Israel is immediately hijacked into an anti-Semitic rant, and that’s not to mention the countless original posts stating that Jews drink children’s blood…or calling for the gassing of Jews.

everyday4

Despite the importance of a social media presence, many major, established Jewish organizations are inactive within the twitterverse. Their twitter accounts puts out a random post infrequently, and take no part in directly combating anti-Semitism within the site. A serious issue, considering the sheer immensity of Twitter’s antisemitism problem.

Many of their accounts have a startling lack of followers(and little outreach), a clear sign of that the organizations are not even known by their communities.

Admittedly, some groups make an effort to combat online antisemitism when it comes from a more mainstream account. For example, in response to the anti-Semitic attack on the Liverpool FC account, the Board of Deputies posted various versions of this:

example boadofD

All of which addressed different news sources, drawing attention to the issue.

This is exactly how Jewish representative organizations should be using social media to combat anti-Semitism. I can’t say I’m exactly surprised that many organizations are not taking this approach, after all they have been stagnant offline as well, but there are significant consequences.

Anonymity decreases their power as diplomatic agents.

And as the representatives of Jewish communities who are committed to fighting anti-Semitism, this fight must be addressed wherever it takes place- including online. We can’t forget that our Jewish communities are currently under serious strain, as anti-Semitic incidents increased by the hundreds this summer. If their elected officials do not make an effort to protect them, then what is the purpose of having them?

Could Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Head the Board of Deputies of British Jews?

Sacks livingwittily

Photo via Livingwittily

Europe has an age-old elephant in the room, and that elephant is anti-Semitism.

Sure, it’s not a new issue, but its looming presence has dominated European cities this past summer in a way unseen these past 70 years.

Let’s take a moment to process the enormity of the issue: the year 2014 has seen Jews physically attacked throughout the EU, thousands marching the streets yelling “Jews to the gas,” and the massacre at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

Quite understandably, this has had a powerful effect on the way Jewish people see their place in Europe. But the issues that arose were not only the actions of aggressors. The response of Jewish leadership was far too often too little, too late.

Particularly within the UK, where the Board of Deputies of British Jews(BoD) was strongly criticized for their lack of action.

If UK Jews are to continue living in this dangerous climate, they urgently need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. They deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.

So I’d like to ask the question that seems to me to be most imperative: who should be considered as future leaders for the Board of Deputies of British Jews?

A great example to begin with would be Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Rabbi Sacks stands out as a strong and dedicated Jewish leader whose open-mindedness to diversity secured him a strong presence in UK media.

Rabbi Sacks has been lauded as a “religious leader who has succeeded like no other rabbi before him in crafting a message palatable to much wider audiences than his congregation, and transcending the confines of the Jewish community.”

(Source: Haaretz)

This sound like exactly the type of leader UK Jews are in need of- someone diplomatic, accessible to a wide set of communities and influencers.

Sacks served the UK Jewish community for 22 years. UK Jews stand as one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe. They have endured a sharp rise in anti-Semitism comparable only to that of France. Their future leadership  must have experience within anti-Semitic environments, and a strong commitment towards resilient diplomacy.

The fact of the matter is that the current leaders of the BoD does not fit this bill, and have not acted to extend a diplomatic hand to the UK government in the face of virulent anti-Semitism. That’s a serious problem.

In a time of necessity, these “soft” leaders cannot be disregarded. It’s time to search out the kind of leadership people need and deserve. It’s time to pressure the BoD to step up and work for their community, to rise to action or be replaced. There’s a great deal of potential within various UK communities, and the time has come to turn that potential into reality.

As the Biggest Jewish Community in Europe, Shouldn’t France lead the European Jewish Congress?

jerusalemplus

Photo via Jerusalemplus.com

These past few months have seen the menace of anti-Semitism shadow European Jews to an extreme not seen in nearly 80 years.

They faced unprecedented acts of hate with admirable bravery, holding rallies or even standing up personally to aggressors whenever they had an opportunity. Even when Jewish leadership failed to take serious and direct action. A fact that troubles me greatly.

I’ll be the one to say it. European Jews need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. European Jews deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.

So I’d like to open the discussion- who should be considered as future leaders for European Jewry?

For example, Roger Cukierman, who is the current president of CRIF (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France), Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, and also serves on the Executive Committee of the European Jewish Congress.

Cukierman clearly holds a strong devotion to Jewish issues. Which can be seen in his statements about the danger of Qatar’s economic ties to France, as well as the rise of the right-wing president of the National Front, Marine Le Pen. Cukierman has said that Le Pen’s party is “a regime whose populism stifles minority views; sidelines those outside its norms and redefines rights and liberties as it pleases.”

(Source: Times of Israel)

The European Jewish Congress has not acted in a time of tremendous need. I count that as a serious failure on the part of their president, Moshe Kantor. It’s time to search out the kind of leadership people need and deserve. There’s a great deal of potential within our various communities, and the time has come to turn that potential into reality.

Turkey, ISIS, and Antisemitism- European Jewish Congress ignores Turkish Jews​

presstv.ir

Photo via presstv.ir

 

With the power Turkey holds in modern politics it’s particularly disturbing to see the nation’s growing anti-Semitic attitude. Paired with the rapid rise of ISIS recruitment throughout the country, Turkish Jews are in a dangerous position. So why does European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor stay silent instead of lobbying for their fate?

It doesn’t take a political analyst to understand what is happening in Turkey. Erdogan’s rise to power has been a rapid trajectory, marked with anti-Semitic speeches, religious and authoritarian policy, as well as strong overtures towards partnerships with Iran and Russia. What was once a nation that reveled in personal freedom and close ties to western democracies is now a climate where minorities must question- are we in danger?

The Islamization of Turkey might not come as a surprise to some, but it’s truly alarming how quickly the nation has become the biggest source of foreign recruits for ISIS. And how little political resistance that has been met with, though Turkey is a NATO member.

“ ‘There are clearly recruitment centers being set up in Ankara and elsewhere in Turkey, but the government doesn’t seem to care,’ Aaron Stein, a fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute think tank, told The New York Times. ‘It seems their hatred for Bashar al-Assad and their overly nuanced view of what radical Islam is has led to a very short- and narrow-sighted policy that has serious implications.’ ”

(Source: Business Insider)

This policy, along with the recent slew of anti-Semitic attacks- including the murder of a prominent Jewish couple and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comparison of Israel to Hitler- has left the Jewish population in an alarming position.

(Source:World Tribune)

Which leads me to question, where is their support network? As a member community of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), Turkish Jews are entitled to diplomatic efforts by EJC President Moshe Kantor.

But Kantor is a Russian oligarch, whose ties to the Kremlin keep him politically indebted. And as Russia strengthens its ties with Turkey, avoiding sanctions through trade agreements, any diplomatic pressure from Kantor- regarding ISIS or anti-Semitism -would endanger his position with Putin. So he remains silent as Turkish Jews suffer.

It seems to me to be a striking conflict of interest, and one that puts Turkish Jewry in a perilous position. The fact that  Moshe Kantor holds so serious a position is a threat to the Jewish people, putting his personal commitment to the Kremlin before that of the Jews he has pledged to protect.

(Source: Daily Sabah)