The groundbreaking inaugural meeting of the 120 elected members of the first ever European Jewish Parliament (EJP), a new and innovative forum to voice the thoughts, beliefs and ideas as well as concerns of European Jews, took place last week at the European Parliament building in Brussels.
The European Jewish Parliament members, representing 47 countries, have been elected by more than 400,000 Jewish people from East, Central and Western Europe who voted online.
Among the elected MEJPs are several well-known leading figures of European Jewry such as Pierre Besnainou from France, Vadim Rabinovich from Ukraine, Cefi Jozef Camhi from Turkey, Nathan Gelbart from Germany, Stuart Lustigman from the UK, Joel Rubinfeld from Belgium, Jacob Finci from Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as young emerging personalities and leaders.
Rubinfeld is in Jerusalem this week for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations 2012 Annual Leadership Mission. He spoke to Arutz Sheva about the EJP on Monday.
Rubinfeld explained that the number of representatives from each country in the EJP depends on the importance and size of that country’s Jewish community. France, for example, has nine or ten members while countries with a smaller Jewish community have only one member.
The role of the EJP, he said, is to promote Jewish values and to take care of some of the concerns of European Jews such as anti-Semitism and the growing delegitimization of Israel in Europe.
Rubinfeld said that the challenges that American Jews face are “probably the same but a different level” than the challenges faced by European Jews.
“Thank G-d, in the U.S. they don’t face the problems at the same intensity,” he said, noting that in terms of anti-Semitism, “We’ve seen a surge in anti-Semitism, mainly in western Europe, in the last decade.”
However, added Rubinfeld, “We have the same focus. We have the same concerns. The Conference of Presidents is also dedicated to promoting Jewish values and to strengthen the relations between the different Jewish organizations. That’s also one of our concerns and one of our objectives – to extend our hands to different European Jewish bodies and to work together to promote the Jewish interest in Europe.”
Today’s anti-Semitism in Europe, according to Rubinfeld, is mainly anti-Semitism perpetrated by Muslims. He added that the anti-Semitic acts in Europe are essentially an importation of the Arab-Israeli conflict to the streets of Europe.
He noted that not all Muslims in Europe are anti-Semitic and said that part of the job of European Jews is to work with these Muslims to eliminate anti-Semitism.
“Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish issue. Today it’s a European issue,” said Rubinfeld. “We are speaking about the very basic values of European democracy, so we have to fight, together, against this plague.”