The invisible Jews of Europe
The invisible Jews of Europe

“During a trip to Berlin, a friend gave me directions to an out-of-the-way synagogue” historian Deborah Lipstadt wrote in The Atlantic. “After some intricate explanations, he added that if I got lost, I should look for police on the street with submachine guns. 'That', he noted, 'would be the entrance to the synagogue'.

"But I should also keep watch for men in baseball caps and follow them. 'They will lead you to the synagogue'. I did get lost, and followed some men in baseball caps as instructed. I was relieved when I saw the police. I had found it. For many years, Jews have known that when visiting a European synagogue, they must bring their passport with them and expect to be interrogated by guards outside the door. I now call ahead to let a synagogue know that I am coming. And that does not always guarantee entry. A few years ago, I was turned away from a synagogue in Rome”.

Lipstadt then uses that terrible word from the Jewish past: marranos, the derogatory term the Inquisitors used for Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid persecution from the Inquisition. “I use the term, however reluctantly, because it captures what I am seeing today”.

A survival strategy, a secret Judaism without public identity. Today we are witnessing a new form of “marranoism” in the liquid European society. now without official and state anti-Jewish persecution, but in its unofficial and daily expressions, very dangerous.

  • The Jewish community in Groningen, Netherlands, no longer publishes prayer schedules. A group of volunteers are sending messages to friends via WhatsApp.

  • The Star of David and “911” were painted on the synagogue in South Hampstead, London.

  • “I wouldn't advise anyone to pass by here wearing a yarmulke”, Max Privorozki, head of the Jewish community in Halle, where a neo-Nazi recently tried to massacre during Yom Kippur, said to Bild magazine. It was the German government's anti-Semitism delegate, Felix Klein, who suggested that Jews should no longer wear yarmulkes in public.

In an article in Sydsvenskan, a couple of Jewish teachers, children of Holocaust survivors, talked about what it means to teach in Malmö, Sweden's third largest city. The couple dare not reveal their identity to the students. “Many of them are from the Middle East and the atmosphere is such that I would feel uncomfortable saying that I am Jewish”.

In many French areas, Jews are not allowed to wear any Jewish symbol. The same goes in many Belgian areas, as in Denmark or in Berlin. A few years ago, the head of the Jewish community of Marseille, Zvi Ammar, asked his congregation to avoid wearing a kippah in public.

In Europe, which until 80 years ago was home to half the world's Jewish population, today it is hard to recognize a Jew on the street. The West is declining and deteriorating very rapidly and Jews are disappearing from its landscape.