European Rabbi's conference in Warsaw
European Rabbi's conference in WarsawEli Itkin

Two participants of the Standing Committee and the Grand Tribunal of the 'European Rabbinic Conference' in Warsaw spoke with Israel National News about the need for unceasing confrontation with the rising phenomenon of anti-Semitism in the world: Rabbi Avichai Apel, Vice President of the European Rabbinic Conference, Rabbi of Frankfurt, and Chairman of the Rabbis of Germany, and Rabbi Mordechai Balla, Chief Military Rabbi of Germany and Rabbi of Leipzig.

Rabbi Apel expresses sorrow regarding the current high levels of anti-Semitism due to the economic reality and the wars in the world. "The Jewish community is dealing with this on several levels. First, on the political level, we are in constant contact with the politicians and the various political parties to create awareness and understanding that anti-Semitism does exist and there is a problem concerning Jews and Israel. At the same time, we are working with the police and law enforcement agencies on this issue. The most important issue is to promote awareness and education. We are striving to ensure that every boy and girl will visit a synagogue, get to know Jews, and learn about Judaism, and, fortified with such information, anti-Semitism will decrease."

Rabbi Balla adds that the political arena recognizes the problematic existence of anti-Semitism. As for the presence of anti-Semitism in the German army, Rabbi Balla says that "in all countries where there is a free army, it is usually those who are oriented toward the right who join the army." This means that within the army, there is almost inevitably a phenomenon of anti-Semitism at various levels.

"We deal with it when we recognize the existence of the problem," says Rabbi Balla, and he points out that dealing with and fighting the phenomenon involves communities getting to know each other. "The military rabbinate is not there to fight anti-Semitism. Our job is to help all the soldiers who turn to us, and the very fact that we are there talking to soldiers brings recognition. We are sometimes the first faces of Judaism that German citizens meet, and this is a great responsibility. Our behaviors have to be such as sanctify God."

Rabbi Apel points out that "our greatest challenge today is the challenge of education and the preservation of Jewish identity. Young people and students question their identity. They are not clear about the meaning of Jewish identity in their lives, whether it is significant or not. Many do not know much beyond just the fact that they are Jewish. That is why the primary and most significant role we have is engaging in education at all levels. Sometimes it is in the form of regular study, and sometimes it is two meetings a year. When we have a point of contact, this will remind the young people that they are Jewish and that this has meaning in their lives."