Memorial in Baku
Memorial in BakuCourtesy

Since the outbreak of the war, Operation Swords of Iron, Jewish communities throughout Europe and Euro-Asia, have held dozens of prayer rallies in solidarity with Israel and the holy people who were butchered on Simchat Torah. Jewish communities in Rome, London, Strasbourg, Baku, Warsaw, and Moscow held prayers and solidarity rallies in their major synagogues, with concerns of increasing anti-Semitism in Europe.

“At the Israeli embassy in the capital city of the Muslim state of Azerbaijan, whose majority population is Shi’ite, it was heartwarming to see dozens of its Muslim citizens who hold senior positions in organizations, come place thousands of red roses at the Israeli embassy, with the messages reading “Remembering your support and standing with you in your pain.” This is the only Muslim state that stands in solidarity with the people of Israel.” These were the words recounted with emotion by the Rabbi of the Georgian Sephardic community in Azerbaijan, Rabbi Zamir Isayev, who is also a member of the international division of the European Conference of Rabbis.

Rabbi Isayev held a prayer gathering at the Great Synagogue in Baku, and at the school he runs, where the children created a touching memorial corner for the small, young children murdered in the Otef Aza settlements along the Gaza Strip. Yesterday, he met with the Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan and conveyed condolences from the Jewish community and the Azerbaijani people regarding the terrible massacre.

Rabbi Zamir Isayev with Israeli ambassador to Azerbaijan
Rabbi Zamir Isayev with Israeli ambassador to AzerbaijanCourtesy

Emotional ceremonies were also held next to the Arch of Titus in Rome, led by the Chief Rabbi of Rome and Vice-President of the European Conference of Rabbis, Rabbi Shemuel Di Segni. In addition, there was a ceremony at, the British prime minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street, as well as at the Nozyk Synagogue in Warsaw, the only synagogue that remained after the Holocaust, which was led by the chief rabbi of Poland and member of the standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Mordechai Schudrich. At the Great Synagogue in Strasbourg, a service was led by Rabbi Abraham Weill, also a member of the standing committee of the European Conference of Rabbis, after which the community joined in song and community members lit 1,000 candles in memory of the holy souls whose lives were cruelly snatched away too soon.

In a touching letter delivered this evening to the heads of hundreds communities across Europe, the Conference of European Rabbis appealed to people to “Cry out and open the Gates of Heaven, establish new Torah classes in the communities, open hearts and pockets with wide hands and eager souls.”

The letter was signed by Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the Conference of European Rabbis; Rabbi Menachem Gelley, the Chairman of the standing committee and head of the London Beit Din; and the Director, Rabbi Moshe Lebel. The letter stated that “Our hearts are with our brothers in the Holy Land, the State of Israel, who have been placed in peril and distress due to an evil and malicious attack by wicked and cruel enemies, people of deceit and of blood, who have lost their human form and set all their power and might on spilling the blood of our Jewish brothers, who have cruelly murdered many hundreds of our Jewish brothers, and critically wounded many good people who are fighting for their lives. What is more, is that they have added sin to crime and have taken women and children, old people and soldiers, as hostages, and subjected them to horrifying abuse.

“How can we turn a deaf ear at a time such as this? We are called upon to cry out and open the Gates of Heaven in prayer and supplication to our Father in Heaven, to strengthen our study of Torah, and increase our fear of Heaven, which will surely add to the merits we so desperately need at this difficult time, for the sake of Israel’s citizens and soldiers who are dedicating themselves to fighting courageously and heroically to protect the people of the Holy Land.

“We therefore call on the rabbis of the communities and all of Europe’s Jews to gather in the synagogues and recite Psalms 91, 121, and 130 after every service. Likewise, the rabbis are requested to establish new Torah classes in their communities. The European Conference of Rabbis is working to arrange Torah classes delivered by important rabbis. We shall provide updates at a later stage.

“In addition, we request that community rabbis inspire their communities to open their hearts and their pockets with wide hands and eager souls, and to contribute as much as possible to the funds that have been established in order to assist with anything necessary for the soldiers who safeguard our country and for the many residents who have had to leave their homes in the South for safer places.”

“Apart from heads of states, presidents, prime ministers, and city mayors conveying empathy and solidarity, there is concern due to the increase in anti-Semitism across Europe and in France in particular,” said Rabbi Baruch Pinchas Fiszon , Chief Rabbi of Matz and member of the standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis.

In a speech delivered at a solidarity rally in Matz, Rabbi Fiszon said, “We are beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and find ourselves in a place of anguish and disbelief at the attack on our civilization. Three days after the attack of Hamas on Israel, in which four Frenchmen were also killed, I wish to express the fear, anger, and bitterness of the entire Jewish community: This is not an attack on the Jewish people, this is also an attack on our civilization. This criminal attack brings back terrible memories of when the Eunsatzgruppen infiltrated the eastern territories of Poland and Russia in 1941 and indiscriminately slaughtered men, women, and children. One can only imagine what the Hamas terrorists, those monsters, could have done – break into homes, slaughter families with axes, hold hostages, which included Holocaust survivors, babies…this is indescribable brutality. We are beyond the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; this is something else completely.”

The Chief Rabbi of Matz expressed his concern for a resurgence of anti-Semitic activity in France. Approximately 20 incidents have been recorded since the attack by Hamas, according to the interior ministry. The horror and atrocities could reach us here tomorrow. The incitement and images that are circulating could result in copycat events and attacks on the Jewish community, G-d forbid. This is to be taken into account and it produces even more distress.

“Rabbi Fiszon continued by thanking the security services for increasing security at the synagogues and Jewish institutions. He added, “We are encouraged by the fact that almost the whole of the French nation supports us. It reassures us, yet on the other hand, we have been terribly hurt by the remarks of antagonistic elected officials, whom for me are the lame ducks of the Republic. Their vision is not aligned with reality.