EJA Annual Conference vote
EJA Annual Conference voteYoav Dudkevitch

More than 100 heads of European Jewish communities and directors of pro-Israel organizations passed a resolution on Tuesday after an emergency conference organized by the European Jewish Association (EJA).

Aiming to formulate operational methods to combat the harassment of Jews across Europe and the rising tide of antisemitic hate since October 7, the resolution focused on three major issues: "The lack of meaningful measures adopted by governments to date in dealing with the record rises and existential threat, the widespread but ineffective adoption of the IHRA definition of Antisemitism, and while criticism of a democratically elected government is normal but we note with great concern EU High Representative Josep Borrell’s clear and repeated anti-Israel bias that has been a significant contributory factor to the ongoing antisemitism and the vilification of the state of Israel."

The agenda of the emergency conference, all under the theme of ‘fighting back’, focused on solutions: for governments, law enforcement, security of institutions and the ‘Jew in the street’, in the media, and even in sports, thus taking in the totality of the Jewish lived experience at present.

Among the attendees were principal leaders of Dutch Jewry: the President of the CJO – the umbrella group of Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, the Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, and Community Presidents from Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and other Dutch cities. Joining them were leaders from across Europe, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, and others.

Those who spoke at the conference or sent messages of support included Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz, the European and Dutch Special Envoys for Combatting antisemitism Katharina von Schnurbein and Eddo Verdoner, former NBA and professional football players, leading figures from Christians for Israel International and the Secretary General of the Catholic Church in the EU.

EJA, Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, noted at the opening of the conference: "We are in a battle for the continuation of Jewish life in Europe. Jews in traditional dress or those with mezuzahs on their doors are experiencing relentless harassment. Jewish students face threats to their lives and are excluded from university courses, while hate slogans are freely scrawled on Jewish homes, synagogues, and cemeteries. We must formulate plans to fight antisemitism on all fronts: politically, legally, publicly, and by increasing community and personal security. But all this might not be enough. Therefore, the State of Israel must urgently develop a practical contingency plan for the absorption of European Jewry into Israel. Unfortunately, this is no longer a hypothetical situation but a real existential threat that European governments are failing or unwilling to address."

Joel Mergui, President of Consistoire of Paris (the largest Jewish community in Europe) and Chairman of EJA Jewish Leaders Council stated: “We thought that after the worst massacre committed after the holocaust, the Jewish people, both in Israel and in the diaspora, would have been strongly supported on the long run, but this was unfortunately not the case. Very quickly, Israel and the Jews worldwide were blamed for the consequences of the horrible and barbarian war launched by Hamas against them. This bleak and unfair reality is very frightening."

Eddo Verdoner, National Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism (NCAB), Ministry of Justice, the Netherlands: “Our office’s main goal is clear: we need to find the right implementation to fight antisemitism. New policy changes are required to find solutions to modern problems. We need to ensure that younger generations learn not only from the lessons of the Holocaust but also from current antisemitism.”

Stefan Hansel, Hamburg Antisemitism Commissioner shared with the Jewish leaders that: “95% of German Jews come from post-Soviet republics. Most of these Jews are unaffiliated and have no voice to represent them, although they experience the challenges that are found within migrant communities – including exclusion especially challenges that are found within the interactions with Muslim communities. We need to rethink our institutional relationships with [Muslim] institutions. Even with the overlapping issues such as kosher slaughter and circumcision, we need to call out the issues within the Muslim institutions which are clearly Antisemitic.”

Pascal Markowitz, Attorney at the Paris Bar and EJA Legal Forum member briefed the conference about the current legislation situation in France: “French Law forbids boycotting people based on their nationality. It is considered it as a discrimination. We managed to sue anti-Israel activists based on this legal definition, especially against anti-Israel activists who organized boycotts happening in supermarkets. This law should be regarded as a model that could be replicated at the pan-European level."

Kalman Szalai, President of the Action and Protection League addressed the conference and stressed that: “the world seems to have forgotten the basic sense of right and wrong. we must recognize the exact threat we are facing. We must prepare for the fact that the number of antisemitic hate crimes will continue to increase, and the number of victims will also increase with this! Currently, there is no European umbrella organization that deals with providing protection, legal assistance, and mental help to such victims. There are organizations that have already been forced to provide such support in some countries, but an EU-wide representation in this regard is required. I believe it is of the utmost importance that we act together, as a community. This is now our task."

In a panel dedicated to the fight against antisemitism in sports, Eric Rubin, Global Ambassador for Maccabi World Union emphasized that “Sports should be used as a tool to combat Antisemitism. Although we will not make headway to racist fringe groups from the far-left neo-Nazis, our work at Project Max (Max Nordau) uses sports advocates to lend their voices to bring awareness to the middle 60 or 70% of the people in the world who are not really aware of what Antisemitism is."

Former NBA player (NY Knicks) Michael Sweetney shared his personal experience dealing with antisemitism: “When I saw what was happening after Oct 7th, it hurt, because I had a special relationship to many of the people who had passed through the sports camps that I had coached. Going to Israel was very educational for me. Despite the preoccupations of people like my wife who were afraid for me, I was amazed at how peaceful everything was. At the Wailing Wall, I was surprised to see Jews and Arabs engaged in normal conversations."