'We can't predict the future but we must shape it'

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, warns against religious intolerance.

Yoni Kempinski, Amsterdam ,

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt
Yoni Kempinski

Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the Conference of European Rabbis, on Tuesday warned against religious intolerance and urged spiritual leaders to influence and shape the future.

Rabbi Goldschmidt spoke at the Conference of European Rabbis biennial convention in Amsterdam.

“While we as Rabbis spend our time seeking to juxtapose halacha with modernity to benefit our communities, there are those who refuse to embrace our time and seek a return to the past. While we Jews look forward with confidence to the future, there are those who cower in fear of it,” he said.

“Islamic extremists want to go back to the time of caliphate, rejecting modernity whilst using Facebook and Twitter to do so. There are countries who seek to use last century tactics to recreate their empires and the extreme right wants a return to 1914. At the same time we Jews we have only one goal, we want to survive and flourish. In order to do that we have to go forwards, we cannot go backwards, because the past has gone and the future is waiting for us. Whatever will happen our future will be different from our past. We have to learn from our past to form our future.”

“Once when asked, a scholar said that not only is it impossible to predict the future it is even impossible to recount the past. As we speak, the past is being manipulated by regimes and political parties to suit their political agendas,” he warned.

“The UNESCO resolutions regarding Jerusalem are an example of this absurdity. The problem is that countries which consider themselves liberal democracies and part of western civilization take part in this manipulation of history to suit their political agenda.”

“But let's talk about the future. I have spoken many times about the challenges facing Europe and its Jewish community. I will not repeat myself tonight. But what I will say is that in this new very scary environment in which negative forces are taking advantage of globalization and abusing the internet to spread their hate. We rabbis have to provide to our community and to the world a tent, a spiritual tent, which will provide clarity, charity and love, sanctity and tolerance, where the respect to every human being who has been created in the image of G-d is demonstrated. When politics is becoming polarized, when the other is your enemy, whether it is the Jew, the immigrant or the woman who wears a head covering, we have to tell everyone, that is the way of the past, the way of the generation of the flood, which will lead to chaos and destruction.”

“Today is the 9th of May. During the last two days the allied countries celebrated victory over the Nazis, for us it meant the end of the Holocaust,” noted Rabbi Goldschmidt.

Referring to the French presidential election this week, he continued, “And two days ago France decided not to give a holocaust denier and an extreme right wing candidate the chance to ruin the European post war project of unity and peace and human rights. Here in Holland the electorate also decided not to give the extreme right the power to rule the country. But our work is not done. As we celebrate, as we should, it is important to remember that in Holland, in Austria, in France and in Germany the far right is influencing mainstream politics.”

“Last week the parliament in the Walloon region of Belgium decided to outlaw shechita. A position that not only disregards the ample body of scientific evidence that supports shechita as a humane method of slaughter but also disregards the simple fact that the shechita process conforms with all the norms of animal welfare as well as the European definition of stunning.”

“In Norway a prominent political party, a member of the ruling coalition seeks to ban circumcision. Both are attacks on faith, and whereas I agree that it would be too much to ask for the monuments of the world to show their solidarity to our plight, but the silence is deafening.”

“Perhaps this is unsurprising when Jews are being drawn in by the false promises of the extreme right. It saddens me greatly that in France, Austria, the UK and here in Amsterdam, one of the most important communities in Europe, there are Jews that subscribe extreme right wing agenda. Will we never learn?!”.

“Let us remember, at this anniversary of the end of WWII where the road to religious intolerance leads. We might not be able to predict the future, as the days of the prophets are over, but we must, as spiritual leader, take the lead and influence and shape it.”