Rabbi Menachem Margolin
Rabbi Menachem Margolin Screenshot

A joint statement by leaders of 11 European Jewish communities says that European Jewish Association (EJA) Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin did not speak for Europe's Jews, when he called to let them arm themselves – and that such comments are “potentially dangerous to the welfare of our communities.”

The statement is signed by the heads of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Council of Swedish Jewish Communities, the Coordinating Committee of Belgian Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Community of Oslo, the Jewish Communities of the Netherlands, the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic, the Jewish Community of Vienna, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania, the Jewish Community of Helsinki, the Jewish Community of Lisbon, and the Coordinating Committee of the Jewish Communities in the Republic of Croatia.

Rabbi Margolin, who is also director general of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), had called on governments to relax gun-licensing legislation to allow Jews to carry firearms for self-defense, following the deadly Paris attacks and amid rising anti-Semitism on the continent.

“We, the elected leaders of the national and representative Jewish community organizations across Europe, wish to state unequivocally that comments made recently by Menachem Margolin, Director of the European Jewish Association, regarding a desire to 'arm' European Jews do not in any way represent the views of European Jewish communities,” the statement said.

'Unfortunate and potentially dangerous'

Taking care to call him “Mr.” and not “rabbi,” the statement claimed that Margolin “lacks any expertise or authority to speak on these critical issues on behalf of the Jews of Europe, and therefore lacks all the basic components for Jewish community responsibility.”

“It is unfortunate, and indeed potentially dangerous to the welfare of our communities, that such comments were widely reported in the press last week in the wake of the terror attacks in France, a period when our community organizations were in constant contact with our governments and security agencies to protect our members and their families,” added the leaders.

“Mr. Margolin’s association of irrelevant and unrepresentative self-created groups does not in any way convey upon him a role as a spokesman or representative of our communities. He has never been chosen nor elected to any such role," they charged.

"Our organizations are uniquely recognized as the official interlocutors for our Jewish communities in all our countries. Therefore we call upon the political echelon at the national or pan-European level to treat Mr. Margolin’s comments as those only of an individual bearing no relationship whatsoever to the expressed views and concerns of the democratically-elected leadership of our communities, working together and united under the umbrella of the sole collective voice of European Jewry, the European Jewish Congress.”

Rabbi Margolin had written to the European Union: "We hereby ask that gun licensing laws are reviewed with immediate effect to allow designated people in the Jewish communities and institutions to own weapons for the essential protection of their communities, as well as receiving the necessary training to protect their members from potential terror attacks."

In a statement to Newsweek, which obtained a copy of the letter, Rabbi Margolin added that he believes that "as many people within the Jewish community as possible" should carry weapons, so as to provide them with the means to defend themselves from recent attacks that European security forces have been proven unable to stop.