On Tuesday the Conference of European Rabbis' Standing Committee gathered in Monaco to discuss anti-Semitism and legislation against kosher slaughter (shechita) and circumcision.
The Conference meets every six months, and was invited to hold the current meeting in Monaco, to support the local Jewish community, its rabbis, and institutions. During the conference, CER rabbis will meet Monaco's community leaders, Monaco's Prince Albert II, and government representatives. They will also dedicate a mikvah (ritual bath) and hold a memorial ceremony for Monaco's Holocaust victims.
CER President and Chief Rabbi of Moscow Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said the current conference is "being held against the backdrop of Europe's growing crisis, in which each country thinks only about its own good." The US quit its job as world policeman, the UK left the European Union, and Russia is looking at a future separate from the European dream. Jewish life is also experiencing a localization of sorts, in which every person looks out for himself and his religious group.
"People look to the left, look to the right, and say, 'I saved myself,'" Rabbi Goldschmidt explained. "Our forefather Yaakov 'went on his way' (Genesis, 32:2) - he didn't look right or left, he worked to draw everyone closer. 'And angels of G-d met him' (ibid.). This is what the Conference aspires to do: To draw every Jew closer, no matter who he is, no matter which community he belongs to. We need to provide a spiritual infrastructure so that every Jew can keep the Torah and its commandments."
"Last year, this very synagogue did not have a divider between men and women. One of the community leaders - my uncle Rabbi Daniel Levenstein - worked to fix that, and today, you see that there is a divider. This is just one example of how proper attention to a community brings impressive results."
At the beginning of the conference, the rabbis spoke about Europe's changing political climate and their concerns that the far right in Germany, Austria, and France would grow stronger. These parties, they said, are the main ones behind the anti-circumcision and anti-shechita legislation.
"Can the Jewish communities speak to them and work with them? Is it moral, or even possible, to sit together with these people, who have declared that they will destroy the Jews?" they asked. The group also discussed the consequences of Brexit and the state of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Rabbi Goldschmidt spoke extensively about extending the CER's operations to include work with the European Union, the Council of Europe, and various countries in order to curb legislation against shechita, circumcision. He also said he wants to work more closely with Israel's Knesset in order to aid those whose spouses refuse to give them a religious divorce.
On Monday night, Monaco's Jewish community held an impressive welcome ceremony for CER's rabbis. Attending the ceremony were government representatives, Israel's Ambassador to Monaco, several other ambassadors, Paul Parker, and various rabbis.