President Herzog in the Great Synagogue of Europe
President Herzog in the Great Synagogue of EuropeHaim Tzach/GPO

President Isaac Herzog visited the Great Synagogue of Europe in Brussels today. The President was received by the Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Kingdom of Brussels, Idit Rosenzweig-Abu as the choir sang “Am Yisrael Chai.” The President was then welcomed by the President of the Consistoire Central Israélite de Belgique, Philippe Markewicz; President of the CCOJB (Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations in Brussels) Yves Oschinsky; Co-Presidents of the Forum of Jewish Organizations in Antwerp, Baroness Régine Sluszny and Philippe Scharf; President of Synagogue Beth Israel, Alain Prync; and other notables. The event was attended by around 500 members of the Jewish communities of Brussels and Antwerp.

Later, the President delivered an address; the Chief Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Europe and of Brussels, Albert Guigui, together with Cantor Benjamin Muller, recited the Prayer for the State of Israel, composed by the President’s grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog.

President Herzog said: “Here we are together, in this unique, magnificent structure, this Great Synagogue of Europe. It is not just a building. It’s a masterpiece. It’s a symbol of the inalienable right of Jews to live as full and free citizens— in Europe and around the world. I can only imagine the Allied forces marching into Brussels and liberating the city and some Jewish soldiers, like my father, going into this building, just like the Maccabees cleared out the desecrated Temple. And while Jews should be free to be equal citizens anywhere they choose, and to make their home anywhere they choosein Brussels, Paris, New York, or Jerusalem – there are naturally special and unbreakable bonds between the Jewish People and the Jewish state.”

The President added: “The living, breathing ties between us nourish all of us, mutually. They are our past, our present and our future. The Jewish communities of Belgium are an integral part of our beautiful Jewish tapestry.”

President Herzog concluded: “It is no secret that right now the Israeli collective is debating real questions that have direct bearing on the democratic and Jewish dimensions of our beloved country. But I remind us that reckoning with the tough questions has always been part of our Jewish heritage. Jewish tradition has always valued conversation and argument and debate, because it allows us to learn from each other and work through the difficult questions, so that we can grow stronger, as was said by our Sages: ‘Either friendship or death’ (Taanit 23a).”