04 June 2019

The New Normal in Europe for Jews


It was suggested to me by a member of the community that it would be wise to tuck my tzitziot into my pants. by *Ardie Geldman JPost

It is one thing to read from afar about the growing antisemitism in Europe; it is another to witness the signs of it. The latter is of course better than experiencing it, but the signs themselves are sufficiently ominous to make one pause and realize that when it comes to the Jews, something once again is rotten in the state of Denmark, in France, in Germany, in Italy and in other countries across the continent. This is not normal.

I recently spent two weeks in a major European city whose Jewish community was established many centuries ago. For reasons of security, that is the closest I will come to identifying this locale. On the surface, Jewish life there appears to be healthy, with internal communal rivalries testifying to its vibrancy. The synagogues are all Orthodox, since in this European Jewish community, as in many others, while the majority of its members are not Orthodox, the synagogue they attend when they attend – and many do attend on Shabbat and holidays – must be. The single, large community school reflects the diversity of Jewish lifestyles.

To visitors, the situation of this community initially appears only positive, possibly ideal. The synagogues are active and both Jewish education and cultural activities are strong. There are kosher grocery stores and eateries. But soon, some unsettling facts emerge. While local Chabad hassidim and other haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews cannot disguise their obvious Jewish appearance in public, it was suggested to me by a member of the community that it would be wise to tuck my tzitziot into my pants and consider wearing a hat over my kippah.

RECENTLY, Felix Klein, the German government official responsible for combating antisemitism, was quoted as saying he could not recommend that Jews wear the kippah “at all times everywhere in Germany.” He cited increasing brutality and “society’s inhibitions being broken down.” In response to this undoubtedly well-intentioned word of advice, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin expressed anger and defiance, declaring: “We [Jews] will never submit, will never lower our gaze, and will never react to antisemitism and defeatism.” Yet Klein was doing no more than reinforcing what is undoubtedly becoming the self-imposed norm by Jews throughout Europe. Just short of 75 years after the end of World War II, European Jews again find reason to be afraid.

Even more disturbing than witnessing religious Jewish men hiding their kippot under baseball caps is the intensity of security surrounding the synagogues and the Jewish school. All synagogues, I was informed, employ security guards on Shabbat and holidays. However, as is the case with an increasing number of European cities, a military unit is assigned to protect this community’s main synagogue throughout the week. Vehicular access to its street is limited, as both ends are blocked, while heavily armed soldiers patrol in front.

A similar scene, but with an even higher level of security, confronts passersby at the Jewish school, community offices and attached synagogue. One end of the street is permanently closed to vehicles while the other offers access only to those with a special permit. For these, a concrete anti-vehicular column is remotely lowered into the ground, allowing cars and small trucks to enter.

AN ARMORED military jeep is present and armed soldiers train their watchful eyes on every person approaching the area. At the beginning and end of the school day, additional private security personnel are present. To enter the complex, one passes through bulletproof glass doors into a small ante-chamber. There, you are again scrutinized by some person sitting behind one-way glass. A button is pressed that opens a second set of glass doors, finally allowing you to enter. This, in one variation or another, is the new normal for many of Europe’s Jews.

About half a block from this Jewish compound stands another private school serving a non-European ethnic community. There are no guards.

What is keeping the Jews of Europe where they are? Is it their disbelief in the growing severity of their situation; their business and property interests; their family ties; their fear of change, of having to learn a new language and adapting to a different culture; or is it mere inertia? Is it some or all of the above?

Since the return to Zion, the Jews of Israel live under constant threat. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost in a succession of wars and in heinous acts of terrorism. Nonetheless, these losses have not been in vain; it is only in Israel where Jews are not dependent upon the goodwill of others to protect and defend them. Such national pride is not hubris; rather it contributes to a sense of collective and individual self-worth. This is – or should be – what is normal.


*The writer is the director of iTalkIsrael in Efrat. facebook link And twitter link And cija link

ALSO READ: Behind the News in Israel: Every year, there is a myriad of overseas visitors to Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) who, at any given point in the year, take part in some organized program of subtle anti-Israel political indoctrination. israelbehindthenews


Anonymous said...

More depressing than the situation is the inability of the Jews to understand it and take appropriate action. (Security measures are simply a band aid that should be used until real action, aka aliya, is taken.)

For me this article is my lightbulb moment. I am a very empathetic person in general, literally feeling other people's pain, and in particular with respect to the situation of diaspora Jews. Way back in the good old days of 2006, when Ilan Halimi, Hashem yikom dmo, was tortured to death for three weeks I was sure that French Jews would leave en masse.

But now I understand why everyone is dreaming. They don't feel other people's pain and it is only when it happens to them they wake up. I always remember the Israeli lefty woman who changed her political opinions after being in the attack on the Moment cafe in Jerusalem. Suddenly everything was different. But what about all those Jews murdered before then? Why didn't she care about them? She didn't feel their pain.

In the "Hare with the Amber Eyes", a book that sprawls across continents, the author describes how his grandfather, an extremely wealthy Viennese Jew was literally in a state of shock after the Anschluss with all the anti-Jewish legislation, and was unable to function. His whole life dissipated before his very eyes. (Ultimately, his brave daughter went back to Austria and managed to get him out.)

Everyone is in a slumber in their own little worlds, "adapting" themselves to death.

Neshama said...

But what can you say when day after day one is exposed to info and images that cause that ‘feeling’ deep inside, but there is nothing one can do to change it. Exposing what is happening is all I can do in the hope that someone, even one person will get up and change his/her life and get out of those foreign lands!

So what if Israel is not perfect; it’s still Eretz Yisrael, our inheritance. It’s up to us here to make a difference, at least to try.

No matter how much ‘they’ hear/read about the similarities to pre-war europe, ‘they’ haven’t reached that “moment” when change stirs and begins to take hold. It’s like pulling something off those sticky gluey mouse traps.

After all, it’s the same effect as one doing personal teshuva. When one comes face to face with themselves, they know what needs to be corrected.

It’s painful for us to witness. But it’s up to ‘them’ to make the change.

Anonymous said...

Rabbis who have called for Jews to make aliya:

Rav Ron Chaya (in French): see "Alya en Israel: Oui maintenant!" a video in which he says that Rav Kanievsky shlita has called for French Jews to make aliya en masse. (He only asked about French Jews so this does not mean limited to French Jews).

Rav Yuval Ovadia (in Hebrew): !!יהודי העולם בסכנה! חורבן בארץ אדום"
(The Jews of the world (he means the diaspora) are in danger! Destruction in the land of Edom! He talks about the Jews in the lands of Edom, Europe, the US etc, where most of diaspora Jews live.

Rav Alon Anava: has said on at least several occasions that Jews in America, and everywhere, must make aliya. He says that we pray for the geula shleima berachamim but we don't know how it will happen. He compares the current situation to that of the 1930s.

Rav Brody cites the predictions of Rav Yehuda Zev Leibowitz regarding the Jews of the US. Be"D it won't happen.

Rav Yosef Mizrahi who basically said that the game is up for American Jews and that anyone who can should buy a property in Israel.

Rav Yehuda Richter on Poway and aliya bullying, citing many sources.

I know that at least someone will write that they want to but they can't. The point is that all Jews have to understand the concept that now is the time to make aliya. That is the starting point that has to be fixed in everyone's consciousness.

The next step is how to make it happen. The Jewish world as a whole (not necessarily individuals) is awash with money. All the money spent on buildings, temples, community centres, Holocaust museums, salaries in Jewish organisations, etc, etc. There is plenty of money to make this happen. Two Jewish women donated over 120 million dollars to Notre Dame. Anyone who can make aliya must do so. Anyone who can must work on organising community aliya so that #nojewleftbehind. All the community leaders, the wealthy, those active in Jewish organisations etc, etc.

If you can't do either, encourage others to make aliya, and start planning your own aliya, don't raise objections, take a piece of paper and make a list of the steps even if it doesn't seem very likely. Even better get a notebook to serve as your aliya planner. Don't say "I can't even consider it". Consider it regardless of the "impossible" challenges in your way. Steps you can take, for example, you will want to pack up your house. Take ten minutes a day to clear a shelf or a drawer. If part of your problem is unwilling family members, tell them you are decluttering, all the rage, and the truth. Set up an aliya account, Rav Brody's advice, and every week deposit a dollar. If you want to make aliya don't spend your time writing comments about how it is impossible for you. Every day take some action, however small and of course beg Hashem to help you.

Very sadly I was abused on another blog, being called an "aliya bully" and being told that I was using scare tactics, when all I did was cite the above rabbis in conjunction with current events (aka murdered Jews). (As if I would dare of my own volition to make such predictons.) And I gave very good advice such as setting up a source of online parnasa to help with the transition, with a real opportunity offered.)

In response I would like to coin a new phrase myself: "aliya positivity". Regardless of your situation, make your mindset aliya positive. Set up a chavruta, or a shiur that is aliya positive, make this part of your community either real or virtual. Study Em Habanim Smeicha, discuss and brainstorm practical issues. Listen to the shiurim of the rabbis cited above.

Think positive aliya thoughts and take positive aliya actions.