Anti-Semitism Is Alive and Well in Europe

Rabbi Chaim Landau

Let’s begin with Sweden, in the hardly-ever known university city town of Lund. A Jewish professor, who refuses to give her name for obvious reasons, woke up one morning to find the following note posted on her home. It read:
WE ARE WATCHING YOU, YOU JEWISH SWINE. And you will say: Sweden ? That liberal-minded European country? Eventually, an attacker broke into that professor’s house and set it on fire. The professor was targeted because she is Jewish. And if that could happen in Sweden, then how much more so in the rest of Europe. Seventy-five years after the most horrendous event of the attempted complete extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis, the United Kingdom has reported the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded. In France, with the world’s third largest Jewish population, records show a spike of 74% in anti-Semitic acts between 2017 and 2018. And in Germany, anti-Semitic incidents rose so high that Germany’s first anti-Semitism commissioner cautioned Jews about wearing skullcaps in public.
Unsurprisingly, Jews are afraid. After polling over 16,000 Jews in 12 European countries, the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency concluded that Europe’s Jews were subjected to “a sustained stream of abuse.” Over 38% of those surveyed admitted they had suitcases already packed because Jews no longer felt safe.
The reasons for this surge of hatred are becoming clear. Between white supremacists on the far right and Israel haters on the far left, and a huge swell in the ever-hostile European Muslim population due to lax immigration controls, hatred and abuse of Jews is now becoming the norm instead of the exception. French President Emmanuel Macron said in February after visiting a Jewish cemetery daubed with over 70 swastikas: “Anti-Semitism is a negation of what France is…” And to their credit, leaders from across the religious spectrums are joining forces to fight this poison together.
But there exists another source for all of this fear: the internet. It has provided new levels of conspiracy and hatred theories that multiply endlessly accusing Jews of every possible wrong in the world
Which brings us to Katharina von Schnurbein. She happens to be the first coordinator for combating anti-Semitism, appointed by the European Commission. This followed three mass shootings in Europe, each committed by Muslim extremists, born and raised in Europe: the first, at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, in 2012, killed three children and a rabbi; the second, in 2014, killed four people in the Jewish Museum in Brussels; the third, when four people were killed in a kosher supermarket in Paris. “It used to be” she recalled, “that anti-Semitism peaked during times of conflict in the Middle East….Now the incidents remain at their highest level ever recorded.”
In Sarcelles, a French commune where Jews and Arab immigrants have lived alongside each other for decades, violence erupted during a pro-Palestinian march in 2014. Jewish businesses were destroyed by Muslims. Five years later, armed soldiers still patrol the streets to prevent further race riots. Returning too Sweden, the Nordic Resistance Movement has, at its toxic goal, to rid Sweden of all of its Jews. In the United Kingdom, the opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has faced fury among some members over his alleged tolerance for anti-Semitism, especially regarding his ongoing criticism of the Israeli government. So much so that Luciana Berger, a Jewish member of Parliament, quit the Labour Party over the issue.
The stories are frightening and grim. In 2010, Carinne Sjoberg, an Israeli-born immigrant who has lived in Umea, Sweden for 35 years, opened a Jewish Community Center, thus making possible the celebration off Jewish holidays for the town’s Jewish population. One morning, she finds pictures of Hitler pasted outside the building. This was followed by drawn swastikas on the walls. Then came the death threats.
But there is hope. because in Malmo, home to 1,500 Jews and some 45,000 Muslims, Moshe David Hacohen, a rabbi and his Muslim counterpart, Salahuddin Barakat from Beirut, have joined forces to right both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the city. They have spoken to groups and organizations who have been vocally anti-Semitic and rabidly anti-Israel. They have gone to schools and higher institutions of learning to promote racial understanding between the
different populations.
And finally, there is Yehoshua Kaufman, a local psychologist, who led a group of skullcap-wearing Jews and non-Jews in the public streets to protest anti-Semitism. At first only 15 people participated. Eventually the numbers increased to 500. There are now regular kipper walks in Malmo, Stockholm and Berlin.
But these efforts are just drops of water in a continuous incendiary of anti-Semitism that eventually threatens to engulf Europe in yet another crisis of threatening proportions.
We may never know the final efforts of the brave leaders and citizens who have joined forces to fight this sickness. But just 75 years after the Shoah, the return of anti-Semitism in its varied forms and themes is a particularly disturbing and fearsome reality for European Jews to live with. JT

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