European Jewry Stands On Its Own Two Feet

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JPost.com
17.12.2008
Dr. Moshe Kantor
The writer is president of the European Jewish Congress, which represents 2.5 million Jews in 40 communities.

EUROPEAN JEWRY STANDS ON ITS OWN TWO FEET

For the first time, there is a long-term partnership between a major European Jewish organization and the European Union. The relationship between the European Jewish community and the European political echelons has recently undergone a change in its methodological basis. The strength of this partnership is now felt across Europe, where the European Union and the European Jewish Congress have forged close, strong and enduring ties on many issues of importance.

European Jewry has undergone a tremendous recent transformation while facing many challenges. The rise in anti-Semitism, assimilation and the effort to reenergize smaller communities are just some of the issues facing European Jews. As new political and economic unions are being shaped in Europe, the Jewish communities have had to adapt to new realities that have seen a maturing of the European Jewish polity.

As Europe has become more unified, so too has European Jewry. The example of the successes of the European Union has led European Jewry to seek strength through unity.

It is perhaps for this reason that, today, European Jewish organizations and institutions are at the center of confronting European Jewish issues. European Jewry is currently undergoing a renaissance, and it is being largely led by purely European bodies and institutions.

At the forefront is the European Jewish Congress. The EJC has been a leader in not only fighting anti-Semitism, but all types of racism, xenophobia and intolerance in Europe. In this domain, the EJC has a privileged working relationship with the EU, the Council of Europe and their anti-racism bodies, most notably the FRA (the EU Fundamental Rights Agency) and the ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance), where it has helped forge Europe-wide anti-racism legislation and recommendations.

This year, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the EJC led events at the European Parliament that commemorated the past while working to educate toward a more tolerant European future. Through the EJC-initiated European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), several high-level national and EU politicians have been commandeered to bring about a change in how Europeans of all backgrounds relate to each other. The ECTR has initiated a European Framework Convention on Promoting Tolerance and Combating Intolerance which will be presented to each European nation for ratification.

Creating solutions for combating the grave threat of a nuclear Iran is something that Europeans and Jews alike are striving toward. This is obviously something outside of the purview of a Jewish organization, so the Luxemburg Forum on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe was created.

This forum brought together many world-renowned experts on the dangers of a nuclear Iran, unchecked nuclear proliferation and the possible advent of nuclear terrorism. Influencing the political arena and public opinion through creating expert consensus has proven to be very important.

The future of European Jewry is also being addressed through many organizations that teach pride in being a Jew and a European to the next generation. The EJC has created the first organization of its kind, which is instilling a positive Jewish identity to youngsters and connects them with successful Jewish personalities who can serve as role models.

The EJC is also reaching out to the smaller Jewish communities to assist not only in their survival but also in their reemergence as flourishing Jewish assets.

All of this would have seemed impossible just a few decades ago. Now European Jewry has created a new generation of leaders who can easily match the cultural and social prosperity of the communities in Israel and North America. Today we can place European Jewry on an equal footing with these communities which are many times its size.

In this uncertain future it is a highly opportune time for European Jewry to finally once again stand on its own two feet. The world economic crisis will cause enormous effects in the coming years and is something for which European Jewish organizations are preparing. In Europe we remember well that on many occasions economic crisis meant eruptions of anti-Semitism and even war.

We feel positive and optimistic that the seeds which its leadership has planted will allow European Jews to thrive on the continent and continue to move forward.