Holocaust Didn’t Erase Jewish Life

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A center for the study of European Jewry will be inaugurated at Tel Aviv University on Monday.

The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry is being built on the foundation of the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism.

The move is being billed as an “upgrade” of the anti-Semitism center that will create a new center for research and discussion about European Jews.

“[Contemporary] European Jewry hasn’t enjoyed serious treatment in academia and research,” says Arie Zuckerman, the secretary-general of the European Jewish Fund and an adviser to the new center’s namesake and donor, European Jewish Congress president Moshe Kantor.

Research has focused on “European Jewry before the Holocaust,” Zuckerman says. “As though the Holocaust completely erased it. But that’s not so.

Center will also address European Jewry’s relationship to Israel

“Today we have a very active Jewish world on many levels. We have a political Left and Right, religious denominations like Chabad and those who are opposed to Chabad, liberal communities and traditional ones. We have [problems] like assimilation, and strengths,” he says.

The center will be led by Prof. Dina Porat, an expert on anti-Semitism who previously headed the university’s anti-Semitism institute. Porat is an expert on anti-Semitism whose annual report of anti-Semitic incidents has become a bellwether for anti-Jewish sentiment worldwide.

But “the center will deal with far more than anti-Semitism,” insists Zuckerman, who was instrumental in establishing it. That “more” includes “European Jewry’s relationship to Israel, whether positive or negative, and demographics.”

Even so, he acknowledges, anti-Semitism will remain a mainstay in any study of European Jewry.

‘Anti-Semitism is a serious fear factor’

“In Europe, anti-Semitism is a fear that factors much more heavily than in the United States,” he explains.

As such, the new center will continue the work of the anti-Semitism institute in researching tolerance and anti-discrimination laws across Europe. The institute has already produced a draft bill that will be presented to the European Parliament in the fall by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation, an NGO that includes several former European heads of state.

The university and Moshe Kantor conceived of the center “as something committed to more than pure research. Of course, research will be the core. But it will also be a center for conferences, debates. It will engage European governments,” Zuckerman says.

He points to the expected attendance of more than 20 European ambassadors at Monday’s inauguration.