Equal Treatment for Jewish Denominations in Europe
Brussels, June 7, 2021: In a joint series of recommendations to the European Commission to combat antisemitism and to foster Jewish life, 10 leading international Jewish organisations united to endorse a demand that all European governments offer equal treatment to all Jewish denominations.
The European Union of Progressive Judaism (EUPJ) was joined by the American Jewish Committee Transatlantic Institute, B’nai B’rith Europe, B’nai B’rith International, the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage, the European Jewish Congress, the European Union of Jewish Students, CEJI: A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, and the World Jewish Congress in this endeavour.
The 10 organisations are appealing to the European Commission “to ensure that Jewish Europeans who adhere to representative denominations, which enjoy a historic past and legitimacy, do not suffer discriminatory effects in terms of recognition, security or funding”.
Presently, many governments in Europe fail to respect this principle. They concentrate power and funding in a single, non-representative denomination – even though Progressive Judaism was a recognised branch of European Judaism before the Holocaust.
European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, has prioritised the fight against the age-old scourge of antisemitism. In a recent speech, she declared herself “deeply concerned about the recent escalation of violence on Europe’s streets.” She pledged to ensure that “all European students should learn about the Holocaust – no matter their background, family history or country of origin” and “to foster Jewish life in Europe in all its diversity.”
Von der Leyen asked for input from European Jewish representatives and promised the first ever Europe-wide official platform on how European governments should protect Jews and promote Judaism by the end of 2021. A conference to prepare the plan was held on June 3-4, 2021.
In response, the 10 organisations produced a series of recommendations, which include the following:
• Provide heightened security and victim support, and ensure the judicial system robustly prosecutes antisemitic hate crimes.
• Integrate the fight against antisemitism into the EU’s integration and inclusion agenda, digital policy, and its mandate in the field of education.
• Strengthen the existing legal framework to protect essential Jewish practices such as religious slaughter and male circumcision.
• Educate Europeans about Europe’s rich Jewish cultural heritage.
• Safeguard the memory of the Holocaust against trivialisation and distortion.
“Historically, Progressive Judaism was the denomination that many European Jews followed, yet today, it suffers frequent discrimination,” said William Echikson, director of the EUPJ’s Brussels office. “If the European Commission is to live up to its promise to foster Jewish life, it should recognise and endorse equality between different Jewish denominations.”
Bill Echikson gave his opinion on the topic in an article in The Times of Israel. Read it for a personal perspective.
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