Past, present, and future

Past, present, and future

Is there a future for the Jews of Europe?

Over the past few months, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg traveled the continent to find out. He interviewed community leaders in Paris and Copenhagen, French children harassed on their way to school, Swedish residents afraid to wear their kipot in public, and anti-immigrant politicians who think the rise of Islamism is a growth opportunity for their brand of nationalism. Goldberg concludes that Europe is no longer shadowed by guilt for the Holocaust, and, as he writes in the Atlantic, “what was once impermissible is again imaginable.” 

On the other hand, he also speaks with French and German politicians who are strong defenders of their Jewish communities and are vowing to fight intolerance no matter who the target may be. “Today,” Goldberg reminds readers, “Germany’s leader is among the world’s chief defenders of Jews.”

Europe’s Jews may be uneasy, and a minority has already immigrated to Israel, but they also have solid roots in their countries and pride in their historic communities. If their future is not bright, at present they are still concerned with the things every Jewish community needs: security, strong institutions, education for their children, services for their elderly and needy. 

Earlier this month, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Federations of North America convened a meeting of key groups that provide funding and services to Jews in Europe. Their discussion focused on a communal response, from Jewish federations and their partners. Their agenda includes raising funds to address urgent security needs, holding solidarity events to remind Europe’s Jews that they are not alone, and funding aliya for those who want to relocate to Israel. 

“In the recent past, we may have imagined a time when our communities could step back from a focus on anti-Semitism and physical threats to Jewish institutions and individuals,” wrote Michael Siegal, chair of the JFNA board of trustees. “Now, we clearly know that this is not that time. Our immediate response has been focused and strategic, providing both solidarity and assistance. Now we must look ahead, together with our historic partners and the leadership of the communities directly affected, to face these growing threats.”

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