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wjc meeting in berlin discusses anti-semitism in europe

ICJW Representative Sara Winkowski reports on the meeting of the World Jewish Congress Governing Board in Berlin in September 2014. 
 
With 90 delegates from all over the world, the Governing Board of the World Jewish Congress, chaired by Baron David de Rothschild, met in Berlin on September 14, to discuss and analyze the increasing  anti-Semitism in Europe and in the world.  On Sunday, September 14, and before the opening of the meeting, the delegates attended a rally at Brandenburg Gate organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany, with Angela Merkel as the key speaker.
 
Ms. Merkel said that the rally was to send a clear message that Jewish life belonged in her country, “it is part of the German identity and culture”.  She also said “We are sending out a clear message that Germany is aware of its abiding responsibility following the Shoa, that ultimate betrayal of all civilized values, to take resolute action against anti-Semitism”. And finally she mentioned that they were investing in education and promoting memorials “to ensure that remembrance and knowledge of the darkest chapter in German history, the unparalleled negation of civilization that was the Shoa, are handed down from generation to generation.”
 
At the opening dinner we heard the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany, Mr. Steinmeier, who said there was no place for anti-Semitism in Germany, and that Jewish life is blossoming again in Europe and in Germany.  “…this new blossoming is our blossoming.  We will nurture and protect it, not just as politicians, but as a society.  Jewish life is back in the heart of this country and it belongs there, it enriches us all”.
 
Among the different issues discussed I would like to point out:
 
SITUATION OF JEWISH COMMUNITIES IN EUROPE
The President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Mrs. Vivian Wineman spoke about anti Semitism in Europe, especially in Greece, Poland, Bulgaria and France. A 383% increase in global anti-Semitism was measured in July 2014 in comparison to the figure from 2013, coinciding with operation Protective Edge. 
 
SITUATION IN ISRAEL
A panel discussion on “Anti-Semitism and the Threat of Islamist Terror: The Middle East and Beyond”, moderated by WJC-Israel Chairman Shai Hermesh with members of the WJC-Israel board Gadi Ariely, Colette Avital, and MK David Rotem.  It was a hard discussion due to the different position of the panel; and the very strong right wing position of MK David Rotem, who was against the idea of two States, and said that the best way for Israel to become strong is that all Jews in the Diaspora make Aliah. 
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, spoke of fighting for the rights of circumcision and kosher slaughter.  It is expected to be an issue in the new European Parliament.  He also said that there was anti-Semitism in the debate against circumcision. There had been an intention to work together with the Muslim communities, but the planned conferences were cancelled due to the situation in Israel. 
 
Five Resolutions were aproved
- Resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
- Resolution on Nazi Looted Art
- Resolution on the Publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf
- Resolution on Fighting Anti-Semitism in Europe
- Resolution on the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Nazi Death                         Camps.
 
Other issues discussed were the Isolation of Israel, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, where we had an update of what is going on in the world, and the steps that are being taken to reduce or eliminate it.
 
We also had an update about different communities, i.e. Argentina, Canada, Colombia, France, Russia and Ukraine. 
 
The next day we visited sites of Jewish historical importance in Berlin including the Wannsee Conference Memorial Exhibit, site of the 1942 Wannsee Conference at which the implementation of ‘The Final Solution to the Jewish Question’ was formalized; Gleis 17 train platform from which German Jews were deported to the Concentration & Extermination Camps; candles were lighted, a wreath was laid out, and Kadish was said in memory of the Jews deported.   The tour concluded with a visit of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe & Holocaust Memorial Exhibition.   It was a very emotional morning, our hearts cried for all our brothers and sisters murdered by the Nazis. 
 
From there we left to the airport for our flight to Rome to visit the Pope.  There is a separate report on our visit to the Pope.  I would just like to add, that after visiting the Pope, somehow our hopes for peace in the world was renewed. 
 
Click here to read about Sara's meeting with Pope Francis.