Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dutch Chief Rabbi Offers a Positive Outlook 

Despite the loss of 90 percent of their Jewish population in the Holocaust and periodic legislative battles against kosher practices and ritual circumcision, the vast majority of the people of the Netherlands are not anti-Semitic, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs concluded during a speech in Oxford, England.

Speaking about the phenomenon of European anti-Semitism and the future of Dutch and European Jewry, Jacobs, president of the Rabbinical Council for the Netherlands, told those gathered at the Oxford University Chabad Society’s Slager Jewish Student Centre that, to be sure, the Netherlands had much to answer for in its across-the-board indifference to the fate of its Jews during World War II. Dutch police were instrumental in the rounding up of Jewish citizens and refugees on behalf of the Nazis, noted the Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, and any attempt to whitewash that reality by focusing on the small number of cases in which individual people hid Jews is “serving a grave injustice to a Jewish community that was decimated in the Holocaust.”

In that context, Jacobs was critical of the official government and tourism emphasis on the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam at the expense of sites such as Westerbork, where Jews were assembled by police forces before their deportation to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.

Nevertheless, he pointed to such events as the recent public apology by a Netherlands police chief as evidence that “lessons have been learned from the past.”

Jacobs was welcomed by Oxford Chabad Society director Rabbi Eli Brackman and introduced by student vice president Matt Kaplan. The address followed a high-profile Holocaust Memorial Lecture the week before by Auschwitz survivor Victor Greenberg, Kinder transport refugee Fritz Sternhell and Oxford lecturer Alexandra Lloyd.

On the whole, Dutch society is not anti-Semitic, stated Jacobs, who offered examples of popular support he encounters across the country. Although Geert Wilders’ PVV party has received criticism for its anti-Islamic stance, there are no anti-Semitic parties in Dutch politics, unlike in European countries, he added.

Those groups opposing ritual kosher animal slaughter, he pointed out, appear to be doing so on purely animal rights grounds.

The biggest threat, as the chief rabbi sees it, to Dutch Jewry is a high rate of assimilation, which he attributed to Holocaust survivors being raised by non-Jewish families after the war.

Using the Netherlands as a model, he said that the future looks bright.

“While Jews in Europe should never become complacent, and should always be committed to preventing a repetition of history,” he emphasized, “the future looks very positive for European Jewry. European multiculturalism sits very comfortably with the Jewish outlook, whereby each community has its own role within society, and can live side-by-side, appreciating each other’s contributions rather than attempting to cast everyone into the same mold.”


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