NEW YORK — With the rise in antisemitism emanating from the recent violence between Israel and Hamas, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a convening of hundreds of Jewish community leaders from around that world that the European Union is committed to combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life, including through a forthcoming rollout of the first ever EU strategy to advance these goals. Von der Leyen spoke to the delegates of the World Jewish Congress’ 16th Plenary Assembly, which comes together every four years to address key issues affecting Jewish communities and set WJC policy for the years ahead.
The European Commission is the politically independent executive branch of the European Union, which proposes new European legislation and implements the decisions of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.
“For decades, you have been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of Jewish communities around the world, to eradicate antisemitism and to make sure that the memory of the Holocaust is kept alive, and I am here to tell you Europe is with you in this fight,” President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly delegates. “Because sadly, antisemitism is not confined to a distant past. It is still very present in Europe and across the world.”
She emphasized, “Antisemitic crimes and hate speech must be brought to justice.”
Von der Leyen discussed the frightening increase in antisemitic hatred in Europe, including most recently violent anti-Israel demonstrations and graffiti in European streets and on synagogues. She highlighted the multi-pronged approach of EU’s new strategy, which will:
● Strengthen the fight against antisemitism
● Preserve the memory of past atrocities and ensure all European students learn about the Holocaust, “no matter their background, family history or country of origin”
● Foster Jewish life in Europe
The COVID-19 pandemic in particular, said von der Leyen, has shown how quickly antisemitic conspiracy myths can spread.
”The duty to protect the future of the Jewish people starts with remembering the past, but of course it does not end there. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities prosper too. Seventy-six years after the Holocaust, Jewish life in Europe is thriving again in synagogues, in schools, in kindergartens and in the heart of our communities. And we must continue to protect it.”
Fellow global leaders who participated in the Plenary gathering, including WJC President Amb. Ronald S. Lauder, President of the State of Israel Reuven Rivlin, Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro and UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay, all echoed von der Leyen in her call for global support for world Jewry and an increase in education, particularly around the Holocaust.
In addition to von der Leyen’s remarks, the WJC’s Plenary Assembly, which had been gathering online since mid-April, formally announced the election of its leadership, including the reelection of Amb. Ronald S. Lauder as President, to guide the global organization representing 103 Jewish communities around the world.
About the WJC Plenary Assembly
The WJC Plenary Assembly takes place every four years and brings together delegates from WJC-affiliated Jewish communities and organizations in more than 100 countries around the world. The Plenary Assembly elects WJC leadership and sets policy for the years ahead. This year, Plenary Assembly delegates have been gathering remotely since mid-April and through the end of May for discussions on key issues affecting Jewish communities.
Among the slate of events, the WJC convened leading level government representatives at the national level whose work focuses on preventing, countering and educating around antisemitism. WJC’s Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) Forum discussed shared strategies and international cooperation, and the International Council of Jewish Parliamentarians brought together Jewish legislators and elected officials from around the world to use their platforms to fight antisemitism and advance human rights. Topical discussion sessions covered a conversation with Facebook leadership on its efforts to counter and remove online hate, a Ramadan celebration with leading Islamic representatives from the Muslim World League, Israel’s political future, the Iranian nuclear threat, and the role of young leaders within their communities.
About the World Jewish Congress
West End Strategy Team