BUCHAREST, Romania – The World Jewish Congress on Monday opened the first-ever International Meeting of Special Envoys and Coordinators Combating Antisemitism (SECCA) in the Romanian capital, bringing 32 diverse officials tasked specifically with working toward the protection of Jewish communities to deliberate best practices with more than 50 of the top professionals in the Jewish world.
The unprecedented meeting, organized under the patronage and with the participation of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in cooperation with the WJC. It was held to coincide with the WJC’s 6th National Community Directors forum, an annual gathering of the top representatives of WJC’s affiliated communities aimed at discussing the key issues facing Jewish communities today.
After a private meeting of the special envoys and coordinators, the two forums reconvened to exchange ideas and experiences. In his address to the joint session, WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said: "I know that this extraordinary gathering will be an important watershed moment in our common struggle to help eliminate antisemitism, whether openly expressed or masked behind the façade of anti-Zionism. None of us is under any illusions about our ability to ever wipe-it out entirely. I would like to personally thank each one of you--you're our closest allies in this battle. I know that the dedicated men and women sitting around this table will do their utmost to bring us closer to the day when antisemitism becomes an entirely marginal phenomenon. In so doing, they will earn the respect, admiration and gratitude of Jewish people— in fact, of all decent people, around the world.”
Alexandru Micula, State Secretary of Romania, told the delegates:” Antisemitism is on the rise across Europe… The Romanian EU Council Presidency has decided to set combating antisemitism as one of its priority themes, along with racism, xenophobia, and discrimination… We see this meeting as a fulfilment of the presidency’s goals on these topics … our commitment to combating antisemitism. We hope our efforts will continue and that we will see results … We believe in our responsibility as high-level representatives to ensure a Jewish future in Europe … these are only small steps in our ambitious goal of combating antisemitism … Romania decisively supports the European measures to combat antisemitism.”
Katharina von Schnurbein, the EU Commission’s Coordinator on Combating Antisemitism, said: “The dialogue with the Jewish communities has been at the heart of European commission action against antisemitism … We had a journey from acknowledgement of the problem to various actions, and are now looking into complete change with regards to the member states. [We must] allow the Jewish community, as we do with all other groups, to voice for themselves what they view as antisemitism. There is a need in all member states to step up the efforts, see where the gaps are, and make sure they are being filled and implemented. We are very much aware that this is not a top-down process – member states must address their challenges in a way that suits them and fits their system.”
“The big challenge will be to push back on antisemitism – not just to contain it, but to have the ambition to push back, particularly with regard to hate speech online,” Schnurbein said. “Our ultimate aim must be to ensure that when we hold another survey five or six years down the road among the Jewish population in Europe, we will see a trend… that [Jews] will see their future in Europe and feel they can live the way they want to live here and express their identity, including, for example, their support for Israel, without having the feeling that it is better not to say it.”
Julius Mein, the WJC’s Commissioner on Combating Antisemitism, said: “The problem is not what Jews do or where they live, the problem is that antisemites hate us for being Jews, that is the essence of racism, and that must be the starting point for any discussion on antisemitism.”
The conference will continue on Tuesday with a series of high-level talks at Bucharest’s Palace of the Parliament.