The cowardly attack that claimed four lives at the Brussels Jewish Museum May 24 represented a persistent strain of anti-Semitism in Europe. Xenophobic right-wing parties have appealed to nationalists in various countries, while anti-Israel agitation is seen among a growing Muslim population.
Attacks in Brussels, in Toulouse, and in Paris, combined with European elections that resulted in a surge in support for extreme-right and populist parties, have led some to ask questions about the future of Jews in Europe. Some believe that the best thing we can do for European Jews is to make it easier for them to leave.
What these alarmist calls overlook is that Jews throughout Europe have deep ties to the societies in which they live and the Jewish communities they have built, replete with community centers, synagogues, nursery schools, Jewish day schools, after-school programs, and summer camps. In an op-ed for JTA, two Jewish leaders — Alan H. Gill of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Paul Anticoni of World Jewish Relief in the United Kingdom — called on Jews to respect the decision of Jews in Ukraine, for example, to emigrate or stay at home. “Then we must do all we can to support those who choose to remain there and continue to live their lives,” they write. “The global Jewish community, through a variety of philanthropic partners and institutions, has been at the forefront of these efforts.”
Those partners and institutions include the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, which through the JDC and on its own is supporting Jews in Ukraine — especially in its partnership communities of Cherkassy and Odessa — and elsewhere in Europe. In a statement about the attacks, federation leaders called on “the international community to ensure that the growing hate crimes throughout Europe…are widely condemned and that the perpetrators of these violent acts are speedily brought to justice.” They also call on supporters of the federation to be generous in order to assure that Europe’s Jewish communities stay strong, organized, and ready to face the challenges of a roiling Europe whether they choose to leave or stay.