The rise of far-right movements and anti-Semitism across Europe, notably in Hungary, where more than half a million Jews were killed in the Nazi Holocaust, will preoccupy Jewish leaders from around the globe when they meet in Budapest on Sunday.
“Clearly, anti-Semitism in Hungary is on the rise, and we have also witnessed a dramatic growth in the number of attacks against other minorities such as the Roma,” World Jewish Congress (WJC) president Ronald Lauder told Reuters by email.
He said the rise of the far-right opposition party Jobbik posed a threat to Jews and other minorities living in Hungary.
“We believe that the Hungarian government should take stronger action to combat hate crimes. It should not just react, but present a long-term strategy how to improve the situation,” Lauder said.
A WJC spokesman said the Congress had chosen Budapest as the venue for its annual meeting partly to show solidarity with the Hungarian Jewish community, but said Hungary was not the only European country where anti-Semitism was on the upswing.
Dmitry Dudko wanted to be a priest in a violently atheistic Soviet Union. When the KGB came to arrest him in 1948, they demanded he recant poems denouncing Stalin. “I won’t sign anything,” he told them. “I spoke the truth.” He got 10 years’ hard labor in the freezing mines of the far north. In the gulag he continued to pray, continued to write, continued to insist that Christ’s law was higher than the Kremlin’s. He was given another 10 years. When he was finally released, he began to preach in a cemetery on the outskirts of Moscow. He spoke against the state’s attack on the family, chastised the Orthodox establishment for toadying to the Kremlin, denounced the KGB for destroying communities by making men report on one another, taught Jews and Russians and Tatars to huddle together in faith and hope and overcome their ethnic bitterness.Drunk young people sleep on a park bench after a heavy drinking session in Moscow. (Martin Roemers/Panos)
In the 1970s, in a late Soviet period defined by endless cynicism and conformism, when no one believed in anything (least of all communism) and submission to the Kremlin for the sake of submission became the essence of the system, Dudko became legendary. Thousands would come to his sermons. Foreign correspondents were so inspired by him, they smuggled Dudko’s works out of the U.S.S.R., and his fame spread throughout the world. He became a beacon of anti-Soviet dissidence, a religious Solzhenitsyn, a free man in a totalitarian system. In 1980 he was arrested again. This time the KGB’s approach was more subtle: “we are guilty before you, and the state is guilty before the church,” they told him; they agreed that Russia needed to find faith; they hinted that they were believers just like him; they blamed all the bad bits of communism on the Jews. Wasn’t it time for us Russians to stick together? They said they would give him a chance to preach to a much greater audience if only he would do one tiny, little thing for them.
AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam council has vowed to probe revelations that it forced Jews returning from World War II concentration camps to pay rent arrears, even if their homes had been destroyed or occupied by Nazis.
The scandal, involving an unknown number of Jews and non-Jews living in city-owned properties, was uncovered by a young art history student in Amsterdam’s archives.
Less than a quarter of Amsterdam’s Jewish population survived the war, with the Netherlands occupied by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945.
“On their return, Jews received letters from Amsterdam council demanding the settling of their back rent,” the art historian, Charlotte van den Berg, 23, told AFP.
The council even issued fines for late rent payments for homes that were confiscated and occupied by Nazi forces or members of the Dutch collaborationist NSB movement.
Van den Berg was a student at Amsterdam Free University when she made the discovery while digitising Amsterdam’s municipal archives in 2010.
She decided to dig deeper.
“I wanted to know if the city had ever corrected these measures taken in 1946,” Van den Berg told AFP.
“Unfortunately all I could find was a reduction in fines from 1947,” some of which were levied on homes destroyed by Second World War bombings, she said.
Holocaust survivor David Bonte, 91, told Amsterdam’s Het Parool newspaper that demands for back rent from Jews were widespread at the time.
His family received a bill in 1946 for unpaid back rent on their council-owned property.
Oklahoma State Rep Dennis Johnson says “Jew down the price” during floor debate:
Police have identified a suspect in a string of potential hate crimes in New York in which 12 mezuzahs were set ablaze as they hung on door frames outside Jews’ homes.
According to the NYPD, the suspect is wanted for setting fire to 11 mezuzahs inside an apartment complex in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Monday, which was also Holocaust Remembrance Day. An additional one was discovered burned inside the apartment building next door a day later.
Surveillance photo of Rubin Ublies, suspected of setting fire to mezuzahs in Brooklyn.
Police are searching for a Hispanic male in his 30s last seen wearing a purple do-rag and a black jacket with a New York Yankees emblem, as well as other writings, on the back.
Israeli researchers and Jewish leaders on Sunday reported a 30 percent jump in anti-Semitic violence and vandalism last year, topped by a deadly school shooting in France, and expressed alarm about the rise of far-right parties in Hungary, Greece and other countries.
Following a two-year decline in the figures, the annual report on worldwide anti-Semitic incidents recorded 686 attacks in 34 countries, ranging from physical violence to vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, compared to 526 in 2011. The report was issued at Tel Aviv University, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across Europe.
The report linked the March 2012 shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, where an extremist Muslim gunman killed four, to a series of copycat attacks, particularly in France, where physical assaults on Jews almost doubled.
Researchers who presented the report at the university on Sunday said they had also found a direct correlation between the strengthening of extreme right-wing parties in some European countries and high levels of anti-Semitic incidents, as well as attacks on other minorities and immigrants.
BERLIN — “Are there still Jews in Germany?” ”Are the Jews a chosen people?”
Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.
To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”
“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”
But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.
Since the exhibit - “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” - opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community - especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.
“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”
The exhibit is reminiscent of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann sitting in a glass booth at the 1961 trial in Israel which led to his execution. And it’s certainly more provocative than British actress Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Eran Levy, an Israeli who has lived in Berlin for years, was horrified by the idea of presenting a Jew as a museum piece, even if to answer Germans’ questions about Jewish life.
US President Barack Obama’s trip to Jerusalem last week made a significant impression on Israelis, but not the impression he was trying to make, according to a Smith Research poll taken for The Jerusalem Post in the aftermath of the visit.
The percentage of Israelis who consider the Obama administration more pro- Palestinian than pro-Israel fell by a whopping 20 percent since before the visit, the poll, taken on Sunday, found.
But the number of Israelis who consider the administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian rose by only 1 percentage point, despite what was billed as Obama’s “charm offensive” to reach out to citizens of the Jewish state.
Obama’s statements in Hebrew about how good it was to return to Israel and that Israelis are not alone apparently failed to make a significant impression on them. Apparently, neither did more substantive steps such as securing funding for Israel’s missile defense systems and facilitating rapprochement with Turkey. But the results indicate that the negative feelings that came from Obama’s visit to Ramallah did resonate with Israelis.
Palestinian disappointment with Obama’s pro-Israel message and his not visiting former leader Yasser Arafat’s grave was widely reported in the Hebrew press.
Obama was greeted in Ramallah by 150 demonstrators chanting anti-American slogans, and the only heckler at his Jerusalem speech to left-wing Israeli students was an Israeli Arab.
During Passover, the Jewish population of Israel has passed the symbolic 6 million mark - the same number of Jews who were believed to have been killed during the Nazi Holocaust - while the country’s total population is now 8 million.
Israel now has the world’s largest community of Jews, replacing the U.S. (5.5 million, with 2 million in New York City alone), France (500,000, mostly in Paris) and Canada (380,000, primarily in Toronto).
Britain has 290,000 Jews, most of them concentrated in London.
According to the Interior Ministry, Israel’s non-Jewish population comprises about 1.6 million Arabs and 350,000 non-Arab Christians and others (mostly immigrants from the Soviet Union whose religion has not been listed or registered by the ministry).
Another half-million Israeli citizens live abroad, the Ynet newspaper reported.
However, a leading expert on demography warns that overall the world’s Jewish population is declining.
More than 500 years ago, tens of thousands of Jews fled Spain because of persecution. Now their descendants are being invited to return.
Before the infamous Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century, some 300,000 Jews lived in Spain. It was one of the largest communities of Jews in the world.
Today, there are about 40,000 or 50,000 - but that number could be about to swell dramatically.
In November, Spain’s justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon announced a plan to give descendants of Spain’s original Jewish community - known as Sephardic Jews - a fast-track to a Spanish passport and Spanish citizenship.
“In the long journey Spain has undertaken to rediscover a part of itself, few occasions are as moving as today,” he said.
Anyone who could prove their Spanish Jewish origins, he said, would be given Spanish nationality.