European Rabbi: Synagogues No Longer A Safe Haven

“Synagogues are no longer a safe haven,” a top European rabbi said Sunday at a special panel about the situation of Jews across the continent, held in the framework of the Munich Security Conference.

“At the back of almost every Jew’s mind is the possibility of what could happen. Sadly, in Copenhagen, Brussels and in Paris, that has become a reality,” said President of the Conference of European Rabbis Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt, at a breakfast event he was hosting, titled “Securing Jewish Communities across Europe.”

“The Jewish community finds itself targeted from a number of directions; from the extreme right, the extreme left and Islamic terrorism,” Goldschmidt said, referencing terror attacks that have targeted Jews in different European countries in recent years.

The event took the form of a panel discussion featuring MK Tzipi Livni, Deputy CEO for Diplomacy of the World Jewish Congress Maram Stern, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation Dr. Peter R. Neumann and former Director of Europol Jürgen Storbeck. German journalist Richard Schneider moderated the discussion.

Stern expressed a similar sentiment to Goldschmidt, noting that while he feels comfortable walking the streets in general, when synagogue is his destination he begins to feel uneasy.

“People are curious, who walks in and who walks out, it is like you are in a zoo,” he remarked.

Livni stated that while Israel feels a responsibility for the security of Jews around the world, she added that “it is the responsibility of every state to protect its citizens and we cannot take away from that.”

“Every Jew should be able to walk around looking Jewish and not face discrimination,” she said.

For his part, Stobeck addressed Berlin’s capabilities to deal with the threat of terror, saying that prior to the 2016 ramming attack at a Christmas market, German security services did not have enough money.

“After the attack in Berlin, security services got a lot of money,” he asserted. “But you need to improve information management both nationally and internationally.

But still we are not quick enough, and we do not have a good (long-term) forecast.”

Neumann described Jews as a “priority target.”

“They are the first ones to be targeted. If Jews are being targeted then all citizens should be worried because there is more to come,” he warned, indicating that nobody should be lulled into a false sense of security by a period of calm. “Just because the Jewish community has not been attacked in the last year, it does not mean it is not a target,” he said.

Turning to the rise of the far-right in Europe, Neumann said: “in the core of every far-right party there is bonafide antisemitism.”

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