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Voices

Call for EU working group to combat antisemitism

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On Monday evening, 9 May, I participated in the World Jewish Congress (WJC) executive resolutions discussion together with South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) national vice-president, Mary Kluk. As one of the world’s twelve largest Jewish communities, South Africa has a permanent ex-officio place on the WJC executive, and I sit on the committee in that capacity. Mary has served on the executive for more than a decade, initially in her capacity as SAJBD national chairperson and then president, and thereafter as an elected member in her own right.

The discussion concluded this year’s WJC executive meeting, held in Prague. In the second half of this year, the Czech Republic will assume the presidency of the Council of the European Union, and in view of this, the WJC issued a strong call to the Czech leadership to create a permanent EU working group to combat antisemitism and other forms of racism.

Antisemitism on the continent has been steadily on the rise since the beginning of the century. WJC president, Ambassador Ronald Lauder, urged the EU to “put a stop to Europe’s irrational hatred of Jewish people” while in her address, Czech Deputy Prime Minister Marian Jurečka reiterated the EU’s commitment to combating all forms of hatred, including by taking steps in the field of culture and education.

Pernicious attempts to defame Israel as an “apartheid state”, the crisis in Jewish education, and identity and repercussions of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine on Jewish communities also featured high on the agenda. The news from the Ukraine front continues to be sombre, but it was heartening to hear of the ongoing efforts being made by the WJC and other Jewish bodies to assist victims of the conflict. Representatives of the Ukraine Jewish community thanked the WJC for its humanitarian support, stressing how all Ukrainians benefited from the aid and describing communal losses, including the recent bombing of a large Jewish cemetery in the country’s Sumy region.

To the extent that we’re able, the Board has also involved itself in efforts aimed at assisting victims of the Ukraine conflict. On Sunday, we were part of a Diplomatic Charity Bazaar in Pretoria, selling bagels to raise funds for humanitarian relief in the country. It was a meaningful and ultimately successful initiative, and I thank all those who supported it on the day. I would like also to commend those who have generously responded to our appeal for contributions to the Ukrainian embassy’s Humanitarian Fund as well as to international Jewish organisations like the Joint Distribution Committee and WJC that are working on the ground to assist those of all persuasions left homeless and destitute by the conflict.

  • Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM, every Friday from 12:00 to 13:00.

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