Addressing a new campaign against anti-Semitism which calls on European gentiles to publicly wear Jewish symbols in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors, Holland’s chief rabbi chose to share his views on the dramatic rise of anti-Jewish hatred he has witnessed.
“Forty years ago when I came to Holland, it never, ever happened that someone would call me in the street a dirty Jew or curse me because I’m Jewish, visibly Jewish. Today it’s normal,” said Rabbi Benjamin Jacobs, the leader of Holland’s substantial Jewish population, numbering 30,000.
“It happened already to me personally,” the rabbi explained, speaking to the European Jewish Association (EJA). “They [anti-Semites] threw things at my windows. A car drove into me. But, thank God, the government is protecting me in a very good and friendly way.”
Yet many Dutch Jews feel the effects of a growing tide of anti-Jewish sentiment. Many Jews have even taken to hiding their identity, for fear of being harassed or even attacked.
“Our response should be that we stay visibly Jewish. Wear a yarmulke on the streets [and] not a baseball cap. Wear a Magen David [or] whatever way one needs to show he is Jewish,” he said.
The response by some Jewish voices has been to take this call one step further. Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the EJA explained that his organization has launched a campaign “to get as many non-Jews as possible to wear Jewish symbols and show solidarity, and that they are a part of the silent majority that is not anti-Semitic.”
I’m thankful that the European Jewish Association started this campaign,” Jacobs said in an interview with EJA, calling its grassroots effort a way to “show the world we are not scared and we don’t accept that we need [to] hide [and] to make sure that no one can see that we’re Jewish.”
Holland, like many European countries, espouses the principles of tolerance and liberalism and boasts one of Western Europe’s most secular societies, with only 39 percent of the country identifying with an established faith and, according to a poll from 2010, less than 6% of the country attending regular religious services.
Yet recent incidents have shaken the feeling of safety that many Dutch Jews have taken for granted.
Recently, fans belonging to a Dutch soccer club, Utrecht FC, began shouting anti-Semitic chants at supporters of the rival Ajax team.
Ajax fans, a segment of which has historically been Jewish, were subjected to disturbing chants such as “My father was in the commandos, my mother was in the SS, together they burned Jews because Jews burn the best” and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”
Officials from Utrecht FC set out to identify the fans who chanted the anti-Semitic slogans, yet the results of the investigation remain unclear.
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