A friend shocked me last night when she said that a third of British Jews have left England for other places (Israel, USA) because of growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
My friend said her rabbi, just returned from a three-month sabbatical in Europe, is telling his congregation that Jews should leave Europe. This is a chilling statement, recalling the horrors of the 1930s, as if history is repeating itself.
I did a quick Internet check today to see if what the rabbi calls the most under-reported issue of our time is accurate. What I have learned so far is that in France, Germany and Sweden, as well as Austria, a marked increase in anti-Jewish graffiti, verbal attacks and crimes have been occurring, mainly due to radical Islamic immigrants, since 2000.
In March of this year, in Toulouse, France, four Jews were senselessly killed by a Muslim who was proud of what he had done. When a teacher in the town asked for a minute of silence to honor the dead, some students walked out, saying the victims deserved to die.
One news story from Israel contained a photo of Muslims with a banner: "God Bless Hitler."
Stories of the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or synagogues sometimes get mentioned in our newspapers along with other laws in France and elsewhere restricing certain religious practices by both Muslim and Jews. Tensions in the Middle East are blamed as young disaffected Muslims take to the streets. But I can see why my friend calls this an under-reported story.
Many of the figures I found--from Holland, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, Germany and Austria as well as France--were from 2006. If any of my readers knows more about this alarming situation, or has recent evidence to suggest that my friend's rabbi is exaggerating the facts, I would appreciate a message: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is very easy for extremism on both sides to escalate; it is also easy for old fears and prejudices to turn into angry hatred and violence. But the lessons of the Holocaust, so well known, must not go unheeded. As a Christian with no personal involvement in what happened seventy years ago in Europe, I nevertheless have always felt very keenly the horror of those events.
All I can say now is the familiar warning: Never again!