P1040282.JPGChief Rabbi of the Netherlands says at Oxford University Chabad Society that Dutch are not anti-Semitic and is optimistic about future of the Jews of Europe



Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, spoke to the Oxford University Chabad Society this week at the Slager Jewish student centre on the subject of European anti-Semitism and the future of Dutch and European Jewry.


He argued that the battle against ritual slaughter that has been raging recently in the Netherlands has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and that, despite a number of isolated incidents, the vast majority of Dutch people are not anti-Semitic.


Rabbi Jacobs spoke emphatically about correcting the much distorted facts about the Dutch and the Holocaust. He claimed that Dutch police were instrumental in the rounding up of Jews on behalf of the Nazis during the Second World War, and warned that any attempt to whitewash this by focusing on the small number of cases in which Dutch people took it upon themselves to hide Jews is serving a grave injustice to a Jewish community that was decimated in the Holocaust, with only 10% surviving.


The Chief Rabbi was in this context critical of the emphasis on the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam by the government and tourist information centres, at the expense of sites such as Westerbork, where the Jews were assembled by Dutch police before deportation to Auschwitz.


Nevertheless, Rabbi Jacobs was positive that lessons have been learnt from the past, as testified by the recent public apology of the Chief of Police of the Netherlands to the Jewish community for the role of the police during the Nazi occupation.


One reason for the terrible losses suffered by the Dutch Jewish community, argued Rabbi Jacobs, was a false sense of immunity. Dutch Jewry before the war was one of the most integrated communities in Europe, in contrast to the more assimilated and isolationist communities in Germany and Poland respectively. In Holland, observant Jews lived in towns and villages across the land, in peace and harmony with the local population.


This degree of integration led Dutch Jews to believe that what was happening to the Jews in Germany and Poland would never happen in Holland, even after the Germans had invaded. This sense of immunity and security within Dutch Jewry led to reluctance to abandon their communities after the Nazi invasion, leading to almost their total destruction after their betrayal by their neighbours and the Dutch police.


Rabbi Jacobs insisted that Dutch society is, however, not anti-Semitic, and this can be seen by the popular support towards Jews which he encounters across the country, despite sporadic and highly publicised attacks by individuals. He claimed that, although Geert Wilders’ PVV party has received much criticism for its anti-Islamic stance, there are no anti-Semitic parties in Dutch politics, unlike in other European countries, and that the groups opposing shechita – kosher slaughter of animals – are doing so purely on animal rights grounds.


He warned, however, that Dutch Jewry faces decline, with only about 20,000 Jews remaining as a result of the Holocaust, subsequent mass immigration to Israel, and a high rate of intermarriage relative to other countries in Europe. He argued that the high rate of assimilation is partly due to the fact that many of the 10% of Dutch Jews who survived the Holocaust were brought up by Dutch non-Jewish families after the war. Rabbi Jacobs criticized the courts after the war for having invariably ruled in favour of the children staying with their non-Jewish foster parents rather than being returned to Jewish cousins or uncles and aunts.


He concluded that, while Jews in Europe should never become complacent, and should always be committed to preventing a repetition of history, the future looks very positive for European Jewry. Indeed, he argued, European multiculturalism sits very comfortably with the Jewish outlook, whereby each community has its own role within society, and can live side-by-side, appreciating each other’s contributions rather than attempting to cast everyone into the same mould.


This event followed a high profile Holocaust Memorial Lecture last week at the Oxford University Chabad Society for close to a hundred students and faculty hosting Auschwitz survivor Victor Greenberg, Kindertransport refugee from Vienna Fritz Sternhell and Oxford lecturer Dr. Alexandra Lloyd, who spoke on her research on "Jewish Children under the Third Reich".

The Chief Rabbi of the Netherlands was welcomed to the Society by Rabbi Eli Brackman, director of the Oxford University Chabad Society and Chairman of Chabad on campus UK, and introduced by student Vice President Matt Kaplan of St Antony’s College, Oxford.