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Profs speak at panel on anti-Semitism in Europe

By Ryan Spencer

Section: News

November 13, 2015

Experts in the field spoke at a recent panel about rising anti-Semitism in Europe. It took place on Tuesday, Nov. 11 and was sponsored by the Coalition Against Anti-Semitism in Europe, the Center for German and European Studies and the Brandeis-Genesis Institute for Russian Jewry (BGI). The panel featured Rob Leikind, Judith Vichniac and David Gurevich.

Just before the discussion began, a moment of silence was held in honor of the 77th anniversary of the night of terror Kristallnacht, or the night of broken glass.

The panel began with a discussion of how anti-Semitism in Europe has changed over the past 40 years. Vichniac, the Associate Dean of the Fellowship Program at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and an expert on Western European politics, responded first. She explained that in France, anti-Semitism today is tied to the historical “animosity of the Catholic Church to the Jewish community”. She also attributed it to “the political and racial anti-Semitism,” which occurred later in the 19th century, and “increased numbers of Muslims in France.” Ultimately, Vichniac said, “I don’t think you can separate out what’s happened from this history.”

Leikind added to the discussion that “it’s important to keep in mind, when you’re talking about anti-Semitism in Europe, that Europe is a very big place…it’s hard to generalize.” The Boston Director for the American Jewish Committee, Leikind launched the Mayors United Against Anti-Semitism initiative, which collects signatures from mayors opposed to anti-Semitism. So far, the initiative has garnered the signatures of more than 350 American mayors as well as the signatures of many European mayors.

Gurevich, a post-doctoral fellow at the Ben Zvi Institute in Jerusalem, spoke to the significance of reducing European anti-Semitism. He said, “For Jews, it is important because it is something about self-identity, but for other people it is important because they are standing for the right cause.” As to how non-leaders of the movement can combat anti-Semitism, Gurevich said that “the first step is awareness,” and that by “using social media we can get more and more people engaging.” Gurevich has worked with Jewish community leaders in the United Kingdom to develop methods to combat anti-Semitism and, last summer, he infiltrated a Parisian anti-Semitic rally to interview participants.

Vichniac agreed with him and said that “a grassroots movement is very important.” She added, however, that she believes “that there has to be, on the part of the government, an attempt to integrate [Jewish communities].”

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