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World Jewish Congress to meet in Berlin in wake of growing anti-Semitism

WJC, A sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks and the growing hostility towards Israel will be among the subjects to be discussed at a meeting of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Berlin, which will take place from 14 to 16 September 2014. The WJC Governing Board will be chaired by David de Rothschild and attended by 150 heads of Jewish communities, delegates and young Jewish diplomats from around the world. Among the guest speakers will be Germany's Economics Minister, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

In tribute to his lifetime efforts for reconciliation between Germans and Jews, and between Germany and Israel, the WJC’s Theodor Herzl Award will be bestowed posthumously on the late publisher Axel Springer, whose widow Friede Springer will receive it at a dinner at Berlin’s Jewish Museum on Monday, 15 September 2014.

The participants will also take part in the rally against anti-Semitism organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate on Sunday, 14 September 2014, at 3 p.m., where German President Joachim Gauck, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and many other German leaders are expected.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder, who will be one of the speakers at the rally, said the WJC meeting in Berlin came at an important moment: “After the terrible hostilities against Jews we witnessed in the last eight weeks in Europe, following Israel’s legitimate action in the Gaza Strip, we are faced with a fundamental question: What needs to be done to ensure that the next generation of Jews has a future in Europe? This eruption of anti-Semitism has been an eye-opener for many people, and it would be wrong to go back to doing business as usual. Instead, we expect politicians and societies to address the root causes of this hatred, and to take appropriate action against it.”

Reports will be given about Hamas and about the threats posed by jihadist fighters returning to their Western countries of origin. Another focus of the WJC meeting will be visits of the delegates to important Holocaust-related sites in Berlin, including the Wannsee Conference Memorial Exhibit, the ‘Gleis 17’ train platform at Berlin’s Grunewald Station from which many German Jews were deported to the Nazi death camps, and to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe near the Brandenburg Gate. This will take place in the morning of Tuesday, 16 September 2014. At ‘Gleis 17’, there will be a short ceremony and Kaddish will be recited.

Merkel, Lauder to address Berlin rally against anti-Semitism

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder will be among the speakers at a rally in Berlin on 14 September against growing anti-Semitism. The demonstration will be organized by the Central Council of Jews in Germany and also feature the leaders of the two main church denominations in Germany.

Dieter Graumann and Angela MerkelDieter Graumann and Angela Merkel"It means a lot to the Jewish community" that Merkel had agree to address the rally, which will be held in front of the landmark Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council and a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, declared in a press release. The motto of the rally is 'Stand up! No more Jew-hatred!'.

Graumann said that in the past weeks "naked hatred against Jews" had repeatedly been witnessed in Germany and caused great concern among the country's 120,000-strong Jewish community. However, the Jewish leader added that the community would continue to strive for a "confident Jewish life" in Germany. "For this reason, we want to show on 14 September: We are here! We will stay! And we will fight all attacks vigorously, together with our friends in German society," declared Graumann.

Iraqi Jewish Archive controversy aired at Jerusalem forum

JERUSALEM - The United States should not return the Iraqi Jewish archive that is currently on loan to the US government to Baghdad, the archive’s chief rescuer urged. 

A retired Middle East analyst at the Office of the US Department of Defense who was instrumental in securing the Iraqi Jewish archive and ensuring its shipment to the US for preservation, said that "sending the material back to Baghdad would be comparable to the US returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis" because the material had been plundered from the Jewish community by the Saddam Hussein regime.
Rhode, who discovered the precious artifacts while on assignment to Iraq’s transitional government, made the remark at a World Jewish Congress/Israel Council on Foreign Relations symposium, "The Imperiled Legacy of Iraqi Jewry and the Struggle to Prevent the Return of its Archive to Baghdad."
The event examined the story about a trove of Jewish documents and holy books rescued from Baghdad documenting 2,600 years of a Jewish presence in Iraq. The archive, which consists of artifacts seized from Iraqi Jews and their institutions by the Baath regime during the 1970s and 1980s, was brought to Washington in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It is scheduled to be returned to Iraq in June 2014 pursuant to an agreement made when the archive was discovered.
American Jews, including the WJC-United States, have taken the position that the archive must remain protected and accessible to Iraqi Jews around the world and that “it would be inappropriate to return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq” this year. The American Jewish umbrella group the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations wrote a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry late last year asking him to “consult with representatives of the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora” about the archive before any action is taken.
The Jerusalem gathering also explored the question of justice for Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Irwin Cotler, Canada's former minister of justice and attorney general, told a capacity audience of activists, diplomats, academics and students that it is "high time that the forced exodus of Jews from Arab lands be introduced to the international agenda after the unconscionable neglect of the issue for six decades."
A third panelist, Edwin Shuker, a London-based Jewish communal leader from Iraq and former president of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, shared with the audience his discovery that his school report card was among the documents retrieved from Baghdad by Rhode.

Jews lived in Iraq from Babylonian times, but in the 20th century the rise of Arab nationalism and the conflict in Palestine made their situation precarious. In 1941, local extremists in Baghdad killed hundreds and injured thousands of Jews in several days of rioting and looting that came to be known as the Farhud pogrom. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the Iraqi government retaliated against the Jewish population with harsh and discriminatory laws. Most Iraqi Jews had fled Iraq for Israel by the early 1950s.
After World War II and the establishment of the State of Israel, the World Jewish Congress was perhaps the foremost organization assisting Jews in Arab and other Muslim countries. In the 1950s, the WJC negotiated the safe passage of Jewish refugees with a number of Arab governments, especially in North Africa. The issue of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands continues to be a focus of the organization.

The WJC is committed to raising the plight of Jews who fled from, or still live in, Arab lands and their specific concerns with governments and international organizations. Where illegal seizure of assets took place, these should be returned to their former owners, or adequate compensation should be paid. Jews remaining in Arab lands, as well as other religious minorities, should be granted religious freedom and allowed to practice their faith according to their traditions.
Jewish communal sites in Arab countries must be preserved and respected. The cause of Jewish refugees from Arab countries was the subject of a November 2013 conference at the United Nations sponsored by the World Jewish Congress, Israel's Mission to the United Nations, the Presidents' Conference and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.


WJC ANALYSIS - Carmen Matussek: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Arab world

The following article was first published in the 'Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs', a publication of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, which operates under the auspices of the World Jewish Congress
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion — what are they?
Whoever begins to explore the phenomenon of anti-Semitism soon encounters this most influential anti-Semitic fabrication of the last century. Anyone concerned about the big lie of a so-called Jewish global conspiracy knows about this pamphlet, which is said to be proof of the intrigues of “the Jews,” allegedly penned by the Jews themselves. But if one leaves the circle of the informed public, one does not have to go far afield to find people who have never heard of the Protocols — or who assess them in a totally different way.
Seventy years ago the Protocols were a bestseller in Germany. Today they are hardly remembered.
Section 130 of the German Criminal Code deems these writings inflammatory, so people abide by the rules, do not read the Protocols, and do not care. The booklet is not well known in political circles, churches, or universities.
Seemingly, the only ones who are familiar with it are a handful of anti-German left-wing activists, whose ideas a non-Marxist might not understand, but whose penetrating and profound statements concerning Israel are made loud and clear, even if they are often disregarded.
There is another place you can find the Protocols: at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, delivered by the Iranians in English, or inside several mosques in Turkish or Arabic translation, as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution confirms.
The situation is similar in other parts of Europe. An Arabic edition of the Protocols (one of many), published in Egypt in 2002 by the large publishing house Akhbar al-Youm, contains a list of thirty-seven countries to which it is exported, including Germany, Great Britain, France, and the United States.
In Germany, prosecution for the dissemination of the inflammatory booklet proves to be less frequent if it is in Arabic, Turkish, or Farsi. This special dispensation for incitement is not without consequences. In the face of an unending series of violent attacks on Jewish citizens, often committed by youth with a Muslim background, Europe should at least demonstrate some interest in what lies behind this phenomenon.
Instead of approaching the subject as earnestly as possible, there has been much effort expended on the denial of the problem. For the last three years, confronted with the release of some relevant studies and even more violent incidents, Muslim anti-Semitism has garnered more attention. But too often it is interpreted as a reaction to the discrimination Muslims suffer.
Most Germans and probably most Europeans do not know (and do not want to know) that Mein Kampf is a bestseller in the Arab world today. They regard the friendly salute of a taxi driver in Egypt and the words “Heil Hitler” as meaningless exceptions. What, then, should be made of the proliferation of Arabic-language editions of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
The Protocols in the Arab world
The popularity of the Protocols in the Arab world is not at all limited to Islamist circles. The belief in a Jewish world conspiracy characterizes the general historical and political consciousness in much of the Middle East. However, the main reason for this is not the reference to the Protocols in Section 32 of the Hamas Charter or other extremist propaganda.
The Jews’ responsibility for every evil on earth is, rather, a very common, academic, and centrist world view in Arab nations.
The Protocols are translated, commented upon, published, and promoted by famous Arab intellectuals, politicians, and professors. They introduce the Protocols as an authentic document and as absolutely essential in explaining world affairs.
The Lebanese politician Ajjaj Nuwayhid (1897–1982) published an Arabic translation of the Protocols that is still among the most famous editions. In the foreword to the fourth edition, he quoted Said Aql, one of Lebanon’s most important modern poets: “Before the publishing [of the Protocols] Israel could be seen as a mere military danger, but now it has become a cultural and metaphysical danger.”
Whether the Protocols were authentic or not was a question of little or no significance: “In this period of history in the Middle East no one who has not read your [Nuwayhid’s] book should be entrusted with politics.”
Nuwayhid’s translation has been reprinted by many publishing houses in different Arab countries. Most editions of the Protocols include the following blurb:
• Oh, you may not stop halfway, my dear Arab, as it is your duty to know most certainly what and who is “International Jewry,” working toward the devastation of Christianity, Islam, and all of civilization.
• If you stop halfway you are harming yourself, your Umma, your history and your present and future descendants.
• Do not be deceived by what you have known until now about 'Zionism' and 'Israel'. It is important for you to know the 'international Jewry' that is behind the scenes and that has performed its criminal deeds for twenty centuries.
• 'Zionism' and 'Israel' are nothing but its facade. Read these Protocols!
This invitation is often combined with a warning to the reader to exercise caution in dealing with the Protocols; purportedly, no translator or publisher of this tome has ever died of natural causes: To the reader: Take care of this copy, as the Jews fought this book wherever it appeared and in every language.
They appear, no matter what the cost, in order to collect and burn the copies, because they do not want the world to know about the hellish plots they have made against it. In this book they [the plots] are revealed.
One often reads that the real object of the Arabs’ struggle did not appear for the first time in 1948 (i.e. with the creation of the State of Israel) or in the late nineteenth century with the emergence of Zionism, but rather that “International Jewry” has been a threat to mankind throughout the ages.
The first Arabic translation of the Protocols to gain mainstream fame was the one by Muhammad Khalifa at-Tunisi, first published in 1951. It is still reprinted today and is also available on the internet.
At-Tunisi explained why he translated the Protocols: I do not warn against the [Jewish] danger because they are fighting against my people; and not because they carved Israel out of Palestine and in so doing, became a neighboring enemy; and not because they are situated right in the midst of our own countries. But I warn against their danger to mankind, too. Even if all of that belongs to my motives for paying attention to this danger, I still warn against their danger to mankind. Even if they were expelled from our countries to any spot of land—wherever they were, they were enemies to mankind.
At-Tunisi’s translation is supplemented with a benevolent foreword by the great Egyptian liberal writer Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad. The foreword to the English translation by Victor Marsden is also reprinted there in Arabic, as well as that of Sergej Nilus, the Orthodox mystic who first published the Protocols in Russia in 1905. This creates the impression that people all over the world are all aware of the “Jewish peril.”
Most Arabic editions of the Protocols contain much more than just the text of the fabrication. The above-mentioned 1996 edition of Nuwayhid’s translation has about 600 pages, of which the Protocols themselves account for less than 100.
The rest is pseudoscientific material, forewords of older Arabic or foreign editions, and articles by other so-called “scholars and experts.” But the fact is that they are mostly well-educated people. It is frightening to observe that blatant anti-Semitism and progressive, higher education are not mutually exclusive.
Nuwayhid adds to his translation an analysis of the Old Testament. It is not unusual for the Protocols to be placed in the context of Jewish sacred writings.
The content of the Protocols — the call to conspire against the world — is said to be binding for every Jew.
According to Nuwayhid, one of his goals was “the disclosure of the sources of these [the Jewish] drives—the sources to which the Talmud always belonged, like the deeds of Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel, and Ezekiel during the Babylonian captivity and afterwards.”
Arab scholars are quite familiar with the true history of the fabrication and they usually do not refrain from recounting it. Some retell that history in detail, but still manage to use the Protocols as evidence of a Jewish conspiracy. In the Arabic Wikipedia article on the Protocols, for example, the idea that the booklet is a fabrication is presented as the “opinion of some historians” while others are said to take it seriously.
The writers clearly favor the latter interpretation. The article has been changed often since 2008, but its impact is still the same. Most people are so convinced of the existence of a global Jewish conspiracy that they might see the Protocols as a confirmation of their world view; however, they do not need proof, as al-Aqqad wrote: “It is a fact free of doubt …that the secret government exists with or without these Protocols.”
Later in the same edition at-Tunisi adds: “The forger — assuming that it is a forgery — was undoubtedly an excellent forger, and he was undoubtedly Jewish. For no forger who is not [Jewish] would be able to forge these prophecies.”
At-Tunisi follows a similar kind of logic in many other passages of his introduction. If the person about whom he writes is not undoubtedly Jewish, he or she might be a Jew pretending not to be Jewish, or a non-Jew influenced by “the Jews.” He alleges, for example, that the copies of a 1917 Russian edition of the Protocols were confiscated by the Bolsheviks, who were, either officially or secretly, for the most part Jewish, or at least “henchmen” of the Jews.
He maintains the same view regarding the British parliament,American congressmen, and various UN delegations.
Even today, the Protocols, treated as a factual book, are circulating in the more educated classes in the Arab world. But propaganda and the pervading belief in a Jewish world conspiracy infiltrate all sectors of society.
The production of the Ramadan soap opera ‘Knight without a Horse’ was a high point in the process of 'dumbing-down' the Protocols for the benefit of the often less-educated masses in the Arab world. Over the course of forty-one episodes, this Egyptian soap opera brought the myth into the living rooms of the Arab world in a “prime time” slot after the evening news.
Some argue that this series, which was released in 2002, was already dated. But like the oldest Arabic editions of the Protocols, this drama did not disappear after the first broadcast. It continues to be aired on TV, spreading the messages of the Protocols in probably the most “successful” way.
References to the Protocols can be found in Arab textbooks as well as in academic curricula. Prof. Ahmad Hijazi as-Saqa of the Azhar University in Cairo published two anti-Semitic books on the Protocols in 2003.
Fath Allah of the University of Aleppo wrote the film script of the 2003 Lebanese Ramadan series ‘Diaspora’ which also propagates the notion of a Jewish world conspiracy.
There are thousands of examples that indicate that the belief in a Jewish world conspiracy is a mass phenomenon in the Arab world. The Protocols are only a single example drawn from a vast literature of hate. The study of the popularity of Mein Kampf in the Arab world and widespread Holocaust denial leads to similar findings.
Functions of the Protocols
Conspiracy theories in general fulfill certain functions for societies, individuals, and governments. By creating a world view of black and white, good and evil, in-group and out-group, they have an identity-establishing effect.
This is also the case in the Arab world with the myth of a Jewish world conspiracy. Wars between different Muslim groups or nations, economical backwardness, and even natural disasters are often said to be caused by sinister Jewish forces. For example, it was hard to explain to the Arab world why Fatah and Hamas, two Sunni Muslim Palestinian groups of so-called “freedom fighters,” were not able to form a common government in Gaza after the elections in 2006.
A cartoon in the Qatari newspaper 'al-Watan' from 13 November 2006 portrayed an Orthodox Jew as responsible for the bloodshed between the two. Fatah and Hamas are seen peacefully sitting at the negotiating table, while the Jew secretly places a grenade under it.
In religious contexts, the Jews are often seen as “satanic antagonists” who conveniently serve as an explanation if promised heavenly blessings seem to be denied to Islamic theocracies or groups. In that same context, anti-Semitic out-group discrimination has a strong anti-modern component.
All of these and other “functions” of the Protocols must not be confused with “reasons”. Anti-Semitism is systematically used as an instrument, and Arab- Muslim societies are fertile ground for conspiracy theories. But it must never be accepted as a law of nature that suppression and poverty lead to anti-Semitism.
The very rational, often officially subsidized, use of the Protocols for spreading anti-Jewish propaganda should be seen as the instrumental use of that document.
Disseminating that fabrication does not, however, bring any real relief to the Arab world. On the contrary, it prevents Arabs from looking for solutions to many homemade problems.
Dealing with anti-Semitism among Muslims in Western societies
Anti-Semitic attitudes in Western societies have hardly disappeared; if anything they are on the ascent. However, by only focusing on right-wing extremism we run the risk of ignoring the very real threat of Muslim anti-Semitism.
People in the West have mostly forgotten about the Protocols. Despite their revival in the Arab and Muslim world, they are not garnering much attention.
Yet, as the dangerous lie is still alive and kicking, action must be taken to identify and combat it. A first step of Western governments and societies would be to recognize the facts: This bastion of anti-Semitism in the Arab world is not a collection of exceptions pointed to by those who want to defame Arabs or Muslims, but has become an ideology with deep roots and a strong impact on individuals, societies, and world affairs.

Carmen Matussek is a scholar specializing in Islamic studies in Tübingen, Germany. She is the author of Der Glaube an eine ‘jüdische Weltverschwörung - Die Rezeption der ‘Protokolle der Weisen von Zion’ in der arabischen Welt (2012), a book on how the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are received in the Arab world. Since 2009 she has worked as a freelance journalist and editor, cooperating with the Political Education Authority of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.


World Jewish Congress praises international Christian lawmakers for supporting Israel

WJC, Christian lawmakers from 20 countries will be in Israel to express their support for the Jewish state. At an event hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) 25 Christian parliamentarians and Congressmen will notably discuss measures to fight a campaign against Israel spearheaded in recent months by the European Union. On Sunday, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder will address an event in Jerusalem at which 3,000 Evangelical Christians from around the world will be present.

The lawmakers are also expected to endorse Israel’s efforts to defend itself against existential threats such as those posed by Iran regime and by the current unrest and chemical weapons in Syria. The Chairman’s Conference of the Israel Allies Foundation, presided by former Minister Benny Elon, will be held as part of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, the largest tourist event in Israel which every year draws more than 5,000 Christian pilgrims from over 100 countries. Lawmakers from Argentina, Bolivia, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Uruguay, Guatemala, the United Kingdom and the United States will participate in the gathering.

In a draft declaration expected to be adopted, the legislators call the boycott of Israeli persons and goods from the disputed territories in the West Bank and Jerusalem an act of discrimination that is harming the peace efforts. In addition, the signatories are expected to lend their support “to the government of Israel as acting within its rights and obligations to its citizens when it stands resolutely in defence of its sovereign territory and acts preemptively, if necessary, to ensure the protection of its citizens and the survival of its national existence.” They are also to endorse Israel’s position that the Jerusalem should remain undivided.

WJC President Ronald Lauder hailed the upcoming event in the Israeli capital as an important sign that Israel does not stand alone in the world: “This conference is ample proof that Israel has strong Christian allies in parliaments and governments around the world on which it can rely. The World Jewish Congress will continue to work on widening this important coalition and increase cooperation with our Christian friends,” he said.

About the World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations.

About the Israel Allies Foundation
The Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) is dedicated to the purpose of promoting communication and information sharing between parliamentarians and legislators the world over who share a belief that the State of Israel has the right to exist in peace within secure borders. In 2006 in solidarity with the Knesset Christian allies Caucus, the US House of Representatives formed the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus as the basis for an international caucus network. Since then, additional caucuses have been formed in 22 governments worldwide.

About the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) was founded in 1980 as an act of comfort and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people in their claim to Jerusalem. Today, the ICEJ stands at the forefront of a growing mainstream movement of Christians worldwide who share a love and concern for Israel and an understanding of the biblical significance of the modern ingathering of the Jews to the land of their forefathers.


Confusion over Iranian leaders' Twitter messages to Jews

WJC, Twitter messages that appeared to have been issued by newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, wishing Jews a good Rosh Hashanah, have been met with mixed reactions by the international community.
On Wednesday, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a message was posted on Rouhani's English-language Twitter account where he wished all Jews a happy Jewish New Year. “As the sun is about to set here in Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah,” the tweet read. A day later, as the message was analyzed abroad and in Iran, the semiofficial Fars news agency quoted a Rouhani aide as saying that the account was no longer active. That appeared to be a dodge, especially since the same account was also used Thursday to announce the change in Iran’s nuclear negotiating team.
In only his second tweet, Iran's new Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wished Jews a "Happy Rosh Hashanah." Zarif even replied to a tweet from Christine Pelosi, the daughter of US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who said to him: "Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran's Holocaust denial, sir" by distancing himself from Iran's former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Zarif first tweeted "The man who did is now gone," but then deleted that post and replied again to clarify: "The man who was perceived to be denying [the Holocaust] is now gone." The foreign minister confirmed to CNN that he did write those tweets and was aware he was responding to Nancy Pelosi's daughter. Rouhani also retweeted Zarif's "Happy Rosh Hashanah" post.
Access to Twitter is officially banned for most Iranians.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said that while the Iranian leaders' message were "a surprising gesture and a welcome change in tone", “words are meaningless if they are not backed up by credible actions. Until Iran ends its support for the enemies of the Jewish state, until it stops providing support to terrorist groups targeting Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, and a regime that is gassing thousands of its own citizens in order to remain in power, these words sound hollow.”
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "not impressed", and that the Iranian regime would "be judged only by its actions and not by greetings" whose purpose, he said, was to deflect attention from its nuclear program. He called on the international community to strengthen sanctions on Iran meant to curb its nuclear activities.


Jewish Diplomatic Corps to rejoin World Jewish Congress

The Jewish Diplomatic Corps (JDCorps), an international network of Jewish professionals engaged in public diplomacy, will be reintegrated into the structure of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and see its global budget and staff boosted. The corps’ precursor was set up in 2006 under the auspices of Peleg Reshef of the WJC. Today, the network comprises 130 young Jewish lay leaders from 30 countries world-wide.
“This is a major investment into the future of Jewish organizational leadership. The Jewish Diplomats, or JDs, as they are called, are successful professionals in their late twenties or thirties who identify with Jewish and Israel-related issues. They will continue to play an important role in addressing the issues affecting the Jewish people in the future. The entire WJC family welcomes the fact that the JDs will from now on be a key part of the WJC’s organization. They have proven over the past years that they are capable of influencing important policy decisions, including at the United Nations, and we look forward to complementing the WJC’s activities with these talents,” said WJC President Ronald Lauder.
JDCorps Chairman and Co-Founder Adam H. Koffler highlighted that the JDCorps will have staff led by current JDCorps Executive Director Michael Colson at the WJC’s Geneva office. “This is a terrific union and significant development both for the JDCorps and for the WJC. It will allow 130 highly skilled and motivated young professionals to become an integral part of the world’s foremost Jewish organization, and it will strengthen the WJC’s ability to fulfill its critical mission as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people,” Koffler declared, adding: “As part of the WJC’s permanent program of activities, the Jewish Diplomatic Corps will continue to empower its members impacting diplomacy, public policy and advancing Jewish interests in international affairs, notably at the UN.”
The JDCorps will become a key part of the WJC’s new ‘Young Leadership’ bouquet of programs which includes the Jewish Professionals’ Network, the Global Campus Initiative and the Young Leadership Training Academy and it will be overseen from WJC headquarters in New York.
About the World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) is the international organization representing Jewish communities in 100 countries to governments, parliaments and international organizations. The WJC was founded in Geneva in 1936 as the diplomatic arm of the Jewish people.

About the Jewish Diplomatic Corps
The Jewish Diplomatic Corps (JDCorps) was established as an independent organization in 2009 by Co-Founders Adam H. Koffler and Peleg Reshef after being initiated in February 2006 by the WJC. It has since served as a world-wide, non-partisan network of diplomatic innovators advancing Jewish interests in international affairs and has actively engaged young lay leaders on issues vital to the Jewish people.


WJC ANALYSIS: The assault on shechita and the future of Jews in Europe

In recent months, debate regarding the banning of shechita and halal [slaughter in accordance with Jewish and Islamic law, respectively] has been renewed in a number of EU member states, most notably Poland. While some of those who support a reexamination of the issue are undoubtedly motivated by genuine concern for animal welfare, there may be less sanguine intentions on the part of others who advocate a ban (or the upholding of existing ones). Certainly, the vituperative language of at least some of the campaigners is hardly reassuring. Ironically, a common front on this issue may help bring Jews and Muslims in Europe closer together. The outcome of this debate may well be seen as a watershed in the history of European religious pluralism, one on which the future of Jewish religious life on the continent will depend.
The Jewish religion is deeply imbued with the concept of tza'ar ba'alei chaim — the idea that one may not intentionally inflict unnecessary pain on any living creature, nor fail to prevent the causing of such pain. This principle is the basis for the Jewish religious prohibition of hunting of any kind. As such, when it is necessary to kill animals (whether for food or hides, never for sport), they must be dispatched in the swiftest and most painless way possible.
"You shall slaughter of your cattle and sheep... as I have instructed you, and you may eat..." is the biblical imperative contained in the book of Deuteronomy (12:21). The rules governing the slaughter of animals in accordance with Jewish law are laid out in many sources, including — in considerable detail — in the seminal codification of Jewish law, Rabbi Joseph Caro's Shulchan Aruch [Yorah Deah], at chapters 1–28. The religiously mandated method of slaughtering kosher animals is to sever the trachea, the jugular veins, the esophagus and the carotid arteries — all in one swift cut.
Almost 1,000 years ago, the great Jewish scholar and physician Maimonides closely studied the issue of animal slaughter and came to the conclusion that there is no more humane method than through the rapid loss of blood following a swift incision with a razor-sharp knife in the hands of a qualified slaughterer [shochet]. To date, not a single scientific study has conclusively proven otherwise, and over the years many prominent experts, both Jews and non-Jews, have validated shechita as a humane means of slaughter.
The pioneering research in the scientific defense of shechita was that penned by the physician Isaac A. Dembo (1847–1906). His major contribution was to demonstrate that shechita does not cause more pain to animals than any other technique and that, in fact, it causes considerably less pain than the other commonly used methods.
Dembo's work was continued in modern times by I. M. Levinger, who is a leading authority on veterinary issue in Jewish dietary laws. Levinger attempted "to define the loss of sensibility and the time of death by measuring the corneal reflexes, the drop in blood, carotid and vertebral arterial pressure, and the heart rate and respiratory rate using the best available instrumentation."
The most recent research has proven that by using the proper slaughter apparatus (with the cow standing upright with a properly designed head restraint) and with proper handling, the cow is apparently unaware of the throat being cut and collapses in 10 to 15 seconds. Moreover, the rise in cortisol levels in head-restrained animals was minimal."
Temple Grandin, professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, has designed livestock handling facilities in Europe, North America, Australia, and elsewhere. In 2011, she wrote: “I have observed that when kosher slaughter of cattle is done well, there is almost no reaction from the animal when the throat is cut. Flicking my hand near the animal’s face caused a bigger reaction.”
Nevertheless, there are those who, out of genuine concern for animal welfare, or because of adherence to an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim agenda, have raised questions about the humanity of this means of slaughter.
New wine in old bottles?
The campaign against shechita is nothing new. In 1933, almost immediately after being named chancellor, Adolf Hitler decreed a ban on the practice—at once depriving the Jews of Germany of kosher meat and also putting out of business those who worked in the country's kosher meat industry. Such a law had already been enacted in Bavaria in 1930. Significantly, the infamous 1940 Nazi 'documentary' film Der ewige Jude [The Eternal Jew], designed to sow hatred of Jews, contained a gruesome scene that utterly distorted the way in which animals are killed in accordance with Jewish law—and depicted the practice as a barbarous custom in which Jews rejoice at the suffering of animals.
However, opposition to shechita pre-dates the Nazi period. Switzerland's legislation prohibiting shechita was enacted in 1893 when the practice was outlawed by a plebiscite. Sweden followed suit in 1937 and Fascist Italy in 1938. In the late 1930s, there were also moves to restrict shechita in Poland, but they did not come to fruition. Generally, Jews in countries in which shechita is outlawed (Norway among them) have been able to avoid the most drastic effects of the law, because they are able to import meat from abroad.
However, there are even some (in Switzerland, for example) who would like to see a ban on the import of kosher meat — which will effectively force Jews who observe kashrut to abstain from the consumption of meat. Muslims will also be affected by this move. The halal method of slaughter has certain similarities to that of shechita, and in locations in which halal meat is unavailable, Muslims content themselves with kosher products.
The anti-shechita drive in Poland comes at a time when similar moves are being contemplated in other parts of Europe as well — even in countries that had debated the subject long ago, and had previously refrained from enacting any restrictions against it. It is ironic that in some instances, the current motivation for advocacy against shechita/halal stems from local hostility toward the burgeoning Muslim communities in Europe. Be that as it may, whatever their other differences, Jews and Muslims will be left to fight this battle together.
Poland: The latest testing ground
In recent months, there has been a revival of the long-dormant debate in Poland on whether animals must be stunned before being killed. Article 53 of the Polish Constitution guarantees that "freedom of conscience and religion shall be ensured to everyone" and specifies that the "performing of [religious] rites" is protected by law.
Jewish religious law forbids the stunning of animals before slaughter. However, the Constitutional Tribunal disallowed the exception made by the minister of agriculture not to require stunning for religious slaughter (after a 2002 law which required stunning). A court ruling determined that in so doing, the minister had overstepped his authority. The court also clearly stated that they are not ruling of religious slaughter.
Although the government declared its intention to pass a law to permit religious slaughter, that effort failed in parliament on July 12, 2013. That move precipitated widespread upset and anger both in Poland and abroad. Significantly, the Polish agro-industrial lobby led the unsuccessful struggle to rescind the ban. Over the years, the Polish meatpacking industry, particularly the beef sector, has become heavily dependent on exports of kosher and halal products to Israel and the Middle East. That industry employs thousands of workers and brings in hundreds of millions of euros per annum. In the Sejm vote, some parliamentarians from the ruling party, which called for rescinding the ban, actually voted to support it.
Critics of the ban, both Jews and non-Jews, could not contain their sense of indignation, especially when some actually suggested that shechita was a foreign concept, not in keeping with traditional Polish values. They pointed to the thousand-year history of Jews on Polish soil and the irony that those who called for a ban on Jewish/Muslim methods of slaughter continue to allow the destruction of animals for sport.
For example, Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, himself a committed vegetarian, said he finds it “hard to believe that any reasonably intelligent, thinking person could hold the opinion that ritual slaughter, as practiced by Jews, is worthy of being singled out as particularly cruel to animals and therefore should be banned.” He went on to say that he could not “accept the idea that in a country where you can go out and hunt for pleasure, also something expressly forbidden in Judaism, a country where you can take a live carp home in a plastic bag and allow it to slowly suffocate as you wait in line at the supermarket checkout before Christmas, [Parliament] should outlaw a form of killing which was devised thousands of years ago to be humane.”
At the time of this writing, Poland’s Jewish community plans to petition the country’s constitutional court in an effort to strike down the Sejm decision upholding the ban. Chief “Many legal experts believe that the only way to resolve the conflict between the law and the rights of Poland’s religious communities is by petitioning the Constitutional Court and letting it rule on the matter. We will express our position in a most determined fashion and will bring most of the evidence from the Polish Constitution, which supports our position,” declared Poland's chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich.
Many Jews and Muslims fear that the decision in the Sejm could presage a new struggle against the rights of Jews and Muslims to observe the sacred tenets of their faith. In the Netherlands, an attempt to restrict the right of Jews to slaughter animals in accordance with shechita was staved off. The Dutch minister of agriculture, issued instructions that allow the Jewish community to continue the practice of shechita. These instructions included the introduction of a requirement that the incision be performed within a three-second period. A previous ruling limiting the number of movements of the knife has been abandoned. This issue was also played out in Britain some years ago, but in the end the Anglo-Jewish and Muslim communities were permitted to continue the practice.
'Ritual' slaughter
Part of the problem, at least in the public debate in Poland, stems from the nomenclature: the very use of the word 'ritual' [rytualny] attached to slaughter [ubój]. The idea that the slaughter of animals is a religious 'rite' makes it easy to suggest that it is a part of an antiquated, cruel and even savage custom — and that it should be dispensed with in modern society. Opponents of shechita and halal have often attributed a sinister connotation to the two forms of religiously prescribed slaughter.
Given the declining level of Christian religious observance in Europe, there is less and less tolerance for those who adhere to religious law — especially when it is depicted in such negative terms. It will remain a challenge to Jews and Muslims to overcome this insidious connection between religious rite and cruelty to animals in their attempts to lobby to preserve their rights.
European Union regulations have stipulated that all farm animals must be stunned before slaughter (a practice, which, as noted above, is strictly forbidden by Jewish religious law) unless they are killed in accordance with religious methods, such as shechita or halal.
There is considerable misunderstanding about the effects of stunning animals prior to their slaughter. While stunning an animal may well be preferable to allowing it to experience the pain inflicted by most non-kosher means of slaughter, there is doubt as to whether the same is true with regard to shechita. In fact, the knife (sharp as a surgical scalpel) applied by the shochet across the throat may by itself be regarded as a form of stunning because the animal is rendered unconscious at once. And the risk of imperfect stunning is a very real one, which may cause considerable agony to the animal. Rabbinical authorities who have studied the question believe that stunning before slaughter can actually inflict injuries on the animal severe enough to render it unfit for consumption by those who adhere to Jewish dietary laws.
This is because one requirement for kosher meat is that the animal must have had no physical defects before it was slaughtered, and these rabbis saw the injuries caused by stunning as being significant enough to make an animal non-kosher according to this requirement.
Significantly, certain Muslim abattoirs do comply with the regulation regarding pre-stunning and allow for animals destined for slaughter to be stunned electrically. Still, there is considerable debate in Islamic circles as to whether or not this practice is acceptable or not. More progressive Muslims are less likely to protest if some of their religious leaders allow for stunning. But what is especially worrisome to those who are committed to upholding the rights of Jews and Muslims is the high degree of standardization that the EU imposes on its member states.
In other words, it is likely that as EU standardization becomes more widespread, and given the tendency toward limitations, questions will be raised in many EU states about the viability of existing legislation allowing for exemptions to Jews and Muslims.
A debate with far-reaching consequences
After the Polish parliament's decision, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, who pioneered the revival of Jewish life in post-Communist countries, wrote in an op-ed: "I am left wondering: Can the Jewish renaissance in the heart of Europe continue if essential elements of Jewish life are declared illegal? Or will Europe’s leaders stand up for the civil rights of their Jewish compatriots? As Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, recently remarked, you cannot be proud of the Jews of yesterday and tell the Jews of today that their religious practices are not welcome any more."
There is no doubt that the resolution of the debate on shechita will affect the quality of life of millions of Jews and Muslims across Europe and will have far-reaching effects on the rights of religious minorities to live according to the precepts of their faith.
Rabbi Schudrich, who has worked in Poland for close to a quarter of a century, has said that he could not imagine serving as chief rabbi in a country in which the rights of the Jewish religion are curtailed, as he would not be able to serve his co-religionists properly. This is an especially poignant declaration by someone who played a great role in the extraordinary revival of Jewish life. Indeed, until not that long ago people had every reason to believe that the final chapter in the long history of Polish Jewry had come to a close.
Today, many Jews, whether in Poland or other countries, including those who do not themselves observe the Jewish dietary laws have rallied around this issue, because they see it as a clear test of their society's commitment to uphold civil and religious rights. One can only hope that their non-Jewish neighbors see it in similar terms.


Lauder: March of the Living proves 'Hitler did not win'


Lauder told the gathering: "Seeing so many young people from around the world - both Jewish and of many other faiths and backgrounds - fills me with a feeling of hope for the future of the Jewish people and hope for all humanity"

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder was among the leaders of this year's March of the Living at the former Nazi death camp Auschwitz. An estimated 11,000 people from dozens of countries, most of them under the age of 25, participated. The marchers walked the three-kilometer (1.9 mile) distance from the former Auschwitz concentration camp (StammlagerI) to Birkenau, where 1.1 million Jews were systematically murdered in gas chambers by the Nazis during World War II.
There, Lauder told the gathering: "Seeing so many young people from around the world - both Jewish and of many other faiths and backgrounds - fills me with a feeling of hope for the future of the Jewish people and hope for all humanity. Auschwitz symbolizes the depths humanity can reach - but every time young people like yourselves make their way to these tear soaked grounds, listen to the stories of survivors, and pledge to build a better world, I know with certainty, one thing: Hitler did not win."
Lauder condemned the growing tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment and ended his speech with 'Am Yisrael Chai'.
The march traditionally takes place annually on Yom HaShoah, Israel's Holocaust remembrance day. This year's edition marked the event's 25th anniversary. Israel's delegation was led by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
More than 150,000 people have participated in the March of the Living over the past years. On Monday, participants from 42 countries came to the sites; most of them between the ages of 16 and 21. For many it was the first time that they wee directly confronted with places of the Nazi genocide.
Ahead of the March of the Living, Israel's President Shimon Peres had sent a message to the participants: "There are marches which are measured by the length of the journey, there are marches which are measured by time. You came on a march which cannot be compared, it is a march from the lowest point to the highest peak. The lowest point is the actions of the Nazis. There was no atrocity like it in history," Peres said.

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