Jews’ fears heightened in Europe


A security expert with the Jewish Federations of North America has called the mood among European Jews “concerning. It’s more so than ever before. I’ve never seen it like this.”

Paul Goldenberg, the head of the Secure Community Network, which is the homeland security initiative of JFNA and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and a senior official from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security met with Jewish officials from more than 20 European countries last week to share data and talk about ways to handle what he called an “unprecedented increase in anti-Semitic activity.”

Although incidents of actual assaults on Jews throughout Europe are increasing, Goldenberg stressed that “Jews aren’t fleeing by the thousands. Suitcases are not being packed.

“However, there is a deep concern” and there are people “talking about leaving their country of birth.”

Goldenberg spoke to Washington Jewish Week from Germany following his speech to the world’s largest regional security organization during a conference of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. That group represents 57 states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. Besides the 50 Jewish community leaders, attendees at the conference included government officials and other politicians and those involved in various social organizations.

The conference focused on the security needs of Jewish communities and also government engagement.

“Anti-Semitism never ceased to exist post-World War II,” Goldenberg said. However, in the past two years, it has changed from simple assault, graffiti and cemetery desecration to outright attacks against Jews and even murders, he said.

“The paradigm has changed literally in the past six or seven years,” Goldenberg said, adding that he is not sure that Americans fully understand the angst of Jews across the ocean.

In some communities, Jews are afraid to wear their kippot when they go out in the street, Goldenberg said.

During the conference, Jewish officials shared training techniques and spoke of the best procedures following specific incidents. More and more, Jewish communities are taking charge of their own security rather than relying on their government to protect them, he said.

“The Jewish communities are together,” and are sharing data, said Goldenberg, vice chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s faith-based security advisory council.

Radicalized young Muslims are being “instructed, advised and inspired to strike at Jews. They don’t care where they are from, or anything,” he noted. They attack local Jews, Israelis and American Jews, showing no preference, he said.

Goldenberg stressed that “Muslims aren’t attacking Jews. It’s those radicalized who are inspired” by terrorists groups like al-Qaeda that are carrying out attacks throughout Europe.

Add that to the ever-increasing fringe political parties gaining power in various parliaments, including Hungary and Greece, and “It’s a perfect storm right now.”

However, he said, “rather than running for their lives, the Jewish communities are empowered. They are coming together.”

While on his four-day trip, Goldenberg spent one day in Paris meeting with Jewish leaders before traveling to Berlin. He met with French and German community security representatives and government officials in meetings dealing with hate crimes, anti-Semitism, public-private partnerships and ways to counter violent extremism.

During the conference in Berlin, about 100 people agreed to work more closely and communicate with each other frequently. They also agreed to work with various police authorities and to share Homeland Security initiatives, Goldenberg said.

His European counterparts were impressed with America’s Homeland Security’s public awareness campaign here entitled, “See Something, Say Something.” “They really like that,” he said, adding it’s one part of a push to empower communities to act before an incident occurs rather than wait and react to anti-Semitic acts once they take place.

He specifically praised Bulgaria and other parts of Eastern Europe where he said “the Jewish community is coming together and providing extra protection” and France and the United Kingdom, which he referred to as “thought leaders.”

“We have learned tremendous lessons from our European counterparts and Diaspora communities as it relates to hate crimes, xenophobia and anti-Semitism,” he said, adding it “is a privilege to be part of this process and be able to share some of our successes, models, programs and practices we’ve developed, particularly with our DHS partners as it relates to our shared mission of protecting Jewish communities in the U.S.”

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