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Dutch Reform rabbi says COVID-19 policies remind her of Nazi Germany

Tamarah Benima says ‘those in power all had the best of intentions. Also when they declared Jews a danger to public health’; Dutch Jewish groups condemn ‘offensive comparisons’

Rabbi Tamarah Benima (Malin G. Kundi/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)
Rabbi Tamarah Benima (Malin G. Kundi/Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

JTA— A prominent rabbi in the Netherlands compared her country’s COVID-19 safety measures to the policies of Nazi Germany, drawing a harsh rebuke from Jewish groups.

Tamarah Benima, an outspoken 71-year-old Reform rabbi from Amsterdam, made the comparison on Thursday in a speech in the northern Dutch city of Leeuwarden.

“Scientists worldwide apparently allowed themselves over the past 1 and a half years to be led toward totalitarian thinking,” she said of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in December 2019. “What doesn’t fit their perspective must be silenced.”

Those involved in enforcing COVID-19 public health measures “have the best intentions,” Benima added. “But as a Jew, what happened in Nazi Germany is a warning to me. Those in power all had the best of intentions. Also when they declared Jews a danger to ‘public health.’ Also when they declared a war against the ‘virus’ of those times. So don’t play with fire by setting aside people in our society as ‘a danger to public health,’ as Health Minister Hugo De Jonge regularly does.”

De Jonge has warned that downplaying the dangers of the COVID-19 virus, as well as a right-wing party’s forum for criticizing the government’s policies on COVID-19, have jeopardized public health.

Following the lead of other European countries, the Netherlands issued an emergency regulation last month that requires that patrons of restaurants and other businesses present a proof of vaccination.

At least three Dutch Jewish groups have condemned Benima’s statements.

The Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands, the country’s largest Jewish umbrella group, said her comparison is “contrary to our values and shows a complete lack of realism.” The Netherlands Association for Progressive Judaism “strongly rejects the irresponsible and offensive comparisons,” that group said in a statement.

In this Tuesday, July 27, 2021 photo people take part in a protest against the COVID-19 vaccination pass in Rome. Protesters in Italy and in France have been wearing yellow Stars of David, like the ones Nazis required Jews to wear to identify themselves during the Holocaust. Some carry signs likening vaccine passes to dictatorships. (Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP, File)

Comparisons between COVID-19 public health measures and Nazism have proliferated in recent months throughout Europe and beyond. The wearing of yellow stars at protests against COVID-19 measures in Europe specifically have drawn sharp condemnations by Jewish groups.

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