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'Europe only prospers when its Jewish communities feel safe'

EU releases first-ever strategy to fight antisemitism, promote Jewish life

Program focuses on Holocaust awareness, securing sites, monitoring hate speech; pledges to work with Israel on initiative

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, on July 10, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts/Pool Photo via AP)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels, on July 10, 2021. (Francois Walschaerts/Pool Photo via AP)

The European Commission released on Tuesday its first official strategy on fighting antisemitism and promoting Jewish life, which includes millions in funding to secure Jewish sites.

The 26-page program has three central goals — preventing antisemitism in all its forms, protecting and fostering Jewish life, and promoting Holocaust research, education, and remembrance.

“We want to see Jewish life thriving again in the heart of our communities,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “This is how it should be. The strategy we are presenting today is a step change in how we respond to antisemitism. Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and prosper.”

The “EU Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life (2021-2030)” proposed a number of concrete measures.

To fight antisemitism, the Commission will lead the creation of a network of organizations across Europe to flag antisemitism content online, and will develop counternarratives. It will also work with tech companies and retailers to prevent the online sale of Nazi-themed merchandise.

The Commission is the executive branch of the European Union.

File: Rabbis take part in self-defense training during the Conference of European Rabbis in Prague, Czech Republic, on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Petr David Josek)

The Commission will provide EU countries €24 million ($27 million) in 2022 to better protect Jewish sites and public places, in order to help foster viable Jewish life in Europe. It will also initiate programs to raise awareness about Jewish life and culture in Europe.

To promote Holocaust awareness and education, the Commission said that it would create a network of less-known Holocaust sites, such as hiding places or shooting grounds. The strategy also committed to the creation of a network of young ambassadors to promote Holocaust remembrance.

The document said that the EU would strengthen its cooperation with Israel against antisemitism and the revitalization of Jewish heritage.

To oversee these efforts, the Commission’s Working Group on combating antisemitism will be turned into a permanent body.

Concertgoers attend a performance at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, on August 17, 2017. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

The Commission stressed that fighting antisemitism is primarily a national responsibility, but noted that the EU can coordinate between countries, provide guidance and funds, and monitor progress.

The strategy will be implemented through the year 2030, and progress reports will be published in 2024 and 2029.

From 9.5 million Jews before the Holocaust, the Jewish population of Europe today stands at 1.5 million. However, that number is dropping as Jews have been leaving Europe, due in no small part to antisemitism.

“Antisemitism is incompatible with EU values and with our European way of life,” said Commission Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas. “This strategy — the first of its kind — is our commitment to combat it in all its forms and to ensure a future for Jewish life in Europe and beyond.”

The program was welcomed by Israel’s Knesset speaker.

“I wish to thank the European Commission for publishing its strategy to combat antisemitism. Antisemitism is a social evil that erodes the fundamental values of any civil society. Fighting antisemitism is a global interest and I urge everyone to join us in this crucial and moral battle,” said Speaker Mickey Levy.

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