The “unpleasant question marks” are coming from “the bottom of society”, but still creating anxiety in Western Europe, according to the president of Belgium’s Jewish community.
“Let it be said that at this very moment in history, there is certainly in Western Europe no governmental anti-Judaism,” said Julien Klener in an email interview with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin.
Klener will speak to Ottawa’s Jewish community during the Yom HaShoah commemoration, Wednesday, April 15, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. His topic will be “70 Years after the Shoah: Is Europe Safe for Jews?”
Anti-Semitism “comes from the bottom of society, and the highest authorities are doing whatever they can to secure the Jewish citizens,” he said. “But, still, Jewish historical anxieties are surely very present. How do I feel as a Belgian Jew? Lucid vigilance and hope for better times are the main words.”
A child survivor of the Holocaust and a distinguished university professor, Klener is a highly respected European Jewish leader who speaks regularly around the world on the future of European Jewry.
“I used to be known as a pessimist, having this hidden-child layer. Not any more… My parents, may they rest in peace, were already born here. Belgium is the country where I grew up, studied and taught; where I loved and disliked. My roots are here. But, nowadays, I am, as are so many others, confronted with unpleasant question marks,” he said.
Klener said he would try “to put into words the almost general feeling of uneasiness, of existential questioning, confronting Jewish communities in my part of the world.
“I will try to convey my own reactions to a situation whereby not only verbal attacks, but also very concrete murderous acts are perpetrated,” he said.
Klener said he is aware of Jewish families who are thinking of leaving Europe, not only for Israel, but also for the U.S, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“It is the talk of the Jewish town. But there is still a difference between thought and act,” he said.
Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, who was profiled in the March 30 issue of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, will be the keynote speaker at the Yom HaShoah commemoration.
For more information, contact Benita Siemiatycki at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-4696, ext. 227.