August 22, 2019

Ominous Signs for the Jews of Europe

“It is one thing to read from afar about the growing antisemitism in Europe; it is another to witness the signs of it. The latter is of course better than experiencing it, but the signs themselves are sufficiently ominous to make one pause and realize that when it comes to the Jews, something once again is rotten in the state of Denmark, in France, in Germany, in Italy and in other countries across the continent. This is not normal.

I recently spent two weeks in a major European city whose Jewish community was established many centuries ago. For reasons of security, that is the closest I will come to identifying this locale. On the surface, Jewish life there appears to be healthy, with internal communal rivalries testifying to its vibrancy. The synagogues are all Orthodox, since in this European Jewish community, as in many others, while the majority of its members are not Orthodox, the synagogue they attend when they attend – and many do attend on Shabbat and holidays – must be. The single, large community school reflects the diversity of Jewish lifestyles.

To visitors, the situation of this community initially appears only positive, possibly ideal. The synagogues are active and both Jewish education and cultural activities are strong. There are kosher grocery stores and eateries. But soon, some unsettling facts emerge. While local Chabad hassidim and other haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews cannot disguise their obvious Jewish appearance in public, it was suggested to me by a member of the community that it would be wise to tuck my tzitziot into my pants and consider wearing a hat over my kippah.”

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