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19 December 2018 - 11 Tevet 5779 - י"א טבת ה' אלפים תשע"ט
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Commemorating the 80th anniversary Kristallnacht pogroms E-mail

The World Jewish Congress(WJC) on Friday 9 November commemorated the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass), the 1938 Naziled pogroms in which more than 1,000 synagogues were burned, windows smashed, shops looted, and individual Jews rounded up to be sent to concentration camps. Four hundred people were killed in the pogroms.

“Eighty years ago, the Nazis unleashed a series of horrific attacks against the Jewish population in Germany and Austria, desecrating property and destroying lives and livelihood, a violent offensive that was followed by an intense escalation of the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies, and ultimately the near genocide of European Jewry,” said Ronald S. Lauder, WJC President.

“It would be impossible to mark this seminal event in Jewish history without noting the frightening climate of Anti-Semitism and xenophobia currently spreading across Europe and the US,” Lauder said. “The far-right is gaining power at an alarming speed, and neoNazis are feeling emboldened to march in the streets shouting hateful slurs and advocating the most dangerous brands of nationalism and hatred.”

“Just last week, 11 people were brutally murdered at a synagogue in a quiet and safe neighborhood in Pittsburgh, just for being Jewish, an attack that for most American Jews was beyond unthinkable,” Lauder said. “In Europe, synagogues and Jewish property are routinely targeted by Anti-Semitic vandals and criminals, with firebombs hurled at buildings and anti-Jewish graffiti scrawled on walls.”

“It would also be impossible to mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht without noting the critical difference between 9 November 1938 and 9 November 2018,” Lauder said. “In 1938, firemen stood idly by to ensure that the flames remained contained to inflict maximum damage on Jewish property alone. Police helped rioters loot and attack, goading them on and aiding their aggression. In 1938, the incursion against the Jewish community was designed, promoted, and handled by the government in a direct and systemic attempt to destroy the Jewish presence.”

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German Jews rail against far-right AfD party at Kristallnacht commemoration event E-mail

When the head of Germany’s main Jewish organisation said only one Bundestag party was not invited to Friday’s commemoration of the Kristallnacht pogroms, few had any doubt: He meant the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, or AfD. And it was the only remark at the event that drew spontaneous applause.

Speaking at the soaring Rykestrasse Synagogue in Berlin, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel looking up at him from the front pew, Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on Germans to fight xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiments, and in particular to oppose the unnamed “spiritual arsonists” who belittle the Holocaust and “mock its victims and survivors”.

At a ceremony broadcast live nationwide, Schuster called the recent demonstrations against hate in Germany “encouraging”. He cited hundreds of thousands of courageous people, dedicated to democracy, who “won’t let Germany just drift off to the right.”

Merkel, addressing the gathering of political and religious leaders and members of the Jewish community, said it was important to remember that the pogrom on 9-10 November 1938 was “not an overnight phenomenon”.

“We can only draw the lessons for today if we can see this event as part of a process. We can see where it leads,” she said, “when criminal behaviour is tolerated, even encouraged.”

While there were no eyewitnesses to the pogrom speaking at the event, their written words were read aloud from the bimah by actors.

Comparisons to today were not spared. Schuster noted that recent years have seen a rash of attacks on refugee housing, on the refugees themselves, on mosques as well as on synagogues and Jewish citizens, mostly perpetrated by neo-Nazis.

Schuster called the development “shameful for our country.”

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Jewish communities in Spain comment on Catalan independence E-mail

With separatist movements in the Catalan region now in full stride, the main umbrella group of Spanish Jews has blamed separatists for the kingdom’s crisis and has declared allegiance to the constitution.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain, or FCJE, did this in a statement on 27 October, released just hours after Catalan lawmakers voted to declare independence from Spain, as Madrid vowed in turn to “restore legality” and quash
the region’s secessionist bid.

Expressing “deep concern over the grave national crisis”, the federation stated that the crisis was “caused by the unilateral declaration of independence” of the regional government of Catalonia through its parliament.

“As Spanish Jews we wholly support the Spanish Constitution, the rule of law as applied in accordance with the law, solidarity and equality between all Spanish people and the unity of Spain,” read the statement. Authorities will “restore normalcy in Catalonia”, continued the anti-secessionist statement, along with “fratemity and peaceful coexistence as Spanish citizens”.

The Madrid-based federation's statement notwithstanding, the Jews of Catalonia, who, according to the European Jewish Congress, make up a third of Spain's total Jewish population of 45,000, are deeply divided on the issue of independence, according to Victor Sorenssen, the leader of the Jewish community of Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, “This is a political matter that doesn't directly concern Judaism, so the community has no position on it as such,”Sorenssen said about the organisation representing Barcelona's Jews.

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