Jewish communities across Europe have been severely affected by the Corona epidemic and the logistical and organizational challenges created by the draconian lockdown procedures.
Heads of communities and rabbis who took part in the event last night gave testimony in a virtual European remembrance service initiated by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association and chair of the Rabbinical center of Europe.
Many in tears recounted being unable to attend or provide a proper Jewish funeral for the victims of the virus as well as having to give up mourning practices such as sitting shiva and holding memorial events for the perished.
Rabbi Margolin said at the opening of the moving event that “European Jews still have to face a double burden – the heavy loss of those who perished, many of whom have not been properly honored – on the one hand, and the continued anti-Semitic conspiracies as if it were the Jews who spread the virus on the other.
‘Budget constraints have also reduced the security of the military and police forces for Jewish synagogues and institutions. “
Rabbi Margolin emphasized that he initiated the virtual event to allow Jewish communities to honor the victims, but no less important – to convey a vital message of unity and mutual support and solidarity, “That the memory and good deeds of the deceased will encourage all communities to unite and ensure the continuity of Jewish life in Europe, and also prove to the anti-Semites that “the people of Israel are alive”.
Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Israel David Lowe and Rishon Lezion, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef who honored the virtual event by their presence, strengthened the heads of European congregations and rabbis and prayed that the communities would find solace in prayer and study of the Torah and enhance the memory of those who perished throughout the Jewish life.
Diaspora Minister MK Omar Yankelevich noted that just as Diaspora Jewry always stands to the right of Israel, so too did these State of Israel during these difficult months to assist as much as it could to the Jewish communities in Europe. The virus requires us all to implement in practice the imperative of all of us to each other: to join forces and to cooperate with the aim of securing the future of the entire Jewish people – in Israel and in the Diaspora, the Minister reported on the formulation of a strategic plan to strengthen Israel-Diaspora ties and to enhance Jewish education in the communities.
KKL-JNF chairman Danny Atar acceded to the request of the chairman of the European Jewish Organizations Association, declaring that the KKL-JNF would be planted in the forest of Europe, a tree in memory of each of the Jewish victims of the Corona epidemic in various communities.
The CEO of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe Rabbi Arie Goldberg opened the event chapters from the Psalms and immediately thereafter, there was a live broadcast fof a prayer service from the Great Synagogue in Paris dedicated to Jewish victims of the virus.
The president of the French Consistoire, the official organization of French Jews, Joel Mergui and Paris’s Chief Rabbi Michel Guggenheim noted that the Jewish community in France paid a very high price during the epidemic. “
Tonight, we all remember our loved ones who are no longer with us, and know that despite the terrible tragedy and despite the day-to-day difficulties, we must continue to live in solidarity and support each other. The virus has restored us to the sanctity of life.”
Rome Jewish President, Ruth Dureghello and President of Milan Jewish Community, Milo Sabani told of the terrible tragedies experienced by Jewish communities in Italy and the loss of many – including the young. The virus has transformed our lives and every day we have lost community members – young and old alike.
Many community members did sacred work, but in some cases the funeral could not be held and the grief was not complete.
The community leaders in Italy noted that one of the highlights during the horrible period was the cohesion within the community and aid offered by Jewish communities from other countries such as the European Jewish Association, the Jewish Agency and the Ministry of diaspora affairs in Israel. The strict measures that led to the protection of the elderly in the community nursing home was proven and all 100 tenants survived the period, they noted.
Madrid Jewish Vice President Andy Argas and Barcelona Jewish Community President Raymond Forado also spoke about life in the shadow of the epidemic, stating “The most important lesson we learned from the epidemic is the importance of the connections and mutual engagement among all Jewish communities in Spain, Europe, Israel and the world. This experience taught us day after day that we are a special people, each of whom must now say “I am” and do all he can to restore the community, increase educational activity and show the youth of the community the hope of a more cohesive future.
Deputy President of the Council of Jewish Communities in Germany, Abraham Lerer noted that the proportion of Jews who perished in the epidemic is greater than the proportion of Jews in the population they live in, and that this statistic is being used as widespread antisemitic propaganda claiming that Jews are the spreaders of the disease.
Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Synagogue, Rabbi Avi Lazarus noted that “502 of the 40,000 people who died in Britain were Jews, not just numbers people, each of them a world full of Jewish educators, community leaders and young people who are already missing, a notable and heavy absence from Jewish life in Britain “
Brussels President of the Jewish Community, Philip Markowitz and President of the Antwerp Jewish Organizations, Regina Sluzny, both noted that solidarity and aid in Belgium were evident not only within the Jewish communities but also among the Jews and their non-Jewish neighbours. The virus did not only affect the Jews but the inhabitants of the entire world. We must make sure that the plague does not hurt our solidarity as a people. We must stand with our community members to ensure a better world for our children and for the memory of our friends who are no longer with us. “