WUJS at the Diplomatic Salon
di Giulia Limentani
On Wednesday 7th december 2022, the Diplomatic Salon on the European Union’s Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life was held in Israel, Herzlya home of the EU Ambassador, Dimiter Tzantchev.
The panel featured speakers such as Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis; Natan Sharansky, former Jewish Agency Chairman and Combat Antisemitism Movement representative; Minister-Counsellor Ruth Cohen-Dar; Director of the Department for combating Antisemitism at the Foreign Affairs Ministry; Jean-François Guthmann, member of the Executive Board of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, and World Union of Jewish Students CEO Shelly Wolkowicz. As well as ambassadors and diplomats from 25 countries, activists and civil society leaders.
One year ago, the European Commission presented the first-ever E.U. strategy for combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life. EU Ambassador to Israel Dimiter Tzantchev stated that for Europeans, lofty words are not enough, and that’s the reason why in October 2021, the European Union presented its first-ever Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life. The 26-page program included millions in funds to secure Jewish sites. It had three central objectives: to prevent anti-Semitism in all its forms, to protect and promote Jewish life, and to promote research, education and remembrance of the Holocaust.
According to Shelly Wolkowicz, CEO of WUJS (World Union of Jewish Students): “There is a lot of antisemitism in Europe, and it is right under many people’s eyes. Nowadays anti-semitism has changed a lot, especially after Covid, since it’s happening mostly online and therefore also the tools to combat it should be different. However, I’m a very optimistic person so I never wanted to focus just on antisemitism, but also on the positive activities that we promote. Talking about one of the initiatives that students are bringing forward, there is the cleaning of the stolpersteines (the golden stones with the names of those people deported from their houses because of persecution) and celebrating the jewish life by showing all its positive aspects. Therefore my aim is to show optimism towards making a change”.
The EU Strategy to Combat Anti-Semitism and Promote Jewish Life (2021-2030) has put forward a number of concrete actions.
To combat anti-Semitism, the Commission will lead the creation of a network of organisations across Europe to highlight anti-Semitic content online and develop counter-narratives. He will also work with tech firms and retailers to prevent online sales of Nazi-themed merchandise.
“WUJS is an umbrella organization, therefore the greatest value is what we share, which means that we must learn and ensure the best practices within the network that we want to create. We also have different lecturers learning, and we do also our own come back in the antisemitism and trainership with a collaboration with partners like Yad Vashem or ADL” stated Shelly Wolkowicz.
In addition to that, to promote Holocaust awareness and education, the Commission has declared that it will create a network of lesser-known Holocaust sites, like hiding places or shooting ranges. The strategy also aimed to establish a network of youth ambassadors to promote Holocaust memory.
Upon its release, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “Europe can only prosper when its Jewish communities feel safe and can prosper”.
“The Center for Jewish Impact created the ’Diplomatic Salon‘ project to offer a shared platform for key players in Israeli society with foreign ambassadors, senior diplomats, special envoys and attachés based in Israel,” said Robert Singer, Chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact. “Through the Salon we covered a critical issue for the State of Israel and the Jewish diaspora around the world using in-depth discussions and extensive reviews of the impact of antisemitism on the lives of the Jewish diaspora alongside fostering their well-being”.
As said by Shelly Wolkowicz: it’s very important to have young people seating at the table and voicing out their opinions and their initiatives, to also reflect on what’s going on. The crowd was composed by ambassadors from all over the world and was an opportunity to share with them what’s really happening all over the world, since young jews have different experiences regarding antisemitism. It was also important to share all the initiatives that they have about climate change, LGBTQ rights, women rights etc. The perspective of young people is first of all a mirror of what’s really going on, as it’s easy when one becomes adult to forget about the front line of everything that happened in politics, so it’s giving an immediate feedback. It was also an amazing opportunity to share how easily young people can be engaged and really want to make a change in the world. I hope that in the future they would like to actually willing to meet with the young people from the countries who lives in Israel’s or with the young Jewish people in their communities and really see their struggles”.
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