Minister of Religion David Azulai Leads a Delegation Visiting Jewish Communities in Holland, Belgium and France
27/11/2017 9 Kislev 5778
Minister of Religion David Azulai scored a diplomatic victory during his historic tour of European countries, as part of a delegation sent by the RCE, which included a meeting with the president of the Chamber of Representatives of the Belgian Parliament, Mr. Siegfried Bracke. Mr. Bracke promised that the parliament would ask the heads of the European Union to help finance steps to provide security for the synagogues in cities currently experiencing a wave of anti-Semitism. Mr. Bracke claims that in informal talks he has held with high officials of the European Union on the subject, he has found a sympathetic ear.
A tangible excitement could be felt in the central European countries of Holland, Belgium and France, when the delegation led by David Azulai, Israel’s minister of religion, visited there. This trip was part of the RCE’s year-round efforts to maintain ongoing ties between Israel’s religious establishment and the Jewish communities abroad.
The purpose of the trip was to strengthen the relationship with those Jewish communities. In each country visited, the delegation met with its chief rabbis, with the rabbis of its cities and with the heads of its communities. The RCE considered this visit to be a vitally important step in further strengthening the connection between Israel’s ministry of religion and the communities abroad.
The members of the delegation, headed by Minister David Azulai, began their tour in Amsterdam and The Hague. They met the rabbis of the cities, accompanied by Holland’s Chief Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs, who was excited to greet the delegation and to attend these important meetings with them. Harav Jacobs introduced the delegation to a local Christian group that actively supports the Jewish people and the State of Israel. At the invitation of this group, they all visited a unique supermarket that features dozens of Israeli food products, and in particular products from the West Bank.
The delegation and the minister were moved by this supermarket and what it represents. The members of the Christian group related that they had established this market in response to the BDS movement, which attempts to besmirch Israel and have it boycotted throughout the world. Harav Jacobs added that this group gives a great deal of assistance to Jewish communities in the Ukraine, which, in recent years, have had to cope with the reality of war raging there. The group has sent food packages to the local rabbis and their communities in many Ukrainian cities; they also send money to help hire more security officers to protect Jewish institutions in this Eastern European nation.
Afterward, the delegation visited the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, where they were greeted by the leaders of the community. They spoke with local rabbis and heard their very inspiring stories. One rabbi related that once a week he takes his young daughter to a Jewish kindergarten in Antwerp, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Amsterdam, so that she can spend several hours in the company of other Jewish children. Another rabbi related that he takes his seven-year-old son to a Talmud Torah in Belgium three times a week, so that he can absorb Jewish values. The delegation and the minister were quite impressed with the sacrifices of these local rabbis and expressed their great respect for the rabbis and their support of the rabbis’ work there.
The delegation went on to Brussels, where they met with representatives of the parliaments of many European countries. Minister Azulai spoke with a number of high-ranking officials and made it clear that they must act to maintain freedom of religion in their countries. They must enable Jews to live as Jews everywhere on the Continent. He mentioned in particular the issues of kosher slaughter and ritual circumcision, explaining that these issues are fundamental to Judaism. He expressed his surprise at the fact that certain elements in the European Union have supported those who are trying to deny freedom of religion in these areas. After the meetings, the delegation paid a visit to the Ganenu school in Brussels, which some 800 Jewish children attend.
Later on, the delegation visited the Jewish communities in Antwerp, and they completed their tour in Paris, where they met with Paris’s rabbis and the heads of the Jewish communities. They also visited a number of Sephardic congregations in the French capital.
“The connection between the Jewish communities and the Ministry of Religion is extremely important,” said the RCE’s director Rabbi Menachem Margolin. “The communities need this connection – the connection to the Land of Israel and to those who act on behalf of Judaism in Israel.”
RCE deputy director Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg commented: “During this tour, Minister Azulai, along with all the members of the delegation, were able to see firsthand the activities of the various Jewish communities in the countries we visited. It is my hope that we will maintain our ties with the leaders of these communities, especially now that those ties have been strengthened by this visit, and that we will continue to act on behalf of the Jewish nation in Israel and throughout the world.”