The recent attack of a young Jewish man in Berlin for the “crime” of wearing a Kippa with a star of David highlights the volatile state of Jews in Europe. This is followed by the heart-wrenching rape and murder of Suzanne Feldman, a beautiful 14-year-old German Jewish teen, sending shock waves throughout the world. These stories and more, highlight the often-ignored plight of European Jewry. It is a time for us, American Jews, to ask ourselves if we have done enough for European Jews.

Living in New York, I meet European Jewish refugees-- daily. No, they are not showing up in tattered clothing, crowded boats, and empty-handed. They are often well to do, well-educated, and know English. They are still refugees. And we are failing them. I meet young French Jews who see no future for themselves in France, Jews who left Berlin, Belgium, Holland, and more.

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They come here because they have no choice. Yes, they can pretend they are not Jewish and live happily in their home countries, but they can’t live there as Jews. They come here because they want to be able to identify as Jews and not live in fear. They don’t want to live in France just to have the fate of Ilan Halimi who was mercilessly kidnapped and slaughtered in Paris. They want to send their kids to schools that don’t need armed commandos to protect them. They want to walk the streets with a kippa, something you can no longer do even in many parts of London.


With no European county that is safe for Jews anymore, American Jews must ask themselves some very hard questions. What are we doing for European Jews? Are we doing anything to correct our historical—and not often discussed--crime of not doing enough for European Jews during WWII? Were some of our own parents and grandparents in a similar situation and someone helped them? Or perhaps someone didn’t help them, and we would like to correct that?

With organizations like HIAS and other Jewish refugee advocacy groups not stepping up to the plight of our relatively “well to do” Jewish brothers and sisters who are in crisis, who is helping them? I do not know of one Jewish organization in New York City whose purpose is to help French Jews or any other group of European Jews and that stains my self-image of a proud New York Jew. There are thousands of them among us, and there should be more.

Jews do not feel safe in Europe. Many of them want to live and don’t have the means to do so. Perhaps they don’t know how life will be once they arrive here. European Jews must know that there is a loving and welcoming Jewish community in North America that will do all it can to welcome them. The time for us to act is now.
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