European Commission working on official strategy to combat antisemitism

According to the European Commission, 70% of Jews are scared to wear a kippa or Star of David in public.

 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Rabbi Menachem Margolin participate in a menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2021. (photo credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Rabbi Menachem Margolin participate in a menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2021.
(photo credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that her team is working on the first-ever European Strategy on combating antisemitism at the lighting of the Euro-Hanukkah in Brussels on Thursday.

The Euro-Hanukkah is a 5-meter-high hanukkiah that is lit every year outside the European Commission and European Council buildings.

"It is such an honor for me to light a candle on this hanukkiah, which will cast its light on the European quarter tonight," said von der Leyen. "It is wonderful to be present here at an ancient Jewish tradition, celebrating a miracle from over two thousand years ago."

She added that the Jewish culture has much to teach Europe. "In fact, our European culture would not be as rich as it is without Jewish culture, Jewish values, Jewish art and Jewish cuisine," she said.

Von der Leyen further took the opportunity to address the rise of antisemitism in Europe despite the the promise Europeans made at the end of the Holocaust to put an end to antisemitism and intolerance.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Rabbi Menachem Margolin participate in a menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2021. (credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Rabbi Menachem Margolin participate in a menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah in Brussels, Belgium, December 2, 2021. (credit: JOHANNA GERON/REUTERS)

"Too many Jewish schools and synagogues, today, have to be protected by armed guards," she said. 

As well as the guards, 70% of Jews in Europe reported that they feel unsafe wearing a kippa or a Star of David in public, not to mention the vast number of antisemitic conspiracy theories that arose surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and rising hate speech on the continent.

But the problem is not just active antisemitism, according to von der Leyen. "Seven in ten Europeans say that they know nothing about Jewish life and Judaism," she said. "And this means ignoring an essential part of our European culture."

The new strategy is intended to work to fix these issues "from fighting antisemitic propaganda online and offline to protecting Jewish communities around Europe."

"No Jewish family should be afraid to show its identity," von der Leyen ended. "Do it! We are proud of it, we want to see it!."