European initiative tries to combat COVID-induced antisemitic conspiracies

More Jewish communities throughout Europe are reporting a surge in antisemitic rhetoric.

Young European Jewish students and activists mobilize to take a firm stand against the hate at the EJA boot camp, April 2021. (photo credit: CHINO SCHEJTMAN)
Young European Jewish students and activists mobilize to take a firm stand against the hate at the EJA boot camp, April 2021.
(photo credit: CHINO SCHEJTMAN)
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on entire communities and countries around the world. The extent of the social and financial damage caused by the pandemic will probably only become evident in the following years.
One concerning trend the pandemic seems to have encouraged is the rise of antisemitic and anti-Israel sentiment generating from conspiracy theories that blame Jews and the Jewish State for the spread of the disease.
Israel's successful vaccination campaign has ironically served as a catalyst for such dangerous theories, with more Jewish communities throughout Europe reporting a surge in antisemitic rhetoric on social media as well as physical attacks on Jewish public institutions and community buildings. 
A new boot camp initiated and organized by the the European Jewish Association (EJA) in cooperation with the European Center for Jewish Students (ECJS) and the Jewish Community of Madrid, tried to respond to the hatred experienced by young European Jews with hope - by providing them with tools and knowledge meant to empower and prepare them for antisemitic encounters they may face in the future. 
The camp included comprehensive briefings on geo-political issues, meeting and activities with leading advocates, scholars, journalists and local leaders, and lively debates on burning issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
A focus was put on Israel's perception on social media and public discourse in Europe, and on ways it can be improved to better express the Israeli "angle." 
The boot camp was held in Madrid, Spain, in accordance with COVID-19 regulations.
“COVID-19 inspired antisemitism has brought with it a resurgence of some of the worst libels in history – and we must defend ourselves," said EJA Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin. "After a very long time in which we were unable to hold face to face meetings, we are very happy to be able to gather this very unique group of young Jewish students who share our determination of abolishing all forms of hate and intolerance in the public sphere," he added.
The issue of COVID-induced antisemitic conspiracy theories was discussed in length during the first-ever Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism that was held last March and attended by dozens of mayors around the world. The conference, held via Zoom, was the first step in launching a global mayors’ network, united in the fight against antisemitism.
More importantly, it expressed a clear commitment by people in power to carry out practical initiatives meant to combat the surge of antisemitism that "exists everywhere and is a tangible threat to every city in the world," said Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker ahead of the conference back in February. 
“As mayors and municipal representatives, we have a duty to protect our communities and ensure the continuity of Jewish life in our cities. I call on municipal leaders in Europe, the US and all around the world to join us and work to translate our values into practical policies,” he added. 
The issue has not only plagued European cities, with various indicating a rise in antisemitic incidents in the US during the past year characterized by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
On Sunday, it was reported that America's first university-affiliated Jewish living quarters in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was completed and will be open to students applying for the class of 2021-2022. 
One must wonder in what direction the world is heading when an American university in 2021 needs to establish separate living quarters for its Jewish students in order to combat antisemitism on campus.