The President of the Conference of European Rabbis has vowed to “maintain and strengthen the Jewish communities of Europe” amid fears that the continent could be “lost to extremists”.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt told a Vienna meeting of the Conference’s standing committee that the organisation would do “everything possible” to “sustain Jewish life” in Europe.
In a keynote address, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow – who was yesterday re-elected to a new five year presidential term – said: “Europeans are deeply worried about their own security, the security of their children and their future economic prosperity. Europeans are worried about the secular democratic space, about their religious freedoms, about losing Europe to extremists.
“It is for these reasons that Europeans are increasingly giving their votes to far right party candidates, who promise to recreate both a sense of security and a renewed sense of national patriotism by closing the borders and by promising to rein in terrorists.
“We will do everything possible to maintain and strengthen the Jewish communities of Europe.”
He added: “We will help smaller communities garner their resources to sustain Jewish life, even as their numbers dwindle and their resources become more scarce.”
Rabbi Goldschmidt had earlier criticised the lacklustre response of mainstream parties to concerns over security – and said such fears were allowing the European far-right to gain a foothold in communities across the continent.
He said in an interview that he believed a “not insignificant” number of Austrian Jews voted for far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in last month’s presidential election – and went on to say that he had heard of a similar groundswell of Jewish support for France’s anti-immigration Front National.
He told Reuters: “When those parties come with a populist message to the Jews and say ‘We’re going to save you from the Muslims,’… propaganda is effective”.
The Conference’s three day meeting was held just one week after Hofer won an unprecedented 49 per cent of the vote in Austria’s presidential run-off.
The Vienna summit also included meetings on anti-Semitism with local Jewish community leaders, a breakfast with Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, and a tour of the Ancient Vienna Synagogue and Holocaust Memorial site.