A landmark international anti-Semitism conference has opened in Vienna, with over 150 globally renowned experts gathering to discuss practical responses to growing anti-Semitism.
The ‘An End to anti-Semitism!’ conference opened on Sunday evening with a reception in the Vienna City Hall.
Welcoming guests, Federal President of the Republic of Austria Alexander Van der Bellen, said: “The theme of this conference is timely. Although the horrors of the Holocaust took place almost a lifetime ago, anti-Semitismcontinues to be a serious issue today.
“Hostility towards minorities is not a thing of the past. It is a frightening part of the present and likely to challenge us in the future.”
Invited experts will develop specific short-term, mid-term and long-term strategies aimed at combating anti-Semitism around the world.
Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress and a co-sponsor of the event, spoke passionately in his opening address of the need to “plant the seeds that will end anti-Semitism.”
“This must be the beginning of the end of anti-Semitism. Because talking about anti-Semitism is not enough. We must be ambitious and pragmatic in order to find enduring solutions to this problem,” he said.
“People marching in the streets of European capitals shouting ‘Death to the Jews’ has led to the actual death of Jews, and will continue if Europe does not react. We have an obligation not to give anti-Semitism any space in the public sphere with radical forces on the Left and Right gaining strength.”
The conference, hosted at the University of Vienna, is being run in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, New York University and Tel Aviv University.
Renowned guests include Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian Chancellor, Nathan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Audrey Azoulay, Director-general of UNESCO, and Imam Hassen Chalgoumi, President of the Conférence des Imams de France.
“The way to oppose hostile ideologies and extremism is to develop a new ideology, which we call the secure tolerance concept,” added Dr Kantor. “This is a tolerance which is conscious of the new challenges society faces: Islamism, extremism, immigration and persistent social, cultural and economic inequalities.”
The Pope also sent his written greetings, read by Father Hofmann, Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
“I would like to emphasise one word: responsibility. We are responsible when we are able to respond,” he said.
“It is indifference which paralyses us from doing what is right even when we know that it is right. Indifference is a virus that is dangerously contagious in our time- a time when we are ever more connected with others, but increasingly less attentive to others.
“None of us will have a future of peace which is not for all.”
The opening lecture was delivered by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, who urged delegates not to focus on trying to eliminate anti-Semitism, but instead to direct their efforts towards containing it successfully.
An effective strategy, he argued, must counter-attack the new forms of anti-Semitism: anti-Zionism, Holocaust denial and competition of victims.
The conference will subsequently publish a list of policies aimed at tackling anti-Semitism around the world. The policies will be distributed to politicians, religious dignitaries, journalists and other decision-makers.