This survey of contemporary issues in Ukrainian Jewish life provides information on the following topics: local Jewish community organizations, Jewish welfare needs, Jewish education, community property, emigration, and future prospects. Part one of this article can be found at http://hdl.handle.net/10207/17996
This survey of contemporary issues in Ukrainian Jewish life provides detailed information on the following topics: contemporary Ukrainian political and economic climate; Jewish history; Jewish demography; contemporary antisemistism; indigenous Jewish leadership; the role of international Jewish organizations; and Ukrainian national Jewish organizations.
When the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, with responsibility for almost all home affairs, the Jewish community set up the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) as a democratic representative body to speak on its behalf. SCoJeC monitors legislation and informs Parliament and civic and religious bodies on Jewish issues and attitudes.
SCoJeC has been very successful in influencing Scottish government policy in areas such as family law, looted Holocaust art, the census, and health and safety issues. It also has responsibility for outreach work to scattered Jews in outlying areas, ensuring their access to Jewish facilities in the larger centers as well as arranging activities in remote centers in the Highlands.
There has been historically little antisemitism in Scotland, and in particular good relations with the churches. Recently there has been a significant increase, much of it associated with events in the Middle East. Specifically, the Scottish trade union movement has pursued a policy of boycotting Israel despite a dialogue with the Jewish community aimed at understanding both sides of the conflict.
Jews see themselves – and also are seen as such by many educated Italians – as one of the “tribes” of what can best be called “the Italian nation in the making.” The rise in recent decades of the Northern League shows once again that the idea of Italy as a single state is a contested one. In such a context there is suddenly a place again for the Jews as one of the distinct Italian groups, as was the case for many centuries before Italian unity.
Another development of the last decades has been the reinvention of the Italian Fascist Party. Most of its members joined in 1995 a new movement, Alleanza Nazionale. Its leader, Gianfranco Fini needed the Jews and Israel to give legitimization to his party as genuine democrats.
External developments have fostered a sudden reemergence of Italian Jewry. This has made Italian Jews again proud of their identity.
The immigration of Muslims and the rise of Islam in the Netherlands have created problems for the Jewish community and will continue to do so. There are about one million Muslims in the Netherlands. Their influence on the political system is increasing. This cannot be positive for the Jews. The more power the Muslim community gains, the more it will weaken the Jewish community’s relations with a number of ministries.
The Jewish community faces increasing anti-Semitism. This has led to enhanced security measures. It also threatens to intensify attitudes based on fear.
An important element in Dutch Jewish history over the past decade was the restitution negotiations. As a result, the Dutch government made a payment of 400 million guilders (180 million Euros) to the Dutch community. Banks, insurance companies, and the stock exchange made additional payments that totaled 340 million guilders (155 million Euros).
Many issues from the Jewish past in Poland have to be dealt with. It is difficult to strike a balance between focusing on the future and dealing with problems of the past. About 1,300 of the 1,400 remaining Jewish cemeteries are still unattended. Also, information is increasingly forthcoming about unmarked mass graves.
General Polish interest in Jews and Israel is intensifying. More and more small non-Jewish groups want to “do something Jewish.” A number of them are involved in cleaning up unattended Jewish cemeteries.
Relations with the Catholic Church remain ambivalent. Some bishops take a very positive attitude toward Jews. The teachings of the late Pope John Paul II play a major role in their attitude. Others are traditionalists and hold problematic positions toward Jews.
The author discusses the Jewish and Muslim populations of Sweden, outlines venues and efforts for interfaith dialogue between the two groups, identifies issues of mutual interest (including promoting tolerance for ritual slaughter and circumcision), identifies issues of conflict, and notes instances of attacks on Jews.
The Muslim community in Switzerland is marked by extreme religious and ethnic diversity and hence, also, by a variety of attitudes toward Jews and Israel. There has so far been no openly anti-Jewish mass movement among Muslims with multiple hate crimes committed such as in France. Kurds, Turks, and Bosnians tend to be more secular and friendlier toward Jews than Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East.
There has been some cooperation between the Jewish and Muslim communities with the former even providing support to the latter. Certain Muslim groups want to learn from the established Jewish community how to gain legal, political, and social acceptance in Switzerland.
Muslims have not been the driving force behind the Swiss version of the new Europe-wide anti-Semitism. However, there is a growing radicalization of disaffected Muslim youth, with Islamism gaining ground among certain groups.
Despite outward appearances there is a broad range of Jewish-Muslim dialogue groups and other kinds of interaction. This includes cultural associations, religious dialogues-in which sometimes Christians are also involved-as well as interaction on the local level between synagogues and mosques.
On the other side of the spectrum there are many violent attacks by Muslims on Jews. Among identified perpetrators of violent incidents, Muslims number much higher than their share of the population. The main sources of Muslim antisemitic hate propaganda are in certain Islamic groups, madrassas, and mosques. Some campuses have become hostile environments for Jews openly identifying with Israel.
On some religious issues such as circumcision Muslims and Jews have common interests. On others, such as the introduction of religious law, their positions greatly diverge.
Support from the American Joint Distribution Committee and other foreign groups enabled the Jewish community to provide free food, medicine, as well as radio and mail services.
During the battle for Sarajevo the Jewish community evacuated a thousand Jews and two thousand non-Jews in eleven convoys and planes.
At present, six Jewish communities remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina with a total of a thousand members. Of these seven hundred are in Sarajevo and the remainder in Mostar, Zenica, Tuzla, Banja Luka, and Doboj.
Christian-Jewish relations have several components. One aspect is that a number of Christians study Judaism. A second is interfaith dialogue, and a third concerns Christian attitudes toward Israel. These are to some extent intertwined.
The current Israeli-Palestinian struggle provides a cover for rehabilitating ancient anti-Jewish feelings. The deeper, historically conditioned anti-Jewish tendencies are not easily disposed of. The culture of paranoiac anti-Judaism is still alive.
Demographically, post-Soviet Jewry has seen an overall decline resulting from assimilation, intermarriage, low fertility, high mortality, and emigration of younger age cohorts. Some demographers believe that less than 500,000 Jews remain in the post-Soviet states. An intermarriage rate that some view as exceeding 80 percent creates complex situations for those Jewish groups that prefer to confine their programs to halachically Jewish individuals.
Jewish identity among Jews in Russia and Ukraine is most likely to be expressed as a sense of Jewish heritage, in particular, a common cultural or intellectual heritage, rather than a sense of common spirituality or sharply focused religious practice. Post-Soviet Jews also tend to believe that Jews should be familiar with modern Israel, but not necessarily feel obligated to live in Israel.
Jewish numbers were never high in Switzerland although many Jewish communities existed there in the Middle Ages. A pattern began in 1348 when many cities in the territories of what was to become the Swiss Confederacy murdered their Jews and expelled the survivors.
Jews were denied entry and residence for many centuries. By the seventeenth century a small Jewish population had been established in Swiss-conquered areas. The French occupation of 1798 bolstered the Jewish presence. Discrimination, however, continued until outside pressure led to emancipation in 1868-1874.
After World War I Jewish immigration was made impossible, culminating in the anti-Jewish refugee policy during World War II. In the postwar period Swiss Jews experienced a new acceptance and prosperity despite demographic weakness. More recently a largely homemade anti-Semitism has arisen that gained momentum with the restitution debate of the 1990s.
The subject of Jews and Poland involves three interrelated matters. The first concerns what is currently happening to the Jews living in Poland. The second is Poland’s Jewish heritage, including its physical remnants: cemeteries, synagogues, communal and private property. The third has to do with the nature of Polish- Jewish relations.
Poland is still in a major state of flux. Since 1989, official Poland has wanted to reexamine its relations with the Jews. The main reasons for this are the teachings of Pope John Paul II, Poland’s admiration for the United States, and the rejection among the younger generation of everything their parents and grandparents stood for.
Although the main government force, the Law and Justice Party, is not anti- Semitic, the coalition now contains an anti-Semitic party, the Polish Families League, whose leader, Roman Giertych, is deputy prime minister and minister of education. This poses many dilemmas for the Jewish community, and Israel is boycotting Giertych.
Among the Jewish institutions in France, three occupy central positions. The Consistoire Central de France (Consistoire) deals with religious issues; the Fonds Social Juif Unifié (FSJU) addresses social concerns; and the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF) is the roof organization of France’s major Jewish institutions.
The major Jewish organizations in France are in crisis. The organizational model that has served the French community in the past decades is no longer viable. It is unclear whether a new workable model will emerge that can replace it.
The current claim that a revival of British Jewry has taken place is supported mainly by the excellent work of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in London. The JPR has carried out an important analysis of the UK national census data of 2011 and supplemented it with its own more recent community studies, in particular, its 2013 National Jewish Community Survey (NJCS) and its 2016 Jewish Schools report. To be sure, as with all sociological studies, particularly concerning Jews, there are less encouraging data that emphasize the challenges, failures and threats that confront the British Jewish community.
This essay, however, argues that the vibrancy of a community should not be judged by the threats that it faces. While threats and danger form an existential part of Jewish life, they do not necessarily determine the strength or weakness of a particular community. It is important that a community understands the nature of such threats and can organize to overcome them successfully. In doing so, the Jewish community in the U.K. provides evidence that it is vibrant and undergoing a revival. This study focuses on four aspects that show the revival of British Jewish life: demography; religious identity; educational and cultural activity; and confronting antisemitism.