Jewish communities in Europe say they feel especially vulnerable following the terror attacks across the continent in recent years, and want governments to dedicate extra policing and intelligence efforts to keep them safe.
Community leaders meeting at the Munich Security Conference Sunday also warned that the rise of populist far right parties threatens their way of life.
Jewish leaders say the plight of their people in Europe will always be seen in the shadow of the Holocaust.
U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence and his family travelled the few kilometers out of Munich Sunday to the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau.
U.S. troops liberated the camp on April 29th 1945.
In total six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Seventy-two years later, Jewish communities across the continent say anti-Semitism is on the rise again.
A session was convened Sunday on the sidelines of the Munich summit to debate how Europe’s Jewish communities can be protected, attended by former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni. Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, told VOA security is the number one concern for Jews across the continent.
“Terrorism – which we have seen in Toulouse, in Paris, in Copenhagen, in Brussels – which has impacted the Jewish community and has also created an exodus from some countries.”
Four percent of the Jewish population in Belgium and France had left for Israel between 2010 and 2015, according to a recent study by the London-based Institute of Jewish Policy Research.
Both countries have seen Jewish communities targeted. In 2014 an Islamic-state inspired attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels killed four people. In 2015 gunmen attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris – the same day as the assault on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Terrorism expert Peter Neumann of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization told the conference specific protection is needed.
“Jewish communities are always in the frontline if you like, and that’s why it’s important that governments intensify their efforts to protect them. It’s also important for Europe in a grander sense, because when Jews get attacked in Europe it is not only Jews as individuals or as a community, in a sense it is the very fabric of our society.”
It’s not only terrorism that’s driving fear. The rise of the populist far right – especially National Front leader Marine Le Pen in France – has raised concerns that religious practices like circumcision or kosher food could be outlawed, according to Chief Rabbi Goldschmidt.
“France is going to be a different country, Europe is going to be a different continent if Marine Le Pen becomes the president of France. There is a coalition, a strengthening of the extreme right in Europe as a by-product of the changing administration in the United States which is of concern,” Goldschmidt told VOA.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni also called for better intelligence sharing between Europe and Israel.