The Times of Israel published my new article “The future of Europe and the Jews”
November marks the memory of two major events in European history that still resonate in today’s continent: Kristallnacht, the beginning of the systematic persecution of Jews that culminated with the Holocaust; and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the beginning of Europe’s reunification process. But how much has the continent advanced toward unity in the last few decades? Is it going backwards? Do Jews feel safer? Amid rising anti-Semitism and sociopolitical challenges in Europe, it is evident that the glass walls of the continent’s security and stability can be broken any time.
The Reappearance of Hatred That Never Vanished
If we forget the atrocities of the past, we constantly get reminders. Jews were murdered, synagogues were torched, thousands of Jewish-owned businesses, homes and schools were plundered by the Nazis on Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) 81 years ago. This month, right in 2019, the commemoration of the pogroms was marked by a wave of anti-Semitic attacks across Scandinavia attributed to neo-Nazis. More than 80 graves were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in Denmark, and, stickers resembling yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust were placed on multiple Jewish sites in Denmark and Sweden, including on the Great Synagogue in Stockholm.
In Germany, hundreds of neo-Nazis marched on the anniversary of the anti-Jewish riots, while a multitude of demostrators against the rally questioned why German officials turn a blind eye to such events promoted by extremists.
Massive immigration, economic challenges, and increasing political and social divisions in Europe are fueling radical movements from the right and from the left. And as we have learned from history, that is fertile ground to hatred against Jews. This is precisely the reason why the current state of affairs should matter to us.
The Berlin’s Wall Fell But the Tower of Babel Stands Strong
A call for European unity was the key message of an article recently published in 26 EU countries by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, commemorating the fall of the Berlin’s Wall 30 years ago. Conversely, today’s Europe resembles the period of upheaval in ancient Babylon when social division prevailed.
In fact, the downfall of the EU within the next one or two decades is perceived as a possible reality by more than 50% of Europeans, according to a survey conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations earlier this year.
How Jews Can Contribute to Europe’s Future
Knowing our background is crucial to understanding how the Jewish people can contribute to a prosperous future not only for itself but for Europe and the entire world. The people of Israel was not born as a nation in the common sense of the word but as a group of people who subscribed to an idea, the idea of unity. It was formed by Abraham the Patriarch from representatives of different tribes and cultures, just as today’s Europe.
They were an eclectic amalgamation joined only by the idea that there is one force that governs the universe. They also grasped that this force is one of mercy, love, and unity, and that only this force can connect us above our differences and give us the power to agree to unite “as one man with one heart.”
Humanity is now discovering that separation is leading to a dead end, therefore, it is more aware of the need to achieve the opposite state, the state of unity. The nations of the world instinctively feel that Jews, who once attained connection above internal rifts, have the solution to achieve a harmonious existence.
Since Jews are currently not delivering such example of positive connection through Abraham’s method, the nations of the world manifest their pain and discomfort as growing anti-Semitism.
Our role and our most important contribution to the world, according to Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam), the most renowned Kabbalist of the 20th Century, is to be a conduit to transfer the goodness of unity to humanity. However, in order for that to happen, we must first implement it on ourselves.
Once we return to a unified state, we will be able to submit to humanity as a whole the method of unity and love among human beings. “And when they do that, it is plain to see that with His work, all envy and hatred will be abolished from humanity” (Baal HaSulam, “The Peace“).
The paramount role of Jews to a promising future for all was also highlighted by Rav Kook, as it is written: “In Israel is the secret to the unity of the world” (Orot HaKodesh).