EUJS Speaks about Challenges and Opportunities for European Jewry

As the only democratically elected pan-European Jewish youth organization of its kind, EUJS takes pride and responsibility in contributing to the Jewish communities of tomorrow and in shaping a positive identity for youth. We had the chance to present our vision for a resilient Jewish peoplehood within the conference “Youth Voices: Challenges, Opportunities and an Uncertain Future”, organized at the European Parliament and chaired by MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar.

Benjamin Fischer shared EUJS expertise pertaining to the situation of youth on campus. He highlighted the fact that despite the rise in hate crimes and hate speech around the world, notably on university campuses, EUJS does not want to work against society, but with it. The values embedded by EUJS are best summed up in the mantra “Jewish rights are human rights, and human rights are Jewish rights”. He stressed that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is not a political discourse, as it serves directly to spread hate and poses great threats to European Jewish identities.

Joining Benny Fischer on the panel was the elected President of the Union of the Jewish Students (UJS) of the UK and Ireland, Josh Seitler, who argued that “anti-Semitism often comes from a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge about what being Jewish is and what Judaism stands for”. He suggested that a proper way to combat this phenomenon is to have regular meetings between Jews and people from other religions in order for them to have a more thorough perception of Judaism. The other alarming issue that he pointed out is that often people juxtapose Jews from all over the world with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they wrongfully perceive those Jews as ambassadors of the State of Israel.

Nethanel Cohen-Selal, member of the French Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), stated that the UEJF’s mission is fighting discrimination, extremism and antisemitism, with an emphasis on schools. He noted that UEJF is also fighting for mediation and exchange, through bringing both Jews and non-Jews to Israel. In his speech, he mentioned four types of anti-Semitic behavior. The first refers to the negative preconceived representations of Jewish people. The second involves conspiracy theories, while the third is the State of Israel being used as a tool for advocacy against Jews in general, not necessarily against Israel itself. The fourth, and most dangerous, is the denial of the Holocaust. Cohen-Selal likewise mentioned that the above-mentioned four types of anti-Semitism are not separate, but mixed, which represents a great peril to Jews all over the world.

EUJS, alongside UJS and UEJF strongly underlines the beliefe in a future for Jews in Europe. We believe that our commitment to shaping a positive Jewish identity, the strengthening of ties with other minorities, intercultural dialogue and the fight for inclusiveness will make this future a flourishing one.