On 22-23 January 2024, a two-day meeting of the members of the European Jewish Association took place at the Double Tree by Hilton Cracow Hotel & Convention Centre and then at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, under the theme: NIGDY WIĘCEJ. Puste słowa czy faktyczne zaangażowanie? (NEVER AGAIN: Lip Service or Deep Commitment?).
The European Jewish Association is a leading Jewish organisation in Europe. The entity affiliates major Jewish organisations, including the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland. The EJA has been established to strengthen and expand the Jewish identity and presence across Europe, and most of all, to defend the interests of European Jews. The hallmark of the European Jewish Association is its openness to cooperation with the non-Jewish world. It should be emphasised that the EJA does not identify itself with a closed-door Judaism and calls for a dialogue across religious and cultural divides.
For the Social and Cultural Association of Jews in Poland, hosting of this year’s European Jewish Association Conference in Cracow was a great honour, and is an explicit confirmation of the high profile of this entity within the organisational structures of European Jews.
Among those delegated to the conference on behalf of the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland were its members, presided over by Artur Hofman, who is also editor-in-chief of Dos Jidisze Wort, as well as Edward Odoner, Jacek Młynarski, Abraham Hayman, Ignacy Einhorn and Michał Zajda. It should also be emphasised that Edward Odoner and Joël Mergui, Chair of the Israelite Central Consistory of France, Estrella Bengio, Chair of the Jewish Community of Madrid, Rabbi Avi Lazarus, CEO of the Federation of Synagogues in the UK, Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, European Jewish Association, Commission against Anti-Semitism (Netherlands), Ricardo Pacifici, Deputy Chair at Jewish Leaders Council of the European Jewish Association for Italy and Jewish Heritage, Noa Levy, a student at Queen Mary University of London, and Bianka Sieradzka, a student at Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, attended a panel addressing the issue of the rise in anti-Semitism and the steps needed to integrate communities to promote safety.
Alongside the above mentioned participants, the conference was attended by Wojciech Kolarski, Secretary of State in the Chancellery of President Andrzej Duda, who oversees the Office of the President’s Speeches and Patronage, and the Office of Culture and National Heritage, Re’uwen Riwlin, President of the State of Israel from 2014 to 2021, Kjell Stefan Löfven Prime Minister of Sweden from 2014 to 2021 and President of the Party of European Socialists from 2022, Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain from 2004 to 2010, Roman Kwiatkowski, Chair of the Main Board of the Roma People Association of Poland, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Chair of the Board – Speaker Dáil Éireann in Ireland, Věra Kovářová Vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, Ján Čarnogurský, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic from 1991 to 1992, Borut Pahor, Prime Minister of Slovenia from 2008 to 2012 and President of Slovenia from 2012 to 2022, Milo Đukanović, four-time Prime Minister of Montenegro, President of Montenegro from 1998 to 2023, Sebastian Kurz, two-time Chancellor of Austria, Manuel Carlos Valls Galfetti, Prime Minister of France from 2014 to 2016, Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy from 2014 to 2016, Jorgos Andreas Papandreu, Prime Minister of Greece in the years 2009-2011 and Rabbi Menachem Margolin, President and Founder of the European Jewish Association.
Discussions at the conference took place in the shadow of the Hamas aggression against Israel on 7 October 2023 and the associated rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and these were, unfortunately, the dominant themes of the meeting, both within the main discussion forum and behind the scenes.
The special guest at the conference was Elon Musk, a South African multi-billionaire who lives in the United States, the founder and co-founder of, among others, PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla, and owner of X (formerly Twitter) since October 2022. Before his arrival at the conference, during which he had a nearly hour-long conversation with the US political commentator, writer and lawyer Benjamin Aaron Shapiro, Elon Musk visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. His visit was motivated by a controversial post on X, which resulted in him being accused of anti-Semitism. It needs be stated that some hi-tech giants some of the high-tech giants have decided to suspend their advertising campaigns on the platform X. Their decision was not only a direct consequence of this unfortunate statement by Musk, but also the wave of anti-Semitism that has been uncontrollably flooding this social medium for some time, and the associated passivity in preventing such postings.
On the second day of the event, the invited guests visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim, where they laid flowers and attended a Kadesh ceremony.
A video recording of all the speeches can be viewed on the European Jewish Association’s YT channel.
By Michał Zajda, 25 January 2024
Photo by: Bartek Dziedzic / Eja
Photo by: Sabina Kwiatkowska