About a bar mitzvah, a monument and an idiot. Diary of the Chief Rabbi 11 May 2022

On May 3, I had barely returned from New York where I was due to attend a granddaughter's bat mitzvah, and was already in a cinema in the afternoon. Now I am not exactly a frequent visitor of cinemas, in fact the last time I was in a cinema will be about sixty years ago. But now I went again. And it was certainly worth it. In Den Helder, a monument was unveiled in memory of the 118 murdered Jews of Den Helder. That in itself is not so special, because in many places that has happened or will happen, fortunately/fortunately. No, what was special was the film that was linked to this unveiling and that was made especially to be shown in schools and thus to confront and warn young people about rising anti-Semitism, racial hatred and discrimination.

And whether this warning is still necessary? Dear reader. You don't have to look only at Russia/Ukraine, but listen for a moment to what was told to me in Den Helder by a resident of Texel who was one of the organisers of this impressive 3 May in Den Helder

"Almost 20 years ago, I hung the Israeli flag on the façade during Independence Day, Yom Ha'atsmaut. I went shopping and when I came back it appeared that about 10 eggs had been thrown against the (white) façade of my house. On my garden wall were several drawings, A4 size. Pictures of children waving Palestinian flags I did not report the incident, but I did report it to the police. My employer, a government agency, who had heard about the incident, told me to stay away from political statements. Unfortunately, not a word of disapproval"

Den Helder

"During the recent Holocaust Remembrance Day, I hung the Israeli flag at half mast in the flagpole of my house. At that moment, cyclists (tourists) were passing by and one of them shouted: What are you doing you idiot!"

And that is why that monument in Den Helder and the educational project linked to it are so essential. Yesterday I was at the Town Hall in Amersfoort together with my esteemed colleague Rabbi Shimon Evers to talk about a monument to commemorate the Jews murdered in Amersfoort. The care with which this project is surrounded is amazing. Here, too, we are thinking hard about the educational 'by-catch'. How can we involve all the schools, what is a worthy location and where is it most visible?

But there was more to do in Amersfoort. A Bar Mitzvah! And not just any boy, but a regular visitor to the shul services who from now on counts in the minyan, the quorum of the ten adult men needed to hold the shul services. And we can use this addition. Even though the shul was not interrupted during the Corona period, as one of the few places in the Netherlands where Jewish people live, Jewish Amersfoort can use this addition because two other regular shul-goers, regular minyan men, will be leaving soon. That is very nice, because they are going to Israel, but it is an attack on the core of the regular shul-goers. But with Ber, the new minyan, things should continue to work out. The party was great. Ber did a great job reading from the Torah, both on the day of his Bar Mitzvah on Thursday as well as on Shabbat. A beautiful Kiddush after the Shabbat shul service and a brunch after the Thursday morning service. Then on Sunday there was a party for invited guests. Ber: Bar Mitzvah is not an ending, but a beginning. And it is nice to hear that, as Rabbi Evers indicated in his speech, he will continue with the Jewish lessons. Good luck! It was a Bar Mitzvah that was rich. Not rich in wasted money, but rich in Judaism. The speech of your dear parents had content, Jewish content!

And now: on to Eindhoven. Blouma and I are going to train the members of the burial society, those who perform the taharoth, the ablutions of the deceased. To explain again how such an ablution should take place. How to deal with a dying person in his last hours. Of course this is known, but it can't do any harm to brush up on it, especially since new members have also joined.

And so Jewish life goes on, also in the Mediene, where we can see, because it is all small in number, that the commitment and motivation is great.

Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish people are alive, even in the small Jewish communities.

During the corona period and afterwards Chief Rabbi Jacobs kept a diary for the Jewish Cultural Quarterly. NIW publishes these special pieces on www.niw.nl.