The three day annual Rabbinical Centre of Europe conference ended on Wednesday with many rabbis and leaders declaring that the greatest threat to the Jewish existence in Europe is assimilation.
Over 300 rabbis from all over Europe and Israel participated in the conference to learn about how to deal with the pressing issues facing their communities from rabbis and lay experts.
Former Chief Rabbi of Israel and the Chairman of Yad Vashem, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, declared that assimilation was “the greatest threat to the Jewish people today, more so than anti-Semitism and terrorism.
“It is extremely painful to accept as fact that precisely the continent in which the Jewish nation has lost a third of its population, poses a hazard of a different type, the danger of acculturation and assimilation obstruct its natural growth.”
Rabbi Lau brought a study about the statistics of assimilation among secular Jews in America according to which, from 100 secular Jews in the first generation, only five are left in the fourth generation. This is the result of over 70 percent assimilation in the US, Rabbi Lau said.
Further statistics demonstrated that in the Reform and the Conservative Jewish communities the statistics are not much better. From 100 Jews in first generation you have only 13 (reform) and 24 (conservative) left in the fourth generation. However, in Orthodox families from 100 Jews you have 2,587 in the fourth generation.
Many rabbis told the conference that there is large scale of assimilation amongst parts of European Jewry and that many communities are “disappearing” as a result.
The participants at the conference were told how to battle against the rising tide of assimilation. “Only a return to Jewish family values in a modern context will stem the flow,” the RCE declared.
The Chief Rabbis of Israel also spoke at the conference about how assimilation is also a threat in Israel and how the Israel Rabbinate will meet to discuss the issue of civil marriage.
In his speech Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger referred to the issue that became one of the hot topics in the recent Israeli election campaign, and commented on the rabbis’ involvement in the matter. “This has been deliberated by the great sages of Israel, and I know that both Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Rabbi Elyashiv have addressed it. But they haven’t given their permission to anything.”
Rabbi Berl Lazar, the chief rabbi of Russia and a senior member of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe, spoke about the need for a clarification on the identity of Jews and rabbis should keep a watch out for forged documents.
The French Minister of the Interior, Michèle Alliot-Marie, who is also in charge of religious affairs, met with a delegation of rabbis, including the Chief Rabbi of Paris and the President of the Consistoire. The discussions were about the rise in anti-Semitism and the threat to Shechita, Jewish ritual slaughter. Minister Alliot-Marie said that the French Republic, and herself in particular, are committed to the fight against anti-Semitism. She also mentioned that she has sent a letter to the French President asking him to let Jews maintain their traditions by continuing kosher slaughter.
This is in reaction to the plans by the European Commission to discuss stunning animals before they are killed, something that is against the Jewish rules of slaughter.
Several lectures and workshops were also held during the conference that allowed rabbis the opportunity to share their experiences, successes and failures with their counterparts. They touched on many subjects that rabbis around Europe have sought answers for within their communities.
The conference also heard recommendations from some of the leading luminaries in the Jewish world on many issues, including those pertaining to couples therapy and drug addiction.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)