17/02/2016

President Benny addresses European colloquium on combating discrimination in Europe

President Benny addresses European colloquium on combating discrimination in Europe

Distinguished guests, fellow activists,

I vividly remember the first time my parents took me to a synagogue. I was attending Sunday school, and a variety of activities that were offered by the Jewish community of Cologne. We passed by police officers, security guards and through a security door. The moment we left the building, my parents asked me to take off my Kippah. 

All of this was new to me, but it rapidly became normality. Accordingly, I did not notice these security measures anymore, when we moved to Berlin and I attended a jewish elementary school. The police officers in front of our school, knew our names; we knew theirs. Next to the annual fire drill, a terror alarm practice was a new opportunity to miss math classes. Only after my graduation I took notice of the cameras, the fences, the bullet proof glass. It was due to the fact that I had shown my former school to friends, who had seen the building before, but had mistaken it for a prison.

Today's students are part of a generation, that grew up with all of this, that stopped actively noticing, as we have never experienced it differently. Whilst we grew up, fences got higher and window glass got thicker. Today's students, even voluntarily guard their own synagogues. Referring back to the tragic story of Dan Uzan from Copenhaguen who was shot one year ago almost to the day - they even lose their lives doing so. On the contrary, on campus students hide their Jewish identity for the exact same reasons.

Is the necessity of all of these security measures a problem to all of us or just a necessary evil?

Fences will not vanish tomorrow, but maybe with a long term solution. At EUJS we find this solution in working towards an inclusive narrative for Europe, in standing up for Europe's core values. We foster interreligious dialogue together with the Muslim Jewish conference, we built coalitions with other communities, such as the Roma and the Armenian community and we foster grass roots activism in order to get students from the communities involved. Therefore we would like you to advocate for such inclusive narratives, starting in curricula.

We do this, because we see a long term solution not in fences, but in the creation of a Europe, that is inclusive towards everyone, no matter what gender, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity; a narrative that does not leave us, that does not leave Europe's citizens out.

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