Visiting Rabbi speaks on anti-semitism in Europe


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Rabbi Andrew Baker visited Appalachian State University on Wednesday and spoke about the resurgence of anti-semitism during an event hosted by the Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Peace Studies.

Baker said the topic of combatting anti-semitism is a timely one due to recent violence against members of the Judaic faith in Europe, including mass shootings at a kosher supermarket in Paris and a synagogue in Copenhagen as well as the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.

Baker referenced the findings of a survey the European Union conducted in 2013 in eight countries in the EU to gauge the scale of anti-semitism. The survey found 23 percent of Jewish people surveyed said they consciously avoided going to Jewish events or sites in order to prevent hateful backlash, while 46 percent of Jewish people in France and 42 percent of Jewish people in Belgium said they had considered emigrating to another country.

“This reveals there’s a concern of encountering, on a day-to-day basis, verbal or physical harassment, and sometimes even physical attack,” Baker said.

Anti-semitism is so widespread in France that last year, Baker said more than 50 percent of all violent hate crimes were anti-semitic in nature.

“That’s notable,” Baker said. “France has the largest Jewish community in Europe. Also, they account for less than one percent of the total French population, but are the victims of over half the violent hate crimes.”

Baker said the main obstacle to influencing positive change is the inability of the European governments to make a statement regarding the growing number of anti-semitic violence.

“If the governments can’t even identify the problem, how can you have any confidence that they know how to deal with the problem?” he said.

Baker is the director of International Jewish Affairs for the American Jewish Committee. He is also the chair of combatting anti-semitism for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Baker is a leading figure in global efforts to combat anti-semitism.

“We’re thrilled to have someone of his caliber,” said Simon Sibelman, the director of the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies. “I could go on for several minutes about all the honors he’s achieved as he’s reached out to non-Jewish communities in his efforts to build bridges in the wake of rising anti-semitism.”

STORY: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter