Past Events

Days of Tolerance in Europe, November 9-16, 2008

Speech by the President of European Jewish Congress and Russian Jewish Congress Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Dinner On Promoting Tolerance Throughout the European Continent

Dear Friends,
Dear Colleagues,

We are concluding our two-day commemoration and, at the same time, celebration of a start of a very important program of tolerance and reconciliation in Europe.

I think the Day of Tolerance in Europe will be a regular subject for celebration. Let’s do fewer commemorations and more celebrations. Let’s do more positive things, than remembering bad things.

But we are obliged to remember as well.

I want to tell you that Hashem is in details. I am so happy that during these two days we made so many new friends who prefer to join us on the vessel of tolerance.

I remember when we started the first event five years ago commemorating the 60 th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz, President Kwasniewski pronounced a very interesting sentence in his speech. Our event logo was Let My People Live! Not ‘Let my people go!’, which were the words of Moshe Rabeinu. I was really impressed about his comments. He told us: these are the words Queen Esther – Let my people live! – said to Ahashverosh, the King of Iran.

This knowledge, this understanding made him my friend forever. Bravo, Aleksander!

Today Prime Minister Leterme – I don’t know his opinion, but for me he became a friend today. Because he demonstrated a very good knowledge of the subject we discussed the whole day, the subject which is called tolerance and reconciliation.

These two days were very impressive. We said the words “tolerance” and “reconciliation” thousands of times – between each other, in speeches, with journalists. What is the result? We started to think about it professionally. We started to look in our experience, in our everyday life for the ways to follow up these events. This is of extreme importance. What is going to happen tomorrow with this issue of vast importance – tolerance and reconciliation?

As it has already become a tradition for us, we conclude this event with a new imitative. In 2010 we are going to start a new cycle with commemorating the 65 th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz. We remember very well that the vessel St. Louis – which we discussed so many times during these two days – was accepted in Belgium. A quarter of all passengers were liberated by the Belgian Government, and we remember it. But St. Louis did not reach the shore of America. No permission was given 69 years ago.

We want to send the vessel St.Louis – the vessel of tolerance – to America again. We want to commemorate the 65 th anniversary of Auschwitz liberation in New York, together with the United Nations. We want this vessel to reach the shore of America, and to reach all countries.

And the last thing. It’s a miracle – seventy years after die Kristallnacht we have a beautiful society in Europe, which is a real society of tolerance, where Jewish communities and other minorities live at home.

During these days I thought: how to practically follow-up our initiatives tomorrow? It would be such a pity if after all discussions it will be just a good dinner, or just a good meeting at the European Parliament, or just a great memorial service in the synagogue. It is not enough.  We need a strong follow-up.

Again Hashem is helping us already, and I’ll explain you how. As I found out from the agenda, two vice presidents of European Commission are sitting next to me at the table. I am sitting between Mr. Barrot and Mr. Verheugen. It’s a strong message that our plans can be realized tomorrow. Thank you all.