Days of Tolerance in Europe, November 9-16, 2008
Address by EJC and RJC President Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor at the Conference of European Rabbis Convention Formal Dinner in Prague
Chief Rabbi of Czech Republic Karol Sidon,
Chief Rabbi of UK, co-president of your conference – Sir Jonathan Sacks,
Minister of Czech Government Cyril Svoboda,
Vice Foreign Minister,
Our dear friend Chief Rabbi of Moscow – Pinchas Goldschmidt, who is also one of the directors of your Conference who has an outstanding sense of humor, because without sense of humor nobody can explain why Barack Obama was elected,
Chief Rabbi of Israel Amar,
And my teacher, my dear teacher Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv – Rabbi Lau
It’s a big honor for me and I’m for the first time in my life with you, with the Rabbis of Europe. Because what we are doing? – we are the Jewish politicians. It is nothing. But you are real force. You are leading the tradition forward. The community, the Jewish people after survival are in your hands. We are just your supporters. And of behalf of the European Jewish Congress I want to ensure you that we are always at your disposal. Whatever is necessary to do – just give instructions!
We are living today in a very interesting time. This year is the year of the 60th anniversary of the General Convention of the Human Rights, the year of the 90th anniversary of the end of the 1st World War. And the end of the 1st World War delivered to all of us a big problem. This result of the 1st World War delivered a very big moral and material depression in the country, which is called Germany. And only because of the results and intolerance of Europe and the world to Germany made Adolph Hitler and his book Mein Kampf so much demanded in Germany. This book caused finally, 11 years later coming to power of the Nazi Party, and then – in 1938 – 70 years ago happened the first part of the Holocaust, so-called economical Holocaust – the Kristallnacht. The Kristallnacht happened in Germany, in Austria and in Czech Republic – here. That’s why it’s important, that the commemoration of die Kristallnacht we finalize here – in Czech Republic and we have to understand it and there is no place in the world where we can forget about die Kristallnacht.
But what to do next? Commemoration is a very important thing, but it’s absolutely insufficient. We have to look forward, in future. And we have to understand that the biggest shortage today is not the problem of economy, it’s not the problem in the material field – it’s the problem of the shortage of tolerance. I can say that finally we can say that the problem of so-called “Nuclear club”, of so-called “Nuclear club of countries” (with Iran, with Northern Korea) - is also the problem of criminal tolerance to somebody else’s intolerance.
In the United Nations one country, which is the member of the United Nations, sais openly: “We have to erase the member of the United Nations from the map!” And all the other members of the United Nations do not do any protest, do not leave the room, and even applaud to this announcement. What is it? It’s a criminal tolerance to intolerance. That’s why we decided that we have to combine the efforts of the Jewish and non-Jewish streets in Europe and to establish the special body of wisdom, of experience which is called the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation. And we have a very good team of former political leaders headed by the former President of Poland Mr. Kwaśniewski, also we have the prime-minister of Spain, Former president of Czech Republic – we have 15 former presidents and prime-ministers, who initiated today for the first time in history the Day of Tolerance in Europe. And today I want to report you we finalized the event in Brussels yesterday – which I think had a significant effect and significant success. And on the level of the European Parliament, on the level of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – all together were 46 countries – on the parliamentary level and level of legislation we started the creation of the program of Tolerance in Europe.
But what is tolerance? Is it like an intension to be better tomorrow? No. Tolerance is a very routine and complicated science. And to be specialist in this science you should be educated not less seriously as we have the education for the nuclear specialists. Every specialist in tolerance, every teacher of tolerance should be educated 20 or more years. It should be an education from the kindergarten up to university. And maybe after a few generations we will have the different Europe and a different world. Maybe starting with election of the president of the United States. But this is the start. This should be never finished. You know, I’m happy to say that today with us we have an outstanding artist, who lives here in Prague – my dear friend, Mr. Pivovarov. I am saying, he is an outstanding artist and he told me today a very good joke, and with your permission I will share with you this joke about one rabbi who prayed for 50 years in front of the Western Wall for tolerance. (I was surprised you know, I have devoted my latest years to the tolerance, and he has now told me a joke about tolerance). The rabbi prayed for 50 years for tolerance. And finally one of the students of Yeshiva asked him: “Rabbi, what does it look like today?” And the reply was: “It looks like the wall.” It means no visible change. It is correct – tolerance is a very complicated thing.
But I want to finalize my words with a very teaching and touching story: preparing the first event of commemoration of the Holocaust – the Krakow and Auschwitz event – when we commemorated the 60th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz. Suddenly the special organisation – the Holocaust foundation – told me: there is a guy, in the United States, who is alive. Who opened himself, by his own hands the gate, where it was written “The labor is liberating”. I immediately jumped onto the plane and visited this gentleman. His name was Anatoly Shapiro – the major of the Red Army. This guy was alive – he told me all the story about liberation of Auschwitz. And a very strong idea came to my mind: a Jew liberated Auschwitz! We! We liberated ourselves. When we want to do something we are capable to do it, if we are united! And it reminded me the words of Shemone Esre, we are praying every day: the seeds of Salvation should be put to the earth to be fertilised by aShem, but they should be put to the earth by us, by people.
Thank you very much!