Although the three kidnapped Israeli youths have yet to be found, Shin Bet yesterday announced that they arrested two Hamas militants, who they believe are responsible for the abductions. Finally, a breakthrough, and we can only hope that the next step is the recovery of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali.
The global Jewish community has certainly been doing its part, especially in North America. Take our hometown Denver, for example. Last week witnessed two dedicated events showing solidarity: a prayer gathering at EDOS and a community vigil at JCC hosted by JEWISHcolorado.
(Participants, left, and Rabbi Joe Black at the community vigil)
There was no similar response where I live, in Zurich, Switzerland. And the contrast only confirmed what I’ve been observing since I moved here close to seven years ago.
About two years, through a spam/email address mix-up, I landed on the mailing list of Toronto’s Federation (UJA). My first instinct was to unsubscribe, because, after all, I live nowhere near the Canadian border. But after a few weeks, I found myself actually opening and reading their emails because the content was so impressive. Beyond the news roundup relevant to Israel supporters anywhere, the swiftness of the responses, petitions and activism struck me. This is how one advocates for the Jewish community and Israel. Because paralleling what I was seeing in these newsletters were the international news stories of Canada’s strong and public advocacy of Israel.
In Denver, we can also be proud of our community activism, which, with these two events — a prayer gathering and community vigil — demonstrate the efficacy and strength of both our official and grassroots activity. We know that when any a major event or catastrophe takes place, JEWISHcolorado will have a response, whether it’s establishing a charity fund, drafting a petition or holding a public meeting. One reason for these swift responses is that as a member of the Jewish Federations of North America, JEWISHcolorado is tapped into top quality resources.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said about my adopted homeland, Switzerland. Whenever one of these major events affecting global Jewry takes place, I always experience conflicting emotions: Proud of Denver’s Jewish community, and somewhat ashamed of Switzerland’s. Take the kidnapping, for example. Yes, there was an official response from the Federation of Swiss Jews, but it was so weak — a one-paragraph press release that came five days after the kidnapping with absolutely no follow-up (as far as I’m aware) — one is left wondering, is it almost better to do nothing? And while individuals Jews care passionately for Israel and their own Jewish identity, the vehicles for expression are stunted, so grassroots efforts fail to gain much traction either.
Why this is will have to be left for another blog posting, but one thing I can say for now is: Good on you, Denver! Continental Europe would do well to take a leaf out of your book.