Jewish youths across three European cities have launched a campaign against anti-Semitism by simultaneously unfolding tents designed to teach non-Jewish visitors about Jewish culture and encourage multicultural dialogue.
Inside the tents, visitors will witness Muslim-Jewish reconciliation meetings, klezmer concerts, workshops on Judaism, and an interfaith dialogue in Warsaw involving Poland's chief rabbi and a senior Roman Catholic official.
"This is an initiative joined by the World Jewish Congress (WJC), which received a request from the Council of Europe to combine Jewish themes into the annual 'All Equal All Different; Campaign," said Peleg Reshef, director of the WJC's Future Generations Division in Jerusalem.
"The idea is to set up huge tents in European cities to expose non-Jewish Europeans to Jewish culture and Judaism. We will show them what Jewish life was like before the Holocaust, and in modernity," Reshef said.
Citing increasing levels of anti-Semitism across Europe, Reshef said the initiative was aimed at "opening European Jewish communities, which are perceived as closed ghettos.
We don't like to deal with it, but anti-Semitism is rising in Europe. And there are things to do to uproot this," Reshef added.
Tent against anti-Semitism in Paris (photo courtesy of the European Jewish Congress)
Noam Levi, a 29 year-old French-Jewish activist, spoke to Ynetnews from one of the tents in central Paris. Other tents have been pitched in Warsaw and Kiev. He agreed that the way forward to curb anti-Semitism was for European Jews "to work on our image."
"That's part of being Jewish," Levi said, adding that in the Parisian tent, hundreds of people came to hear traditional Jewish story tellers recite tales in the Ashkenazi tradition. "There is lots of curiosity. I'm amazed, people are very interested in showing up, and entering the tent. They are listening to the stories being told," he said, describing the scenes inside.
While conceding that a growing number of French Jews have decided to make Israel their new home, Levi said that Jews would always remain in France.
"Jews have been here almost forever. France is fully part of international Judaism. I couldn't imagine France without Jews. Not many people in France could, either," Levi said. He added that part of the campaign was aimed at bringing together North African French Muslims with the French Jewish community, and a meeting between a Muslim - Jewish friendship group would take place in the tent.
In Warsaw, Poland, 23 year-old Beata Gladis, a student at Krakow University, described a busy morning for the Polish tent, pitched nearby a central synagogue.
"The most important discussion was about anti-Semitism in Poland. Many non-governmental organizations and police took part. We do not have anti-Semitism aimed against people here, but there is destruction of historic monuments and anti-Semitic graffiti here. So we will discuss this problem with police," Gladis said, adding that serious anti-Semitic attacks begin with small acts.
"There will also be lots of workshops about Jewish holidays, dances, singing, and a lecture on Yom Kippur," she added.