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the importance of education

Liliane Seidman,  chairwoman of the European Region of  ICJW, gave a speech at the Ministry of Education in Warsaw about the work of ICJW, and the importance of e ducation in the fight against anti-Semitism, prejudice and hate and to implement tolerance.

I believe it’s our duty and responsibility to teach the children, parents and all adults about the beauty of life with our differences and tolerance on a healthy basis.  I am not an expert and I read and hear the daily news like you. But what I would like to transmit is a few examples of what is done in Belgium.

Today, we have to deal with Migrants and anti-Semitism that is openly spread by the Medias and physical and verbal aggression. Since the killing at the Museum of Brussels last March 2014, all Jewish institutions are protected by police force and soldiers on a daily basis.

Our delegate of the ICJW Commission in Anti-Semitism and Racism, Nadine Iarchy, is doing an endless job by teaching Judaism in public schools in the Flemish region of Belgium, meeting on a regular basis with the regional police and the nurses, to inform them about the heritage, culture and customs of Judaism. She does also a lot of Interfaith and Intercultural work, is an active member of the Religion for Peace (largest international coalition of representatives from the world’s religions dedicated to promote peace; founded in 1970) and met the Pope a few months ago in Rome. She goes to regular meetings between Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Another example is the yearly Kristallnacht commemoration (on November 9) at the Great Synagogue of Europe located in Brussels that reunite people from different religions, European leaders and politicians with in mind to fight together xenophobia and antisemitism.

In Ghent, we have a small active Jewish community. To commemorate Kristallnacht, a public school send children from one particularly class to read the names of all the deported people and to sing at the synagogue. This is part of the educational program at schools with engagement to a particular important event

Some public schools organise a study trip to Auschwitz/Birkenau preparing in forehand the students with a solid background of history ot he Shoah and Holocaust.

We have a number of different organizations involved in relevant projects:

1. The CCLJ, Secular Jewish Community Centre, who does a lot of activities such as lectures, courses and a programme for children called “No to Hate”. Professional teachers go to public schools (5th and 6th grade) where there is a big number of Muslim children and teach them about diversity, respect and tolerance, how to fight against racist prejudices and antisemitism

2. We have the museum about the Holocaust and Human Rights in Mechelen, which gives special tours and lecturers to school students and adults to understand the past history and its consequences.

3. The CEJI, A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, stands with people of all backgrounds to promote a Europe of diversity and respect. Their activities include delivering diversity education, enhancing interfaith and intercultural dialogue, while advocating in the EU against antisemitism and discrimination of all kinds. They organise a lot of training sessions with teachers and professional people.

As you know Belgium is divided into 2 parts: the Flemish region in the North ant the French speaking region in the South and Brussels that is bilingual. Therefore Belgian school networks has the effect of inconsistent and weak policies.

The French system experiences more conflict about the role of religious education. Currently they are constructing a new mandatory class on citizenship by reducing the time for religious education as part of the diversity of society.

The Flemish school system is more flexible and determined, for example leaving room for schools to have contact with religious leaders or leading projects on education about gender and sexual orientation issues.

Training and initiatives about diversity and discrimination take place here and there without a global inclusion strategy. Multiculturalism is dealt with, as a problem to be managed and with a great deal of islamophobia and antisemitism.

The CEJI has existing structures that now tries to increase their initiatives (motivated by the issue of radicalisation after the terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen), It’s done through Continued Professional Development training for teachers and through short animations provided by external actors to school classes. This year the Ministry offers some additional financing to engage from a select group of training organizations to work within a school community.

Finally, I would like to recommend you to look online a program called “Click against Hate” run by the Bnai Brith Anti-Defamation Commission and taught in 50 Melbourne Metropolitan schools in Australia. This program focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students and to challenge them by using real life examples by reducing bullying and prejudice actions.

To conclude, the education of diversity will promote a multicultural society that will also understand tolerance and respect of the other. The only positive way to combat antisemitism is the education of the youth, creating meetings, workshops and dialogues