Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs and his wife, Bluma, by the glass window of their home damaged in an attack on July 17, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)
AMERSFOORT, The Netherlands (JTA) – After the latest attack on his home, Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs sat down on his couch, picked up the phone and made three calls.
A chief rabbi of the Netherlands, Jacobs first phoned police and a Jewish community leader to tell them that late on the night of July 17, just over a week after the onset of the latest round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, four bricks were hurled through a window of his home. It was the fifth time in recent years that Jacobs’ residence had been attacked.
Then Jacobs called his friend Roger van Oordt, director of the Netherlands-based Christians for Israel organization. Within an hour, van Oordt, his wife and two of their children were at the rabbi’s door, with its prominent mezuzah and Hebrew sign bearing the name of the Chabad Hasidic sect to which Jacobs belongs.
“They didn’t allow Bluma, my wife, and me to touch anything, they cleaned up all the mess,” Jacobs told JTA in an interview at his home 25 miles southeast of Amsterdam. “The attacks do not inspire much hope. The response by Christians, Muslims and other friends do.”
To Jacobs, a 65-year-old rabbi who has worked intensively to build bridges between non-Jews and Holland’s Jewish community of 40,000, the latest attack sharpens the dilemma facing Dutch Jews.
A perceived rise in anti-Semitic incidents this summer has led many Dutch Jews to consider leaving the country, according to Jacobs. Yet the country’s reputation as a liberal bastion has not entirely dimmed their hopes that the situation can be reversed.
After the latest attack, Jacobs shocked many Dutchmen when he told local media that if not for his obligations to the communities he serves, he would leave, in part because of the anti-Semitism problem. His statement grabbed headlines and generated a passionate response from other religious leaders.
“No one will tell us when to leave Holland,” Jacobs said. “I’m staying here because it’s my shlichut, or mission. But would we stay here if we were private people? I don’t think so.”
Anti-Semitism is only part of the problem, Jacobs says. Along with intermittent threats and violence, much of it sparked by events in the Middle East, he cites the 2011 passage of a law that effectively banned kosher slaughter – a measure later reversed by the Dutch Senate.
“And then there’s assimilation in a liberal society where many people have anti-religious sentiments,” Jacobs said. “It all comes as part of a package.”
Immigration from the Netherlands to Israel has remained relatively stable over the past decade, with an average 63 new arrivals in the Jewish state each year. Still, the growth in anti-Semitism has created significant unease for Jacobs and his family, who now have six police cameras installed outside their home.
In 2010, a stone was hurled at his front window, missing him by a few inches. Jacobs says he tries …read more