Anti-Semitic incidents and trends in Europe: top 5 news stories

Are the French Anti-Semitic? • Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall • Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi OlympicsObama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority


Last week’s top news, from our perspective:


Are the French Anti-Semitic?

A 2012 poll by the U.S. Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked attitudes to Jews in France, reported that the overall level of anti-Semitism increased to 24 percent of the population, up from 20 percent in a previous poll just four years before.

The league also found that 35 percent of French people believe that “Jews have too much power in the business world,” while 35 percent believe “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them during the Holocaust.”

Some commentators say France’s Jewish community – at around 500,000, the largest in Europe – has no future. One Paris rabbi is quoted as saying 80 percent of young couples about to marry tell him this.


Pigs’ Heads Sent To Rome Synagogue And Israeli Embassy

Offences against Jewish targets in Rome including a pig’s head sent to the city’s main synagogue caused outrage in Italy on Saturday in the run-up to International Holocaust Remembrance Day next week.

“This is a vile and cowardly act which offends the Jewish community and all Romans on the eve of the memorial day,” Nicola Zingaretti, president of Lazio, the region in which the city of Rome is located.

The pig’s head was sent in a parcel to Rome’s Grand Synagogue on Friday and similar packages were also addressed to the Israeli embassy in Rome and to a museum holding an exhibition on the Nazi Holocaust.

Officials said that anti-Semitic graffiti were also scrawled on the walls of a municipal building in the city.


Britain: Anti-Semitic Incidents Fall

Anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Britain have fallen to the lowest annual level since 2005, a Jewish advisory body reported Wednesday, and said the decline may have been due to a recent lack of “trigger events” in the Middle East. The 529 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2013 was down 18 percent from the previous year, according to a report by the Community Security Trust, which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on safety issues.

The number of violent assaults remained the same as in 2012 at 69, the lowest level since 2003. While attacks on Jews show a decline, Muslim groups say anti-Islamic incidents are on the rise, partly fueled by the killing of a British soldier by two Muslim converts in London last May.


Prayers And Religion Make An Appearance At Sochi Olympics

Carl Dambman has spent years preparing for Sochi, traveling from his Seattle home to athletic competitions in the United States and internationally, improving his skills ahead of the Winter Olympics.

But Dambman, 63, isn’t an athlete. Instead, he’s one of dozens of chaplains volunteering at the games, where organizers have set up three multi-faith centers at the Olympic and Paralympic villages for competitors and their coaches.

“In such a high-pressure, high-stakes place, you never know what someone will want to talk about, but we’re there for them,” said Dambman, an Olympic wrestler in the 1970s who now ministers internationally for Athletes in Action.


Obama: Religious Freedom a US Diplomatic Priority

President Barack Obama told a non-denominational gathering of political leaders Thursday that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy.

Speaking at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, Obama cast his message as an international call for human rights, singling out countries that he said have fallen short, particularly when it comes to extending protections and freedoms to all faiths.