Welcoming speech by Ernest Herzog, Executive Director of Operations, World Jewish Congress, at the International Conference 105-75-35
Dear Prime Minister Kallas,
Dear President of the Jewish Community of Estonia, Mrs. Alla Jakobson,
Dear members of the Estonian Parliament,
Your excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps,
I am here to pass the heartfelt greetings of the President of the World Jewish Congress, Ambassador Ronald Lauder and the Executive Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, Mr. Maram Stern, who regret not being able to attend today on this very special occasion.
This unique joint anniversary celebration is proof of how far the relationship between the Republic of Estonia, the State of Israel and the Estonian Jewish Community has come.
The World Jewish Congress is an umbrella organization of all the Jewish communities of the world. We represent the communities in more than 100 countries. The Jewish community, led by Mrs. Jakobson, may not be so big, yet it is very vibrant, and well-organized. It has a special place in the eyes of the World Jewish Congress and other international Jewish organizations. This is due to the unique position of Estonia in these challenging times, but also because of the wonderful work by the professionals of the Estonian Jewish Community, who managed to fully revive Jewish life in Estonia since 1988.
Unfortunately, in the past decade the main task of the World Jewish Congress and its partners has been to combat global antisemitism. This rising issue was also recognized by the European Commission who launched the strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life in 2021, and is expecting all its member states to create and implement their own national strategies to tackle this issue.
The Republic of Estonia established a working group and an action plan very quickly and we are looking forward to see goals, plans and concrete steps implemented in the near future. Having and implementing a national strategy on combating antisemitism is not a measure of existing anti-Jewish hatred in a country, but rather a testament to the value-system that EU member states are ready to embrace, without neglecting the history of the Jewish people in their region.
As previously mentioned, the Jewish Community of Estonia is small, but vibrant. And very ambitious. In the foreseeable future they are planning to establish an educational center for the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust. They are also looking to upgrade the level of security at their facilities and to construct a Jewish education center that will serve as a development hub for the Jewish school, kindergarten, and non-formal education programs. Moving forward, it is very important that the relevant government bodies support these initiatives and work hand in hand with our local affiliate to make these projects see the light of day.
As we are celebrating 75years since the establishment of the State of Israel, it would be unjust not to mention the need of all of us to nurture good bilateral relations between the two countries. The Jewish Community of Estonia has an important role to play in the developing cooperation between Estonia and Israel, especially in the areas of education, culture and business.
Dear friends, we live in challenging and dangerous times. However, Estonia – you are not alone. The Jewish Community of Estonia is not alone. The unity shown here today should serve as a message that when times are difficult – forces of good, and not evil – will prevail. May this unity and future hard work go from strength to strength and give us the wisdom to overcome all of the challenges ahead. Thank you!