European Jews this week cautiously welcomed the new government led by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
European Jewish Association (EJA) founder and director Rabbi Menachem Margolin released a statement Monday (Dec. 17) saying that Kurz is remembered as a foreign minister “sensitive to the values of democracy and a friend of the Jewish people.”
The rabbi pointed out that in recent years European Jewry has faced a wave of opposition to Jewish religious practices on the continent, as well as a “worrying rise in the level of anti-Semitism and the popularity of extremist parties, both right and left.”
He quoted from Pirkei Avot (Jewish Ethics), which he noted says that ‘a people are never rejected personally, but their behavior and actions are.’ For this reason, and “in light of the statements made by the new government with all its members united in condemning any expression of anti-Semitism, we congratulate the Austrian chancellor on his unprecedented achievement and his success in founding a stable government,” he said.
Margolin noted, however, that Austria as a member of the European Union poses a challenge. “We cannot ignore the fear that in other countries extreme parties will join the government based on the Austrian model,” he said, “without the unambiguous rejection of anti-Semitism that Austria has provided.”