Rabbi Yehudah Teichtal, Rabbi of the Jewish community of Berlin, called on fellow European rabbis this week to “help save the European Union” in the wake of the British vote to leave the European body.
Rabbi Teichtel met Tuesday with Thomas Oppermann, parliamentary head of the German Social Democratic Party (SDP), the second largest party in Germany, at his offices at the Bundestag. The two discussed the future of Europe and its Jewish communities, in light of the British referendum.
The Berlin rabbi told Oppermann that he has been encouraging fellow European rabbis and Jewish leaders to ‘take action’ and prevent any further breaking in the EU.
“I call upon the leaders of all Jewish communities around Europe to do whatever they can and execute all of their influence, in order to prevent any other countries from leaving the EU,” Teichtel said.
During the meeting, Oppermann expressed his worries about the continent’s political future.
“The EU means that people can move from one country to another and can settle down. If anyone believes that they should go back to their own nation and try to live for themselves, it is not the right way,” he said.
Oppermann added, “We have to cooperate, we have to work together and we have to keep this European Union. We don’t want more ‘Brexits’ or “exits” so that the people of Europe will get the feeling that we have to defend our values, our democracy, our freedom and our welfare.”
Oppermann also spoke of the importance of the relations between the Jewish communities and the EU. “It is equally important to keep the EU in good constitution because it enables us to have Jewish life in every European country, one that can develop from one country to another. Jewish life is a great enrichment to have in Europe, in Israel and all around the world,” he said. Teichtel maintains that the establishment of the EU and the multi-cultural approach it symbolizes contributes to the welfare of Europe’s Jewish communities.
He told Opperman “the possibility of dismantling the EU and reverting back to nation states should worry all Jewish people around Europe… A strong European union is a paramount interest to the Jewish people of Europe in general and to Jewish people of Germany in particular.”
The two also discussed the rising worries among Berlin’s Jewish community in the wake of the ‘Brexit.’
“It is a worrisome sign to the strengthening of nationalism and of extreme right-wing parties and movements,” Teichtel warned. “The Jewish community in Berlin joins a great number of Jewish community leaders from all over Europe who expressed their sorrow over the UK’s decision.”
The rabbi thanked MP Oppermann for his support for the Jewish life, speaking of the politician’s “support of Jewish life… I recognize your achievements, your dedication, and your care and I want to thank you in the name of the community here. I wish that God will give you great success in all your important work.”
Earlier that day, speaking at the Bundestag, Oppermann urged Chancellor Angella Merkel to carry the negotiations “as quickly as possible, in order to provide clarity.
“Years of stalemate’ will not serve Europe’s interests”, he said. “We want fair negotiations and to continue deep and friendly relations with the United Kingdom. But there must be no rewards for nationalism and European hostility. If the message is at the end, that one can get rid of the liabilities, without losing the benefits, then there will soon be referendums everywhere.”
Hana Levi Julian