By Reuvain Borchardt

Hamodia spoke with two leading Rabbis in Europe, Rabbi Menachem Margolin and 
Rabbi Michael Schudrich, about their reactions to far-right parties winning EU parliamentary elections.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Rabbi Menachem Margolin

First of all, I cannot hide the fact that I’m happy that some of the worst antisemites on the left lost seats. And anyone who supports the Jewish people should also be happy.

But when it comes to the right-wing parties, I think we have to be very cautious. I understand why many people are happy seeing those politicians condemning Hamas and supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. But we should also remember that we as Jews are not a trend or a fashion. We don’t just go with the waves of what we think is the current atmosphere. Jewish people have values that go back over 3000 years, and we do not necessarily share the same values with the far-right parties. 

So of course — as we say, even a stopped clock is correct twice a day — there are different things about the far-right parties that we can be satisfied with, but it’s not like we should jump from happiness seeing their power doubled in Europe. 

I understand why some people are happy with their views when it comes to Israel, but I think that we cannot just be happy about this, because we have to wait and see what their policies will be.

We don’t have any certainty if they support, for example, freedom of religion. Actually, we do know that many of them do not support shechitah and bris milah. So just the fact that they condemn radical Islam doesn’t mean that we just support them in full. We do not share the same values.

When a politician says something, it’s very hard to know what they really mean. And as we all know, in most cases politicians do not mean what they say. So it’s difficult to read their minds. 

However, we know that they are very anti-immigrant. And we also know that many of their fathers and grandfathers were against Jewish immigrants, too. We always have to remember that. 

As the saying goes, the enemy of your enemy is your friend. We understand that for them, the Jews of Israel now are the enemies of their enemies, which is radical Islam. And this is why they support Israel. 

But for me, the main question is: Will they support the right of the Jews to live a Jewish life in Europe? Will they allow freedom of religion? Will they allow shechitah and bris milah? Will they allow Jews to protect themselves? Will they allow Jews not to have exams during holidays? Will they allow Jews to have freedom of religion in our schools? Will they allow Jewish people to not work on Jewish holidays and Shabbos? 

These are questions that it is too early to answer.

Right now, the entire world, and of course, the Jewish people, are concentrating on the conflict in the Middle East and the brutal antisemitic demonstrations. So we are happy to see people who condemn it. But at the same time, we really have to watch carefully and see how they will behave when it comes to the Jewish way of living. 

The war in Israel, of course, is important, because it has a lot to do with the rise of antisemitism. But it is not everything about Jewish life.

Unfortunately, many of them are just antisemites. 

But I don’t think all the far right is exactly the same in Europe. 

Many Europeans consider Viktor Orban far right. For me, Viktor Orban is a great friend of the Jewish people, because he does not only condemn Hamas, he does not only support the State of Israel, he does not only vote for Israel in all international platforms, he does not only financially support the Jewish community, but he was also the only European leader who committed and declared that he will always allow freedom of religion in his country and ensure that he is combating antisemitism. 

So not all of the right-wing parties are exactly the same. We just have to carefully watch one by one, party by party, politician by politician, and see who they are and what their policies are.


Rabbi Michael Schudrich

There were very few that won in Poland, but in France and Germany and other countries, it’s very worrying. In Poland, of all places, the left of center and center actually got more votes than the extreme right and right-wing. 

But, having said that, I think that what you’re seeing here is clearly a reaction against immigrants, which in most cases means Muslims. So we have now, perhaps for the first time in history, a situation where Christian Europe is in large numbers rebelling against the Muslim presence. And how can that happen without it also becoming antisemitism?

In an uncertain situation, anything can happen.

One strengthens the other. In other words, the motivation may be anti-Muslim, but the fact that it’s antisemitic also I don’t think is a deterrent. It might even be at some level an incentive.

I’m still trying to figure it out.

It would appear that because the right was in power for 10 years, and people became very frustrated with them, this is a reaction against that. 

Also, while some people are right-wing and some are left-wing, there are also issues that have to do with rule of law and an independent court system. With the previous government of Poland, the line people felt they overstepped was not so much in being traditional or conservative, but by trying to undermine rule of law and an independent court system, which often goes hand in hand with the right.

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