Enhancing Jewish life is more vital than ever

Former Secretary-general of NATO and former minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer addressed Frank Majoor, one of the founders of the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund, at his farewell at the Fund. Frank Majoor was involved in the Fund from 2002 till November 2020, 16 years as chairman of the Advisory Board. Hereafter follows the shortened text of the speech Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave on 25 October 2020 at the Ronny Naftaniel lecture:


Jdehoopscheffer"Enhancing Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe has over the years been important and necessary, no doubt about that. But as we are writing 2020 it is more vital than ever. For two reasons, both of which I will briefly address by way of two messages.


First message: The rule of law, respect for each and everyone’s opinion, religion, freedom of speech, and all the other freedoms we thought would be permanent after the end of the Cold War are under severe pressure, even inside the European Union, the ultimate promotor of these core values. Conspiracy theories flourish, fanned by social media but finding their inroad into the political mainstream. I do not at all like the word “illiberal democracy”. Q’anon (ymous) and other movements with a nasty smell have strong anti-Semitic tendencies. Who is to blame? The Jew of course is the disturbing answer we thought we would never hear again. We should wake up, The EU should wake up because it is after all not that long ago that we overslept because we did not set the alarm. JHF has an important role to play here. Promoting mutual respect between people looks easy but proves to be very difficult across our European continent.


Second and final message: In our 21st-century societies which we qualify as liberal democracies many taboos have been lifted and quite rightly so. But I want to uphold and defend what should be an all-time taboo. We should under any circumstances and at all times defend and protect the uniqueness of the Shoa horror. Every comparison trivializes the greatest crime in human history and the taboo should be a protective wall around it.


Unnecessary? Remember my first message. It is the reason why I am one of the ambassadors of the Holocaust museum in Amsterdam which hopefully will soon open its doors and defend the taboo with me. Every school child in the Netherlands should visit it as every schoolchild visits the Rijksmuseum.


Dear Frank, dear friend, It was a real pleasure to be given the opportunity to underline our friendship and personal bond this Sunday evening at the occasion of the lecture named after my friend Ronny Naftaniel whose paths have so often crossed with mine. I wish you and the Dutch Jewish Humanitarian Fund many successful years in enhancing Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe. It is more important than ever!”