|"all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age,"|
An increasingly dangerous neighborhood forces tough decisions at a Brussels institution founded as a symbol of survival after the Holocaust.RUSSELS — On the third floor of the Belgian capital’s oldest Jewish school, Jacquy Wajc pauses to listen to the eerie silence that hangs in the hallways.
Established in 1947 as a testament to Belgian Jewry’s post-Holocaust revival, the Athenee Maimonides Bruxelles school once accommodated 600 students in its spacious building in downtown Brussels, but now has only 150.
Enrollment entered a free fall 10 years ago, as Jews left the area for the suburbs and were replaced by immigrants, many of them Muslims, who made Jewish parents believe the area was unsafe.
“It breaks my heart,” says Wajc (pronounced “vights”), president of the Maimonides school. “I remember when you couldn’t hear a thing this time of the day over the raucous PE class.”
As anti-Semitic attacks spiked during the second Palestinian intifada in the early 2000s, parents who themselves were proud Maimonides alumni enrolled their children elsewhere, citing security concerns. With fewer students, the school went massively into debt; Maimonides now owes various government bodies a total of $8 million.
This year, Maimonides’ staff has stepped up efforts to find an alternative locale in the suburbs. If the bid fails, the school may shut down later this year, Wajc said — a development that would complete the silent exodus of Jews from central Brussels. “The story of Maimonides is the story of Brussels’ Jewish community and its growing unease in the city,” said Joel Rubinfeld, a Maimonides alumnus and co-chairman of the Brussels-based European Jewish Parliament.
It’s not only Brussels. Across Europe, Jews have quietly abandoned long-inhabited neighborhoods in central urban areas for remote suburbs.
Unlike in the United States, where the Jewish flight to the suburbs often was part of a larger migration of the affluent from increasingly crime-ridden inner cities, in Europe, the wealthier urban precincts are typically the more central ones. But in a number of cities, neighborhoods once teeming with Jewish life have become no-go zones for Jews — especially if they wear a yarmulke.
The Jewish population of 80,000 in Marseille, France, has almost completely cleared out of the heavily Muslim city center it inhabited until the 1980s. Similar migrations have taken place in another French city, Lyon, as well as in Amsterdam and even Antwerp — home to one of the last European Jewish communities to live and work almost exclusively in an urban center.
“It’s not happening everywhere, but is happening in France, Belgium and Holland,” said Dina Porat, head of Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. “Some leave to improve their quality of living; others because they feel unsafe as Muslims move in. For some. It’s a combination of both.”
Since the second intifada began, attacks against Jews have more or less doubled in France, Spain and the Benelux nations, where a total of 600,000 Jews live. Between 2009 and 2011, the Belgian government agency that monitors anti-Semitism recorded an average of 82 incidents a year, double the level recorded between 2002 and 2004. Most of the incidents occurred in Brussels.
“Walking with a kippah is unsafe in many other European cities,” Rubinfeld said.
Even before the slaying last year by a Muslim extremist of three Jewish children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in France, security was very tight around Maimonides, Wajc said. Since then, the police have beefed up their presence outside the school, an 80,000-square-foot complex that looks more like a top-secret military facility than a school.
Maimonides has no windows, and its exterior is fitted with armor plating. Its massive metal doors have no markings. The entrance leads to an inspection zone where security guards and cameras welcome arrivals from behind bulletproof glass.
Such intensive measures weren’t necessary in 1945, when Seligman Bamberger, an educator who survived the Holocaust, first laid the groundwork for what would become Maimonides.
Hmmmm.....“If we can stand up to 'them', all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science…” ~ Winston Churchill.Read the full story here.