Eight Jewish Congregations in Europe Join in Initiative to Fight Antisemitism and Promote Cross-Cultural Understanding

Neighbours is a Joint Project between HIAS Europe and the European Union for Progressive Judaism Foundation

BRUSSELS — Eight Jewish congregations across Continental Europe are participating in an ambitious and innovative project, Neighbours, to tackle antisemitism and xenophobia, and promote cross-cultural and inter-religious understanding in their communities.

The Neighbours initiative is a joint project of HIAS Europe and the European Union for Progressive Judaism Foundation (EUPJF), with primary funding by the European Commission.

The eight participating congregations include Liberal Jewish Community of Amsterdam (NL); Keren Or, Lyon (FR); Beth Hillel, Rome (IT); Jüdische Gemeinde haKochaw für den Kreis Unna, Unna (DE); Communauté Juive Libérale d’Île de France, Paris (FR); Beth Shalom, Munich (DE); International Jewish Center, Brussels (BE); and Or Chadasch, Vienna (AT).

During the two-year project (running until the end of 2024), congregations welcome hundreds of students from schools and other community organizations in their diverse neighbourhoods into their synagogues, where they discuss antisemitism and other forms of hatred and xenophobia and how to resist, debunk and counter them.

Congregations will also form local interfaith and intercultural coalitions against all forms of intolerance and hatred, create spaces for encounters and dialogue between Jews and migrant communities, and promote concrete joint action to advance mutual understanding, integration and a welcoming environment for refugees.

“At this moment in history, we are witnessing a rise in antisemitism across Europe, while at the same time racism and xenophobia are increasing, endangering migrants and other diverse communities,” said Ilan Cohn, Director of HIAS Europe.

“While these groups have a shared experience of various degrees of intolerance, sometimes their relationship is hindered by mutual mistrust and safety concerns. The Neighbours project was created to respond to such worrisome developments by bringing Jewish communities together with their diverse neighbours, and encouraging participants to confront and overcome prejudice.”

The Neighbours project fits perfectly into the European Union’s plan to step up the fight against antisemitism, while at the same time making Europe more inclusive and respectful of diversity.

It is modeled on a successful program in Amsterdam in 2011, “Getting to Know Your Neighbor.” Launched by the Amsterdam Liberal Jewish congregation (LJG) as tensions rose between Dutch Jews and Muslims, the project has brought 30.000 students, aged 16-24, to the Amsterdam synagogue and was awarded the prestigious Brouwer Prize in 2018.

“This is a model that has proved its relevance in the way it has improved relationships between the Amsterdam Jewish community and its neighbours,” said Sonja Guentner, EUPJF Acting Director. “To take this program across Europe to enable eight Progressive Jewish congregations to engage in an active dialogue, especially with their younger neighbours, can only advance not only this model but also its positive impact.”

HIAS Europe is the European HQ of HIAS, the global Jewish humanitarian organization. We stand for a world where refugees find safety, opportunity, and welcome. Find us at: @HIASEurope on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and hiaseurope.org

The European Union for Progressive Judaism Foundation (EUPJF) is the advocacy arm of Progressive Judaism throughout Europe. Through initiatives and partnerships with religious, governmental, and community organisations, EUPJF elevates and advances the values and issues at the core of Progressive Judaism, including building and sustaining just and inclusive civil society.


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