11 December 2008

Netherlands: New chief rabbi's priorities

The European Jewish Press reported on the newly appointed Netherlands Chief Rabbi, Binyamin Jacobs. He's the first to hold the position since 1986.

One of his major tasks will be to seek out Jews who were adopted by Christians during WWII.

As chief rabbi of Holland, Rabbi Jacobs is determined to locate thousands of individuals residing in Holland whose parents perished in the Holocaust and whowere adopted and raised as non-Jews.

Some 100,000 on a total of 140,000 Dutch Jews were killed by the Nazis between 1940 and 1945.

"It's quite shocking for me as a rabbi, to realize that people were born, raised and even passed away, without knowing that they were Jews", he said.

During WWII many Dutch citizens came to the assistance of Jews persecuted by the Nazis.

One of the means of assistance was to adopt the children of Holocaust victims.

However, since the war, there have been a series of court cases between adoptive families and relatives of the adopted children. Relatives returned to the Netherlands after the war to reclaim and return children to surviving family. In most cases, judges ruled in favor of the adopting families.

Jacobs himself reported that he had information about his own relatives who remained under their adoptive families until they were quite advanced in years. There are archives and documents, he said, that may lead to the whereabouts of those children who are now elderly.

He plans to access the sensitive data and, as a rabbi, he said he will demand the material be made available to him.

His other priority is the restoration and maintenance of Jewish cemeteries throughout Holland. Read more on this at the International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit.

Cemeteries were created as early as the 17th century by Sephardic Jews escaping from the Iberian peninsula. Jacobs believes the Dutch government should participate in the preservation and maintence of these sites because of their historical value.

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