Conference of European Rabbis

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The Conference of European Rabbis is the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe. It unites more than 700 religious leaders of the mainstream synagogue communities in Europe. It was founded in 1956 on the initiative of British Chief Rabbi Sir Israel Brodie, in order to revive the destroyed Jewish communities on the European mainland. Brodie was supported by the chief rabbi of France, Jacob Kaplan, the chief rabbi of Amsterdam, Aharon Schuster and the British Sephardic spiritual leader, Hacham Gaon. The first conference took place in 1957 in Amsterdam.

The organization is run by a standing committee of 35 members which meets twice a year, in one of the European capitals and includes besides the internal deliberations, a visit with the local Jewish community, and political meetings with the countries government. The Standing Committee members are in general, the chief rabbis of European countries and its most important cities along with the senior rabbinical judges. The general convention of the entire rabbinate convenes once every two years to which all European Chief Rabbis and congregational Rabbis are invited.

The conference is designed to defend the religious rights of Jews in Europe, and has become the voice of Judaism for the European continent. This organization has been involved in defending the rights of Jews to slaughter animals according to Jewish law and for Jews to circumcise their children.[1] The CER also functions as a collegial rabbinical authority, which certifies the validity of conversions, kashruth certifications and other rabbinical legal decisions, affecting the broader Jewish community. Throughout its existence it has helped facilitate communities with problems concerning Kashrut, conversion, divorce, recruitment of Rabbis and other issues. The CER has also established a department that deals with the building of mikvehs, (ritual basins), which has built over a dozen ritual basins all over Europe.

The current president of the CER is the chief rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, who served as chairman of the Standing Committee for over ten years. The chairman of the Presidium is the immediate past president of the CER and past Chief Rabbi of France, Joseph Sitruk, and the associate president is British Chief Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Sacks. Before Sitruck, the organization was headed by Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jacobovits, Chief Rabbi of Great Britain.

The Executive Director of the CER since inception, was Rabbi Maurice (Moshe) Rose, succeeded in the year 2001 by Rabbi Aba Dunner, who died in 2011. Since then the organization has been led by its president, the rabbinical director, Rabbi Moshe Lebel, and by the International Relations Director of the organization in Brussels, Philip Carmel.[2] The CER nominated in 2012 Rabbi Elimelech Vanzetta, the acting vice chief rabbi of Chile, to become the new Executive Secretary of the CER. The head office of the CER will move back from Brussels to London in February 2013.[3]

Daughter Organizations[edit]

ECK
European Central Kosher Supervision was established by the CER in order to maintain a golden standard of Kosher supervision and help local rabbis with the certification of kosher food.
Hulya
Established in 2010 in Luxembourg by then Chairman of the Standing Committee, Pinchas Goldschmidt, was created in order to deal with rabbinical training, communal development and giving rabbis the skills necessary to work in a modern European environment. Hulya is mainly financed by the Matanel Foundation, Luxembourg, and has its offices in Luxembourg.[4]
European Beth Din
The European Beth Din was established over 15 years ago, as an initiative of the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits, who was then president of the Conference of European Rabbis. Responding to repeated requests from European communities where there were no functioning Rabbinical Courts (Beth Din), the EBD was established to service the demand and provide comprehensive Jewish legal services across a broad array of European cities.

The EBD is currently headed by Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, led for 30 years the most distinguished UK Rabbinical Courts in London and prior to that in Manchester. He is the undisputed senior Orthodox Halachic authority in Europe. In addition, the EBD employs Dayanim from established European Rabbinical Courts.

Whilst the EBD is based in Basle, Switzerland, it serves individuals and communities from the following countries: Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.

Services include: Supervision of Jewish Religious Divorce, Dispute Arbitration Mediation, Supervision of Adoptions & Conversions, Communal Dispute Resolution. Its website is EuroepanBethDin.com.[5]

Lo Tishkach

The Lo Tishkach European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative was established in 2006 as a joint project of the Conference of European Rabbis and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It aims to guarantee the effective and lasting preservation and protection of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves throughout the European continent.

This initiative, identified by the Hebrew phrase Lo Tishkach (‘do not forget’), is establishing a comprehensive publicly accessible database of all Jewish burial grounds in Europe, currently featuring details on over 9,000 cemeteries and mass graves. The Lo Tishkach project is also producing a compendium of the different national and international laws and practices affecting these sites, to be used as a starting point to advocate for the better protection and preservation of Europe’s Jewish heritage.

A key aim of the project is to engage young Europeans, bringing Europe’s history alive, encouraging reflection on the values that are important for responsible citizenship and mutual respect, giving a valuable insight into Jewish culture and mobilising young people to care for our common heritage. The project uses Jewish cemeteries – a physical legacy of formerly vibrant Jewish communities – as the focus of a practical activity and learning programme to meaningfully transmit to younger generations the lessons of the Holocaust.

Groups of young people trained by Lo Tishkach have already begun to visit thousands of Jewish burial sites across Europe. These groups gather vital information on local Jewish life, history and culture, photograph and survey each cemetery, and undertake practical work to help preserve and protect these important sites. Its official website is lo-tishkach.org

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