Dutch chief rabbi was warned to avoid train travel

Cnaan Liphshiz

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Dutch authorities advised Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs to avoid traveling in international trains last year.

Jacobs made the revelation on Sunday during a speech near the eastern city of Arnhem, days after an armed Islamist attempted to kill passengers aboard the Thalys train, which connects Paris to Amsterdam.

“The events illustrate the threat is real not only for Jews, but for all in Europe because we are in the same boat,” Jacobs told JTA ahead of the event, where 500 people convened to note the 40th anniversary of his years in service of Dutch Jewish communities.

The police advice was due to Jacobs’ official function, for which he often appears on television, making him easily identifiable, he said.

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Jacobs, a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi, whom Dutch officials have often described as a “bridge builder” for his interfaith and outreach work, said the wave of violent anti-Semitism that began in the early 2000s in Europe “poses a dilemma for bridge builders because now we are seeing elements to which one does not want to serve as a bridge.”

He also said that growing anti-Semitism is causing him to doubt “whether to advise members of the community to stay, or to leave.” In addition to hundreds of Jews who convened at the event in Oosterbeek near Arnhem, the gathering also was attended by senior politicians, including former speaker of the Dutch lower house, Gerdi Verbeet, senior police officers and prominent rabbis of the Rabbinical Center for Europe and leaders of other faiths. Also in attendance was Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands Haim Divon. 

Jacobs, whose home has been vandalized five times in recent years and who is currently under police surveillance, has said that if not for his responsibilities to the Jewish communities of the Netherlands, he would leave for Israel. 

In 2012, Jacobs was made an officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau — among Holland’s highest honors — by Beatrix, who was then Queen of the Netherlands.

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