The permanent committee of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) is currently convened in Vienna under the designation of "Rabbonim as Guidance Directors" for their usual conference which always takes place in the Austrian capital with the purpose of strengthening the Jewish community and its institutions and the elected Chief Rabbi of Vienna, member of the ongoing Conference, HaRav Arye Polgar, who has recently began officiating. Also attending are the chief rabbis of several other European cities and countries throughout the continent, including Lithuania, Vilna, Frankfurt and others.
The Rabbonim of the Conference of European Rabbis in Vienna
The president of the CER and chief rabbi of Moscow, HaRav Pinchas Goldschmidt, said, "The gathering in Austria is taking place against the background of the rise of the extreme political Right in the most recent elections and the worry that this trend will manifest itself in the other 28 countries of the European Union. There is special concern about France where elections are scheduled for 2017.
The vice president of the CER and rov of Ukraine, HaRav Yaakov Bleich, raised the problem of the absorption of French immigrants in Israel. He noted that French authorities (who are aggressively secular) had prohibited representatives of religious schools in Israel from appearing in French schools.
The rov of Lyons, HaRav Y. Tobol, said that HaRav Shteinman shlita said that if a family considering moving to Israel cannot be sure that they will be able to enroll their children in good schools, they should not go to Israel. "Most of the families are traditional," he said. "And therefore if there are no convenient religious schools where they settle, they wind up going to chiloni schools, which uproots the life style they were accustomed to in France."
Notwithstanding, there are many European communities with relatively large Jewish concentrations which lack spiritual shepherds to guide them. The situation is particularly felt in German communities which have gathered in many thousands of emigrants from Russia after the united Germany opened its doors to them in an attempt to make amends for its past crimes against Jewry. These Russian Jews were mostly severed from their heritage by the Communist regime and are still prone to assimilation so that their adoptive communities suffer severely from demographic bloodshed. The Reform movement has begun sharpening its intentions of taking control over these Jewish communities together with their rabbis. European Jews are desperate for rabbinical leaders and turn to those already at the helm to provide guidance and succor.
A letter to the rabbonim of the Conference sent by HaRabbonim Aharon Leib Shteinman, Chaim Kanievsky and Gershon Eidelstein states:
"I was happy to hear that in these days, the fortifications of kedushah are being strengthened by the appointment of rabbonim and communal spiritual employees in the various far-flung communities throughout Europe. During these days, the hands of Eisav are rising in power and anti-Semitism is escalating. Our only recourse is to reinforce the voice of Yaakov and increase Torah study by establishing more shiurim and strengthening all Torah establishments. We pray and bless you that you succeed in guiding your communities in modesty, as is written in Yeshaya, "Go, my people, ensconce yourselves in your chambers and shut your doors behind you." Rashi there comments that the chambers referred to are those of shuls and botei medrash. May you indeed succeed in increasing the glory of Heaven now and in the future."
Due to many pressing needs, it was decided to elect officers for the permanent committee of the CER. Dayan Menachem Gelley of London was elected president. HaRav Yitzchok Dayan of Geneva and HaRav Avichai Apfel of Frankfurt were chosen as vice presidents.