On 3 April 2023, the European Commission (EC) published a study on the level of research on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life. The report, written under the auspices of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research by Dr. Boyd and Dr. Kahn-Harris, made important recommendations, including the proposal to establish a dedicated European research hub to support and increase research. Such a hub is among the flagship actions of the EU Antisemitism Strategy.
Dr. Oleg Kozerod, a Ukrainian Doctor of Historical Sciences with long experience at the Institute of Political and Ethnonational Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, proposes to open the research hub in Ukraine, as there is a fully functioning Jewish community with its permanent institutions and in Kyiv, there are highly qualified specialists in Jewish studies.
European Interest met and interviewed Dr. Oleg Kozerod about the EC’s proposal, the status of the Ukrainian Jews today, and his plans to revive Jewish life in the EU countries.
European Interest: In April, the European Commission published a new report*, ‘The field of research on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish life: Working towards a European research hub.’ Today, everyone talks about the weak consolidation of the research community in Europe and the need for such a center that would work under the direct leadership of the European Commission. However, how and where should it be created?
Dr. Oleg Kozerod: I support the conclusions of such a report and am glad that the European Commission has taken into account the thesis that the creation of a European research center in the field of Jewish studies is an important component of fulfilling the objectives of the EU Strategy on combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life (2021-2030). Before allocating multimillion-euro funding under this Strategy, priorities and a strategy should be defined, which should include the interests of the largest Jewish communities among both EU member states and countries applying for EU membership.
However, what can you say about the consolidation of efforts of the scientific community that is mentioned in this report? Do you not find it strange that the report for the European Commission was created by the efforts of British scientists? Perhaps this indicates that there are no analysts in the EU capable of setting tasks for combating anti-Semitism and helping the state in the development of Jewish communities in the EU?
O.K.: I think that the European Commission did the right thing by involving research centers from the United Kingdom. The British Institute for Jewish Policy Research and the European Association for Jewish Studies Archive in London are well-known in the EU for their analysis of the life and development of Jewish communities. The quality of analytical work should be a priority in any case, that’s my opinion.
Where do you think this European research hub in the Jewish Studies domain, which would work under the auspices of the European Commission, could be physically located?
O.K.: It could be located either in one of the EU countries or in a candidate country. I have one idea: European research hub for studies combating anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life could be opened in Ukraine. In Kyiv, there are highly qualified specialists in Jewish studies who are grouped around the I.F. Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. If there is currently work being done to plan the opening of the College of Europe in Ukraine, why not go down this path in the field of Jewish studies? Ukraine has a large number of Judaic studies specialists, including young people, and a very dynamic Jewish community.
Can you tell me a little bit about the Jewish community in Ukraine?
O.K.: In recent years, the Jewish community in Ukraine has transformed from a “transit” community into a fully functioning community in one of the democratic countries of Europe, with its own permanent institutions, traditions, and functioning characteristics. Creating conditions for the formation of a modern state policy towards the Jewish community of Ukraine and creating legislation that ensures its unhindered development and protection is an important public task today. The existing and newest Ukrainian legislation on anti-Semitism and the development of the identity of national minorities in Ukraine do not take into account many modern European approaches and norms, including the definition of anti-Semitism by IHRA, restitution policy, state support for Jewish communities, state participation in protecting Jewish community sites, and so on.
In late April, you presented your program for fostering Jewish life in the EU in Brussels**. How do you think the state can help revive Jewish life in EU countries, and isn’t this task too utopian?
O.K.: I hope not. My plan includes five points: First of all, this is a program for the restitution of Jewish property. If communities are given back buildings that once belonged to them and were unjustly seized, this will undoubtedly contribute to the revival of Jewish life, the creation of new communities, Jewish cultural centers, schools, and places of worship.
Another important component could be programs to restore citizenship to descendants of Jews who were illegally expelled from European countries. Such programs exist in Spain, Portugal, as well as in Poland, Austria, and Germany, but perhaps other countries can assess their attitude towards Jews at some point in their history and draw appropriate conclusions. Attracting new citizens of Jewish nationality to EU countries will help revive Jewish life and increase the number of Jewish communities through immigration. It is also worth considering social measures to support fertility in modern Jewish communities, perhaps introducing certain benefits for Jewish families with many children, including payment for kindergartens, educational programs, and parental leave. Another area that could be addressed is the creation of legislation that protects the rights of believers in the workplace, such as giving the right to Jewish believers to leave work on Friday after sunset and on Saturday, as well as providing the opportunity for holidays and prayer time during the workday. Finally, another area of government work could be the protection of the kosher method of slaughtering animals in Jewish communities, as well as providing kosher food for employees of government institutions, transport passengers, forum participants.