Dutch Ministry subjects Jewish education materials to “citizenship test”

The Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment has subjected the teaching materials of the Dutch Jewish community to a “citizenship test”.

Investigators of the Ministry were sent to the Dutch Jewish Community (Nederlands Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap – NIK), the country’s EJC affiliate, to examine the teaching materials that it provides to Jewish communities in the Netherlands for informal Jewish education on “Weekend School” or Sunday School.

Investigators inquired whether the teaching materials that the community uses for Jewish education lead to “barriers to participate in open Dutch society, or go against the democratic constitutional order.” The aim of the investigation was purportedly “to gain insight into the possible negative effects of informal education”.

Speaking at a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reopening of the synagogue of Middelburg in the province of Zeeland, Ruben Vis, General Secretary of the NIK, denounced this move.

Pointing to the chairs in the synagogue, which depict the coat of arms of the NIK (a red shield, the lion with a bundle of arrows and a shield bearing the star of David) Vis said:” The synagogue of Middelburg has been functioning as a synagogue for 25 years, but its walls were erected in 1705. “The NIK and its affiliated communities proudly carry the coat of arms as a symbol of Dutch Jews being recognized as a fully integrated community within Dutch society. Recently, that proud history seems to have been rendered worthless.”

“How is it possible that investigators from the Ministry come to us and interrogate us as if it were a house search?,” Vis continued, “our teaching materials are kosher, they are good, they contain nothing that goes against Dutch citizenship values and its democratic constitutional order.”

“We are the Netherlands, we are Zeeland, we are Middelburg, for 400 years,” Vis continued, “we came here four centuries ago because this was a country, unlike other countries, that granted us freedom of religion. Since then, Dutch Jews have not turned away from Dutch society, but have stood side by side with all good-hearted people to strengthen this society and to educate our children so that they too will continue to contribute to it.”

In a letter to the House of Representatives in early 2019, the Dutch Minister social Affairs and Employment, Wouter Koolmees, set out the goal of examining informal education to find out it if contains anti-integrative, anti-democratic or anti-constitutional elements. The ministry has defined which forms of informal learning are subject to scrutiny and which ones are not. The NIK apparently is to be scrutinised, a decision that was perceived with shock by the community.

The investigation by the Dutch ministry into the NIK’s teaching materials was discussed in at the meeting of the European Commission Working Group on the Implementation of the European Declaration on the fight against antisemitism, on December 11th 2019. At the meeting, the move by the Dutch Ministry was described as “very troubling” by the European Commission Coordinator on Combating antisemitism, Katharina Von Schnurbein.

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