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The activist giving visibility to Jewish voices in the Netherlands’ antiracism movements

Far-right movements and antisemitism are on the rise in Europe. The NOA project spoke with Dutch Jewish activist Lievnath Faber on her efforts to unite the fight against antisemitism with other anti-racism civil society movements in the Netherlands. “It’s about building bridges. The hate and stereotypes find different ways to express themselves, but we should be united in understanding that we who are fighting racism are all in this together,” she says.

Faber is the co-creator of the Oy Vey Jewish cultural hub in Amsterdam, which began in 2018. Most of their activities are held in the Uilenburgersjoel, a historic synagogue building in the former Jewish Quarter. For Faber, being in the city center was very important, as most Jewish community buildings are located in other districts further away. And while central Amsterdam does have a Jewish museum, synagogues, and Holocaust memorial sites, through Oy Vey they wanted to create an open, inclusive Jewish space where anyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, orientation, or age feels welcome to drop by.

Oy Vey is “unapologetically Jewish,” Faber told the NOA project. “Which means we are celebrating Jewish culture and identity and not hiding it in anyway. Not behind security walls, [and without] the feeling of unsafety in broader society which makes you not want to say you are Jewish. We want to create a space where you can be loudly Jewish.”

After the murder of George Floyd in the US in May 2020, Oy Vey released a statement of solidarity with the black community, Jews of color, and all communities of color. “At the heart of Jewish ethics is the call to speak out against injustice and not be indifferent to the suffering of others,” it said. 

Since then, Faber got involved working on the intersection of racism and antisemitism as an Alfred Landecker Democracy Fellow, supported by Humanity in Action. Oy Vey gathered a grassroots group of Jewish activists that are working with a plethora of anti-racism, feminism, climate, and other movements. Not only do they express Jewish solidarity, they are also enabling Jewish voices to be heard. “By being present as Jews in these spaces, we also take space to express Jewish needs, our worries about antisemitism. All of us have felt and still feel unsafe in these movements… There are a lot of blind posts when it comes to Jews,” Faber explains.

During local Dutch elections in 2022, Oy Vey Acts, their grassroots activist branch, joined talks with other societal groups advising political actors on what needs to be done regarding institutional racism, discrimination, and exclusion, including when it to comes to antisemitism.

Last year, a coalition group including Oy Vey Acts, an Asian rights group, black rights group, anti-Islamophobia group, and an undocumented people’s rights group won a municipal grant from the city of Amsterdam’s diversity department. They’ll be working on initiatives over the next two years to help combat racism and exclusion. Oy Vey was also an organizer of this year’s ‘Week against Racism’ program, and is hosting educational talks with other Jewish communities on all things antisemitism, Israel, and the need to introduce intersectionality into the conversation.

On her part, Faber co-curated a 2021 exhibition at the Jewish Museum asking the question, “Are Jews White?” which explores how Jews are viewed differently in different circles. In one video piece, a Jewish participant describes that by being white, he doesn’t experience police discrimination. On the other hand, he states, “we Jews have never been white, never the norm, never the majority. Throughout the largest part of history we have been excluded as an ethnic minority, persecuted, and massacred. That’s not exactly white.”

It comes back to the Jewish experience of marginalization and persecution – and the very purpose of why Oy Vey exists as such an ‘unapologetically Jewish’ hub. “It’s hard for others to understand that the trauma of the war, and hiding your identity, is very ingrained,” Faber says. “You may pass as white, but you never feel safe. This is how it plays out in our lives.”

A NOA profile on Jews who are creating a more inclusive Europe: www.noa-project.eu

Find Lievnath Faber’s blog here

Photo © FACESTORIES/Julie Blik