Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Dutch Reform rabbi who said 'totalitarian' policies remind her of Nazi Germany resigns

(JTA) - A prominent rabbi in the Netherlands compared her country's COVID-19 safety measures to the policies of Nazi Germany, drawing harsh rebuke from Jewish groups.

Tamarah Benima, an outspoken 71-year-old Reform rabbi from Amsterdam, made the comparison on Nov. 4 in a speech in the northern Dutch city of Leeuwarden. She left the Dutch Union for Progressive Judaism on Nov. 9, the rabbinical council of the umbrella group wrote in a statement.

"Scientists worldwide apparently allowed themselves over the past 1 and a half years to be led toward totalitarian thinking," she said of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began in December 2019. "What doesn't fit their perspective must be silenced."

Those involved in enforcing COVID-19 public health measures "have the best intentions," Benima added. "But as a Jew, what happened in Nazi Germany is a warning to me. Those in power all had the best of intentions. Also when they declared Jews a danger to 'public health.' Also when they declared a war against the 'virus' of those times. So don't play with fire by setting aside people in our society as 'a danger to public health,' as Health Minister Hugo De Jonge regularly does."

De Jonge has warned that downplaying the dangers of the COVID-19 virus, as well as a right-wing party's forum for criticizing the government's policies on COVID-19, have jeopardized public health.

Following the lead of other European countries, the Netherlands issued an emergency regulation last month that requires that patrons of restaurants and other businesses present a proof of vaccination.

At least three Dutch Jewish groups have condemned Benima's statements.

Yvonne Walvisch-Stokvis, the chairwoman of the Dutch Union for Progressive Judaism, criticized Benima in a statement for what she called "a misplaced comparison between the annihilation of people for who they were and the position of anti-vaccination people today."

In an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Benima insisted that she "never mentioned the COVID-policy of the Dutch government with a word" and that this impression owed to "journalistic misrepresentations."

"I spoke out against totalitarian speech and thinking. I spoke out against the new totalitarian ideology Woke, that endangers Jews and non-Jews alike," she added.

Benima told the De Telegraaf daily that many people have written her to express their support and gratitude for her comments, and said some have called her a hero.

The Central Jewish Board of the Netherlands, the country's largest Jewish umbrella group, said her comparison is "contrary to our values and shows a complete lack of realism." The Netherlands Association for Progressive Judaism "strongly rejects the irresponsible and offensive comparisons," that group said in a statement.

Comparisons between COVID-19 public health measures and Nazism have proliferated in recent months throughout Europe and beyond. The wearing of yellow stars at protests against COVID-19 measures in Europe specifically have drawn sharp condemnations by Jewish groups.


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