King Philippe of Belgium Meets with Jewish Community Leaders and Vows Support
King Philippe Leopold Louis Marie of Belgium had his first meeting with rabbis and officials of the Belgian Jewish community at the Royal Palace of Laeken in Brussels on Tuesday. Antwerp Chief Rabbi David Moshe Lieberman and Brussels Chief Rabbi Albert Guigui met with the king, along with Julien Klener and Philippe Markiewicz, the outgoing president and new president of the Central Israelite Consistory of Belgium.
Also present were Raphael Werner and Eli Ringer of the Forum of Jewish Organizations (FJO) and Maurice Sosnowski, the outgoing president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organizations of Belgium (CCJOB). This is the first meeting of this kind, though King Phillipe has made sympathetic gestures to the Belgian Jewish community in the past.
At the beginning of the meeting, Rabbi Guigu said the traditional blessing Jews recite upon seeing a non-Jewish king. The delegation told the king that they acknowledge and appreciate his calling for the meeting, and his declaration that he is unequivocally standing alongside the Jew’s of his country. They also expressed appreciation for the great efforts he is making to give a sense of security to the Belgian Jews.
The King informed them that only a month and a half previous to their meeting, he had specifically gone to view the Auschwitz extermination camp, in order to understand their feelings. He explained that his door would be open at any time to the community and he would always be ready to lend an ear to assist them.
During the conversation, the Prime Minister promised that the budget will include over 4.5 million Euros to increase security at Jewish areas, as well as protection against guns and bombs in all the synagogues in Antwerp, which would also include armored doors and windows.
It should be noted that last November, King Philippe visited the Jewish Museum in Brussels in a show of support for the Jewish community and the relatives of four people killed in a gun attack there in May. The king’s hour-long visit to the museum was a “clear signal to the Jewish Museum, to the victims of the May 24 attack and their relatives, and to the Belgian Jewish community as a whole,” a palace spokesman told AFP.