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January 3, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 16A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 3, 2014 How culpable were Dutch Jews in the slave trade? Cnaan Liphshiz Amsterdam musicians dressing up as Black Pete, the slave of the Dutch Santa Claus, Sinterklaas. By Cnaan Liphshiz and Iris Tzur THE HAGUE, Nether- lands (JTA)--On a busy street near the Dutch Par- liament, three white musi- cians in blackface regale passersby with holiday tunes about the Dutch Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, and his slave, Black Pete. Many native Dutchmen view dressing up as Black Pete in December as a ven- erable tradition, but others consider it a racist affront to victims of slavery. With Holland marking the 150th anniversary of abolition this year, the controversy over Black Pete has reached new heights. Hundreds demonstrated against the custom in Amsterdam last month, and more than 2 million signed a petition supporting it. Through it all, Dutch Jews--some of whom cel- ebrate their own version of the Black Pete custom, called"Hanukklaas"ihave largely remained silent. But that changed in October, when Lody van de Kamp, an unconventional Orthodox rabbi, wrote a scathing critique about it on Republiek Allochtonie, a Dutch news-and-opinion website. "The portrayal of 'Peter the slave' dates back to a period when we as citi- zens did not meet the social criteria that bind us today," Van de Kamp wrote. Speaking out against Black Pete is part of what van de Kamp calls his so- cial mission, an effort that extends to reminding Dutch Jews of their ancestors' deep involvement in the slave trade. In April, he is set to publish a book about Dutch Jewish complicity in the slave trade, an effort he hopes will sensitize Jews to slavery in general and to the Black Pete issue in particular. "I wrote the book and I got involved in the Black Pete debate because of what I learned from my Dutch pre- decessors on what it means to be a rabbi--namely, to speak about social issues, not only give instructions on how to cook on Shabbat," van de Kamp told JTA. "Money was earned by Jewish communities in South America, partly through slavery, and went to Holland, where Jewish bankers handled it," he said. "Non-Jews were also complicit, but so were we. I feel partly complicit." Though he holds no of- ficial position in the Dutch Jewish community, van de Kamp, 65, is among the best-known Orthodox rabbis in the Netherlands, a status earned through his several books on Dutch Jewry and frequent media appearances. His forthcoming book, a historical novel entitled "The Jewish Slave," follows an 18th-century Jewish merchant and his black slave as they investigate Dutch-owned plantations north of Brazil in the hope of persuading Jews to divest from the slave trade. In re- searching the book, van de Kamp discovered data that shocked him. In one area of what used to be Dutch Guyana, 40 Jew- ish-owned plantations were home to a total population of at least 5,000 slaves, he says. Known as the Jodensa- vanne, or Jewish Savannah, the area had a Jewish com- munity of several hundred before its destruction in a slave uprising in 1832. Nearly all of them immi- grated to Holland, bringing their accumulated wealth with them. Some of that wealth was on display last year in the cellar of Amsterdam's Por- tuguese Synagogue, part of an exhibition celebrating the riches of the synagogue's immigrant founders. Van de Kamp says the exhibition sparked his interest in the Dutch Jewish role in slavery, which was robust. On the Caribbean island of Curacao, Dutch Jews may have accounted for the re- sale of at least 15,000 slaves landed by Dutch transat- lantic traders, according to Seymour Drescher, a historian at the University of Pittsburgh. At one point, Jews controlled about 17 percent of the Caribbean ....................... trade in Dutch colonies, Drescher said. Jews were so influential in those colonies that slave auctions scheduled to take place on Jewish holidays of- ten were postponed, accord- ing to Marc Lee Raphael, a professor of Judaic studies at the College of William & Mary. In the United States, the Jewish role in the slave trade has been a matter of scholarly debate for nearly two decades, prompted in part by efforts to refute the Nation of Islam's claim that Jews dominated the Atlantic slave trade. But in Holland, the issue of Jewish complic- ity is rarely discussed. "This is because we in the Netherlands only profited from slavery but have not seen it in our own eyes," van de Kamp said. "The Ameri- can experience is different." The slavery issue is not van de Kamp's first foray into controversial territory. In Jewish circles, he has a reputation as a contrarian with a penchant for voicing anti-establishment views. That image was rein- forced last year when he spoke out against a compro- mise the Dutch Jewish com- munity had reached with the government over kosher slaughter. Designed to avert a total ban, the compromise placed some restrictions on kosher slaughter that Hol- land's chief rabbis said did not violate Jewish law. Van de Kamp denounced the deal as an unacceptable infringe- ment on religious freedom. More recently, he angered Dutch activists by suggest- ing that vilifying Dutch Muslims helped generate anti-Semitism. He also advocated dialogue with professed Muslim anti-Sem- ites at a time when Jewish groups were calling for their prosecution. But his reputation as a maverick rabbi in a consen- sus-oriented community has also endeared van de Kamp to some supporters. "He is in a league of his own," says Bart Wallet, an Amsterdam University his- torian and expert on Jewish history. "From the sideline, he is free to criticize and does not have to conform to anything." Canada calls for A Coinmunity Showcase for WEDDINGS, B'NEI MITZVAH, ' PARTIES AND MORE! " SUNDAY IANUtUIY 12TH, 2-5 PM X Top Ctcrs, DIs. Enieiners, Florists, Prini,  , Invtlillon flx:ltsis, l.i :and lr who will hell)i),  i Cd o Winter lark, incitKling Bi Mitzvah and  dresses and Falk's dismissal (JNS.org) Canada has called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to dismiss its special investiga- tor, Richard Falk, overa recent statement accusing Israel of having "genocidal intentions" against the Palestinians in an interview on the Russia Today (RT) television network. "When you target a group, an ethnic group and inflict this kind of punishment upon them, you are in effect nurturing a kind of criminal intention that is genocidal," Falk told RT. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called on the U.N. to dismiss Falk immediately. "Canada has previously called for Falk to be fired for his numerous outrageous and anti-Semitic state- ments and these comments underscore once more the complete and total absurdity of his service as a UN Special Rapporteur," Baird said in a statement. Falk has a long history of making anti-Israel and anti- American remarks, including the floating of conspiracy theories. Last spring, he drew widespread condemna- tion when he suggested that U.S. and Israeli policies were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing. VVI * Raffle and Auction * Free Fun Family Photos * Fashion Show * Entertainment * Complimentary Food and Desse t Jastings HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960