Following is the full text of the address of MEP Antonyia Parvanova to the inaugural session of the European Jewish Parliament in Brussels on Thursday 16th February 2012.
Haverim, Haverot. Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests,
I am proud and honoured to be in front of all of you today, opening a historical meeting which will mark the future of the Jews in Europe and beyond. For the first time indeed, we have here gathered in this room the representatives of organisations representing more than 3.5 millions Jewish citizens across our continent.
Let me also extend this welcoming address to the leadership of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations whom we have the pleasure to host in the European Parliament today as well. As you know, the dialogue between the leadership of the American and European Jewry will be the first point of this meeting, and I hope we will have a fruitful and enriching discussion.
Looking at the audience today, allow me to draw a historical parallel which a good friend of mine mentioned to me a few days ago (He is in the room...), in reference to the Parashat Yitro from last week. 3324 years ago, more than 3 million Israelites were at Mount Sinaï and received through Moses the 10 commandments. This moment was referred in the Torah and explained by Rashi, a leading commentator who lived in Europe 900 years ago, as all these people camped "as one man with one heart" - keish ehad belev ehad.
For the first time in history, the European Jewish People is coming today as one man, or I should say one assembly standing for one cause. This is a real honour for me to open this meeting which will see the first and inaugural session of the European Jewish Parliament, gathering its 120 elected Members, coming from across 40 European countries. Having the European Jewish Community speaking with one and the same voice will definitely be most valuable to the wide range of European debates where its contribution is expected and needed.
And it is probably not by coincidence that this week is the reading of the Parasha Mishpatim, setting out laws and rules of the society, and which represents another important and defining step for the Community. Having rules and laws not only serves for the integrity and cohesion of a group but also protects and empowers each individual. I believe that the newly established European Jewish Parliament will be the voice representing and empowering the Jewish community in Europe.
We are here today in the European Parliament, a House which has always been a symbol of peace, tolerance and common future. Of course, there is still a long way to go as well to strengthen our European Union, but the continent has gathered more than 50 years ago on the basis of values which still need to be upheld. Extremism, racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism have no place in Europe, and this House will continue standing for the rights and protection of every European citizen.
It is therefore with a particular honour that I am opening this meeting, as a Member of the European Parliament. The European Jewish family - or Mishpaha - is coming together today in the house of the European family. Debates and discussions are always a driving force in a family - and there can be sometime differences of opinion. But I am confident that the European Jewish Parliament will be a strong voice which will contribute positively to the European development. I wish you fruitful debates, I wish you effective outcomes, and I wish you great success.
Allow me to conclude with a blessing traditionally pronounced on special occasions. As a women, I feel privileged to say it in front of you, as Jewish women are saying it first when they light the Holyday candles:
I light the candle, symbol of peace. I light the candle of this assembly and of the first session of the European Jewish Parliament.
She eheyanu. Ve Ki manu. Vehijianu lazmán azé.