Mayor Apologies

Today marks a significant occasion. The mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, has made official apologies for ‘the active involvement of the Amsterdam city council in the commercial system of colonial slavery and the worldwide trade in enslaved persons.’ Significant because this is the first official apology. 148 years after the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, it is about time. Halsema has shown true leadership in the apology speech today, and one can only hope this will set in motion a movement that will lead to a full apology by the Prime Minister on behalf of the State and the recognition of Keti Koti as a national day of remembrance. There is still some groundwork to be done.

There was another significant thing that happened today. Various Jewish organisations spoke out in support of the importance of Keti Koti. The director of the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam wrote a poignant piece in the Parool newspaper on the importance of official apologies; an ‘independent group of societal conscious Jews’ named Cohen&Co published a statement and a clear visual committing to the 1st of July becoming a national holiday; Oy Vey Acts published a statement calling for both official apologies and the instatement of the 1st of July as a national day of remembrance and celebration; Dutch Jewish artist Benjamin Fro created a powerful spoken word about Keti Koti, amplified by both the Dutch Jewish Social Work and the Jewish Museum in their social channels.

For a generation, Dutch Jewish communities and organisations were not readily ‘coming out’ with stances on broader issues in society, let alone those affecting the black communities. And there has not been much cross-denominational/organisational conversation so far about issues pertaining to Jewish solidarity. Seeing not only these structured outward messages but also the inward amplification and dialogue amongst leading Jewish organisations and grassroots groups of Jews gives me hope that we can bring the Jewish conversation on solidarity and social justice a little further. 

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