ANKARA/BRUSSELS (EJP)---Turkish EU Minister Egemen Bagıs met this week with the two Turkish-Jewish citizens elected in the new 120-member European Jewish Parliament.
The minister congratulated both Cefi Jozef Kamhi and Vital Denis Ojalvo Öner who were chosen with the votes of 3,379 Jewish citizens, the Hurriyet daily newspaper reported.
"I will tell Europe that we live together in peace in Turkey. I will tell the realities of the Ottoman and Turkish Republic. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are alive in Europe, but we appreciate the Justice and Development Party’s minority policies," Kamhi was quoted as saying.
Around 18,000 Jews live in Turkey, a community very well integrated into Turkish society.
Over 400,000 people in 47 countries from East, Central and Western Europe voted online to elect the first European Jewish Parliament in history. The Parliament aims to be the center and a voice for the 3 million Jews living in Europe.
The inaugural meeting of the parliament, described as a new and innovative forum to voice the thoughts, beliefs and ideas as well as concerns of European Jews, took place earlier this month in the building of the European Parliament in Brussels.
A successful businessman in tourism investments, 59-year-old Cefi Kamhi is one of the few members of the new Jewish body who have already a parliamentary experience.
Between 1995 and 1999 he was a member of the Turkish parliament for the center-right Dogru Yol Partisi (The True Path Party) founded in 1983 by Suleyman Demirel and which succeeded the historical Democratic Party and the Justice Party. This was the first time a non-Muslim entered the Turkish parliament.
His mother was from Kiev, Ukraine, and his father Jak Kamhi, who has been one of Turkey’s leading industrialists, traces his origin back to the expulsion of Jews from Spain.
In an interview with European Jewish Press (EJP), Cefi Kamhi said the newly elected European Jewish Parliament should be a "pressure group" and "would create a better dialogue between existing Jewish structures as well as open the way to them. It would work for them. But it would also facilitate our job of doing specific targeted actions because then they would be supporting us on our agenda."
"We should clear the clouds by a dialogue with other organizations to prove that we are all working for the same aim: the Jewish aim," he said.
Cefi Jozef Camhi was a member of the Turkish Parliament between 1995 and 1999. "
He said the newly elected European Jewish Parliament should be a 'pressure group' and “would create a better dialogue between existing Jewish structures as well as open the way to them."
Describing himself as "independent" and a mixture of social-democrat, liberal and nationalist, he told EJP : "In the new Jewish parliament, the first thing we should have is a consensus and the patience to listen to each other, to have the respect even if we don’t agree, not to categorically close the door. We will have two different groups of activities: one regional or country-based and the other to find a common European target. This target should not be just limited to Europe but rather to the Jews in the world."
"But first we need recognition, acceptance, we want to show other organizations that we are not competing with them, we want to open their way and we want to create an agenda of issues such as anti-Semitism, religion, education,…for which we can give a stronger sound."
He said he was honored by the visit of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at the European Jewish Parliament in Brussels.
"It gave the parliament an opportunity to be endorsed by the major Jewish group in the US. At a gala dinner there was a statement by the chairman of the conference that this event has been one of the most fruitful and constructive mission they ever had."