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Belgium’s first female prime minister is also Jewish

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise across Europe, it was a historic and hopeful moment when Belgium appointed it first prime minister who is both Jewish and a female.

Though she never focused on her Jewish roots during her career, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes lost several relatives on her mother’s side during the Holocaust and has made it a point to attend Holocaust commemoration events. 

Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Consistoire organization of Belgian Jewry, said she has kept her religion separate from her politics.

“She hid her Jewish identity, though it seems to be a private detail from her biography and not something connected to any policy-making aspect,” he said.

A centrist politician, Wilmes replaced Charles Michel on Sunday and will head a caretaker government during negotiations on the formation of a coalition.

Her mother is an Ashkenazi Jew and her father, a former lecturer at the Catholic University of Louvain, is not Jewish. Wilmes has four children.

One source from the Jewish community, a member of Wilmes’s party who spoke to JTA on condition of anonymity, said that Judaism became only recently “a more important factor than before” in the new prime minister’s life.

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