Increased antisemitism, threats to curb shechita and moves to ban circumcision are among major challenges facing Europe’s Jewish communities in the new year.
Rising antisemitism, stoked by Europe’s economic crisis, religious prejudice and hostility towards Israel, was underlined by a recent EU survey.
The survey by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency said that nearly a third of European Jews do not feel safe in their home countries and are considering emigration. Commenting on the poll, the CST — the body responsible for protecting the UK’s Jewish community — said that the joined-up approach that UK authorities take to antisemitism will be “sorely needed everywhere” in the future.
Home Secretary Theresa May recently pledged to the Board of Deputies that the Jewish community would continue to enjoy religious freedom, including on shechita. However, there is growing concern about a planned EU regulation to require pre-stunning before slaughter.
Despite a proposed exemption for religious slaughter, the regulation also allows member states to impose further conditions or even ban such practices under local law.
In Poland, where the shechita is now banned, Director General of the European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin and the Chief Mufti of Poland Tomasz Miskiewicz have lodged an official complaint about the policy to the European Commission.
Circumcision will also be high on the agenda in the coming year following a vote by the Council of Europe to restrict the practice. The Council endorsed a report by its social affairs and health committee describing circumcision as “a human rights violation”.
The report caused uproar in Europe and Israel, where a Foreign Ministry official described it as “a moral stain on the Council of Europe”. The Council’s Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has since insisted that the resolution is “non-binding”.