‘We must battle to protect kashrut and brit milah’ say European Jewish leaders

Too many states acted or are acting to ban ritual slaughter


TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY BENOIT FAUCHET A man checks carcases of bovine animals after a Kosher ritual slaughter, in Haguenau, eastern France on July 21, 2016. / AFP / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

Jews across Europe face a major battle to stop the ban of both circumcision and imports of kosher meat, community leaders have warned.

Speaking in Budapest at the European Jewish Association (EJA) annual conference, rabbis and politicians said religious freedom was increasingly under threat. EJA chair Rabbi Menachem Margolin said Jews had been protecting their religious traditions “for many years”.

He said: “Too many states acted or are acting to ban ritual slaughter. The ban on ritual slaughter is very problematic. First it was restrictions then a ban and later they will ban exports of kosher meat and even ban imports.”

Belgian Holocaust survivor and former restaurant owner Regine Suchowolski-Sluszny told the JC that the ban imposed by two out of three of her nation’s regional authorities on kosher slaughter was making Jewish life harder. Frozen kosher food could be imported for the time being from Poland, she added, but its quality was worse.

Polish Senator Michal Kaminski claimed his country’s status as a kosher meat exporter would help Jews convince its government not to ban the practice. He said: “In Poland’s history, religious slaughter was always legal except during Nazi occupation. For almost 1,000 years it was legal… it was a part of Polish tradition.”

Belgian MP Michael Freilich said defenders of religious slaughter could not rest on scientific arguments alone.

“Regular scientific consensus says kosher slaughter means the animal does feel pain,” he said, “even if it’s found out that shechita is less humane we should be allowed to do it because it’s fundamental to our religion.”

He warned religious circumcision was the next big fight: “We are preparing ourselves for that battle. Starting a debate is a very difficult thing because you risk alienating people.”

Israel’s ambassador to Hungary warned there were “stormy days” ahead for European Jewry. Yacov Hadas-Handelsman said the community was facing: “[The] rise of antisemitism around the world and a threat towards Jews to continue living in their traditional ways, with kosher slaughter and circumcision in Jewish communities.”

Hungarian Chief Rabbi Slomó Köves insisted that while fighting hatred, Jews must not forget “the freedom to thrive”.

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