The EJA was proud and honoured to welcome European Parliament Vice-President Roberta Metsola to our Headquarters for a meeting.
Vice-President Metsola is responsible for Article 17 matters: Dialogue with churches, and religious and philosophical organisations, and is deeply committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of European Jewry, particularly in light of rising antisemitism due to the pandemic, but more recently the surge in antisemitic sentiment related to the recent Gaza conflict.
The EJA noted with appreciation the Vice-President’s fire and determination on combatting antisemtism and countering ignorance about Jewish life, practice and faith in Europe. In a political environment often marked by platitudes, such an approach was wonderfully refreshing. We agreed to pursue a number of projects and activities together in the months ahead and look forward very much to deepening our relationship with Mrs Metsola and her capable, efficient and dynamic offices.
The Hellenic Council of State banned kosher and halal slaughter on Tuesday. Kosher and halal preparations of animals are central to Jewish and Muslim religious practices.
Both practices require animals to be killed without being anesthetized. The Panhellenic Animal Welfare and Environmental Federation requested that the court annul an exemption in a law that allowed religious slaughtering practices to take place without anesthetic.
The courts ruled that the religious preparation of animal products did not outweigh those animals’ welfare, and decided that the exemption was a violation of the law’s requirement to slaughter animals with anesthesia. The court has left it up to the government to regulate the relationship between animal rights and religious freedom, and they will preside over the country’s slaughterhouse practices.
Many Jewish people are speaking out against the court’s decision, calling it an infringement on their religious freedom. European Jewish Association (EJA) chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin said that “Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack across Europe from the very institutions that have vowed to protect our communities.”
The EJA believes that the court’s decision is following a precedent set last December by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which gave EU nations the ability to ban kosher slaughter in support of animal welfare while also allowing for religious freedom for affected religious groups.
The decision allows members of the EU to make their own decisions about how to follow animal welfare guidelines while allowing people to practice their religions. But the EJA believes that “it is now clear” that member states are leaning heavily in favor of animal welfare and neglecting religious groups.
“As early as last December we warned about the dangerous consequences of the European Court of Justice ruling, and now we are seeing the result,” Margolin said. “It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus and it is now Greece’s turn. These direct attacks come from many of those governments and institutions that have vowed to defend their Jewish communities.”
“What we are witnessing is first-rate hypocrisy,” he said. “When it comes to antisemitism, governments and institutions rightly stand behind us. But when our beliefs and customs are attacked right and left by laws, they are nowhere to be seen.”
Margolin said that the EJA plans to air their grievances at the highest level of the Greek government, hoping to get engagement and dialogue about how they can practice their religion comfortably in Greece. The EJA leader considers the issue of high importance, as food preparation and slaughter practices are central parts of both Jewish and Muslim religions.
“How can Jews live in Europe if you continue to legislate against us?” said Margolin.