EJA Welcome Serbia’s Move to Adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism

June 3, 2020

Serbia has adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, the latest Balkan country to do so following Romania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia.
European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin today welcomed the move:
“Serbs, along with Jews, suffered the worst excesses of Nazism, as Hitler blamed both for the first world war. We welcome Serbia to the fold of countries that understand the danger of resurgent antisemitism across the continent and are rigorously committed to stamping it out and clearly stating what it is, without equivocation.
We continue to urge other countries who have not signed up in full, to do so. The coronavirus will, thank goodness, pass and eventually be eradicated. We still have much work to do to eliminate the virus of antisemitism. “

Additional Articles

Rabbis Decide to Unilateraly Sell Chometz of Europe’s Jews

At the request of European rabbis, Israel’s Chief Rabbi David Lau is adding a clause in the chametz sale contract that will be selling the chometz of all Jews in the diaspora, even if they didn’t do it themselves.
The Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) recently conducted a practical Halacha class as part of their virtual shiurim channel on the topic of Erev Pesach falling on Shabbos.
Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau told the rabbis that “the Chief Rabbinate of Israel will include chametz of Jews in the Diaspora who are not aware of the chametz sale contract, as per the request of the European rabbis.”
Rabbi Lau praised the initiative of the Rabbinical Center to provide the translation of the European Jewish community chametz sale in English, French and Hebrew online.
The shiurim channel was launched in memory of Rabbi Binyamin Wolff OBM, Chabad Shliach in Hanover, Germany, who passed away this past year. The virtual classes provide the continent’s rabbis a way to connect the study at a time when travel is restricted due to the pandemic.
During the Shiur, Rabbi Lau answered many questions, among them the issue of selling chametz to a non-Jew. Rabbi Lau consented to the rabbis’ request and promised that the text of the chametz sale contract appointed by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate will include a clause stating that the sale will also apply to every Jew who has chametz in the Diaspora.
“As the deadly pandemic has taken toll of many lives, the Shiurim channel turned into the current replacement for the various conferences and professional seminars held by the RCE during the year for rabbis in various cities across Europe,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the RCE.
Director-General of the RCE Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg stated his satisfaction with the variety of classes and practical Halachic shiurim that were delivered and will be delivered within the framework of the Shiurim channel.
But it isn’t only with selling chametz that the Rabbinical Center of Europe is occupied with.
In collaboration with the European Jewish Association, 100,000 packages of Shmura Matzah are being distributed to hundreds of communities across Europe. Each kit was professionally wrapped and packaged to prevent the Matzot from cracking.
The logistical operation was conducted under the supervision of the RCE’s Deputy Director-General, Rabbi Yosef Bainhaker, and Rabbi Yehuda Reichman, head of the BASSAD organization which executed the project with great devotion.
The Matzos were distributed to over 560 European Jewish communities. The kits were delivered to Rabbis and community leaders who will distribute them just before Pesach.
This particular operation had a goal of ensuring kezayit size of handmade Shmurah Matzah will reach all Jews in the various communities of Europe. Working with postal and government officials, they were successful in ensuring that the sealed packages arrive despite the pandemic.
This is not the first logistical operation conducted by the Rabbinical Center of Europe together with Rabbi Reichman. Before Sukkos and Chanukah this past year, the organization helped distribute the four species and menorahs across Europe to hundreds of families.
“Due to high public demand for matzah, it was decided that despite the heavy expenses involved, an effort would be made to supply any quantity of matzah that would be required to the various countries ensuring that there would be matzah everywhere,” said Rabbi Margolin.
In addition, a special kit has been distributed for the children of the communities, enabling Rabbis and Rebbetzins to teach the children about the Mitzvos of Pesach, beginning from the general observance of Pesach till the practical details of each Mitzvah.
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Stunning religious practice in Europe

If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
Last week, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the EU’s highest court, dealt a serious blow to ritual Jewish and Muslim methods of animal slaughter. The court upheld a Belgian law that requires that animals must be stunned before they are killed. Neither Jewish nor Muslim law allows for stunning in the slaughter process.
Proponents of the CJEU ruling and supporters of the Belgian law assert that the stun-first approach is more humane. Critics argue that properly executed slaughter is less painful and less traumatic for the animals. Either way, the ruling is a serious setback for religious freedom in Europe. And it isn’t clear whether the ruling would also prohibit the importation of slaughtered meat that has not observed the stun-first requirement.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, urged reconsideration. “Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, then the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed,” he said.
According to the CJEU, its ruling actually protects religious practices and doesn’t prohibit any religious observance. It argued that the ruling permitted religious practices since it “allow[s] a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion.”
That superficial analysis by the CJEU is remarkably naive and misinformed, since it improperly assumes that religious slaughter can be performed on a stunned animal. It cannot. And, besides, Jews and Muslims don’t want to “manifest” their religion — they want the freedom to practice their religions.
Two distinct elements in European society are promoting the ban on ritual slaughter. Opponents on the left are concerned about animal welfare, and see ritual slaughter as inhumane. Opponents on the far right are ultranationalists, who see Jewish and Muslim practices as alien imports to Christian Europe. Strange bedfellows, indeed. But through their issue alliance, opposition to ritual slaughter has taken on a life of its own, without regard to the sensibilities of Jews and Muslims.
According to Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the Brussels-based European Jewish Association, had Belgium’s parliament “engaged properly with Jewish community officials before banning the practice, some satisfactory solutions could have been found, as has been the case in the Netherlands and elsewhere, because the method of slaughter is not crueler or [more] painful to animals than other methods.” But no such effort was made.
Not every Jew in Europe eats kosher meat. But the availability of kosher food is one of the markers of a thriving Jewish life. In a pluralistic society, every effort must be made to enable such religious observances. If the European Union wants to welcome Jews and Muslims, it needs to make their legitimate religious practices welcome as well.
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The Flemish parliament voted Wednesday to ban ritual slaughter of animals without stunning from 2019.

BRUSSELS (EJP)—The Flemish parliament voted Wednesday to ban ritual slaughter of animals without stunning from 2019. The animals will be slaughtered after being irreversibly stunned, for example via an electrical anesthesia, the parliament decided. The Jewish community denounced an attack on freedom of religion which is protected by Constitution and by EU rules. 

An exception remains for cattle and calves. Pending a more developed technique, post-cut stunning will remain in effect, a stunning immediately after the slaughter.
Slaughterhouses now have a year and a half to adapt their infrastructure and train their staff in these new practices. Flemish Minister of Animal Welfare Ben Weyts said he is pleased with the vote and called Flanders ”a leader in animal welfare in Europe.”
Another Belgian region, Wallonia, has also voted a similar legislation.
Shechita, the Jewish ritual slaughter, requires that butchers swiftly slaughter the animal by slitting its throat and draining the blood.
The Jewish community in Belgium has slammed the Flemish and Walloon regions given their clear repercussions for the community.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association (EJA), a Brussels-based group representing Jewish communitiers across Europe, has accused lawmakers of targeting Jews and said the decisions ”have a strong stench of populism.” 
”This is a direct attack on Jews and our practice when it comes to slaughtering. When it comes to the mass market slaughterhouses, where mistakes frequently affect up to 10% of all animals, meaning they die in an awful painful death, compared to shechita, the kosher slaughter,  where the suffering of the animal is kept to the most minimum levels possible,” he said. ”It  quickly becomes apparent that this decision is not about health or animal welfare. It simplly represents the politics of division,” Rabbi Margolin added, stressing that ”we will fight this latest decision wih all legal and political means at our disposal.” 
CCOJB, the representative body of Belgian Jewish organisations, regretted the Flemish parliament vote and its consequences on Jewish ritual slaughter. ‘’Wallonia and Flanders are sending a wrong political message to the citizens of our country because these laws do not respect the European rules on this matter,’’ said CCOJB President Yohan Benizri in a statement.  ”This vote intervenes despite numerous juridical and moral objections that have been put forward these last months as this measure indirectly bans ritual slaughter.”

EU Attorney General’ opinion: individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion.

The EJA welcomes the EU Attorney General’ opinion that individual member state moves to ban kosher slaughter run contrary to EU law and are a breach of commitments to respect freedom of religion. We hope that the European Court of Justice will echo his opinion in due course.

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