Letter to the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic about the ban of kosher slaughter

October 28, 2021

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Noah's Ark - A Global Lockdown, Reflections from Our Advisory Board Member Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs

Every Day during the Corona crisis our Advisory Board Member Chief Rabbi Jacobs (NL) writes a diary, on request of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam,  which is published on the website of the NIW, the only Jewish Dutch Magazine. Rabbi Jacobs is the head of Inter Governmental Relationships at the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. We will be regularly publishing a selection of his informative, sometimes light hearted, but always wise pieces.
This week in the Torah Portion we cover the story of Noah. Here, the Rabbi offers his unique and refreshing take on the portion. For our Dutch readers you can follow the diary every day at NIW home page: https://niw.nl and then: scroll down.
Noah's Ark - A Global Lockdown
At 8:10 am, its Shabbat and suddenly the power went out. That is always difficult, but especially on Shabbat because I cannot call a breakdown service (even if the phone would still work).
Water for coffee and tea in the Shabbat kettle was nicely turned on Friday evening before the start of Shabbat, the meal for Shabbat afternoon was simmering in the slow cooker… lighting, freezer and refrigerator, heating ..... Nothing worked anymore.
I went to the electrical box to see if the earth switch was to blame. But even if this had been the case, there was still little I could have done: Shabbat! And then my Reformatorisch Dagblad newspaper popped through the mailbox.
I immediately opened the door and reported my electrical problem to the delivery person.
They immediately understood the problem. "I'll check what's going on, because you can't do that because of Shabbat!" He immediately went into the electrical box, could not find anything out of the ordinary and then went to see if there were also problems elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Five minutes later he was back and told me the whole neighbourhood had no power. At that moment the light came on again. How happy I was with my Reformatorisch Dagblad, which not only brings the newspaper, but also the light!
And so I went with confidence to the synagogue where the beginning of Bereshit was read, including: Then God said, "Let there be light" and there was light! For a moment I felt that the self-evident is not always so self-evident!
Next Shabbat: the story of Noah. Before the outbreak of the flood, Noah was instructed by G-d to go into the Ark. And when it was dry outside he had to leave that Ark again.
Why, the question is asked, should he be ordered to leave the Ark? It was dry anyway! The answer contains an important life lesson. In the Ark there was an atmosphere of real Shalom, similar to the period after the arrival of the Moshiach, so he did not consider leaving the Ark. Why go into the world with all its worries and misery?
But G-d clearly pointed out that isolation from society is wrong. In that world with all its trials, we have the task to serve Him by making a contribution to the society surrounding us, even if closing off would be more pleasant for us personally. So, no Jewish monasteries!
But before the flood began, Noah was instructed to just enter the Ark and shut himself off from that world. Without wanting to compare corona with the Flood, there are times when we, you and I, have to be right in the middle of the world to be ready for others. But there are also periods when we are temporarily not allowed to go outside, social distance. How long do we have to stay in? We do not know.
But just as Noah did not protest and stayed in the Ark when he was required to do so, so too we must stay in, even if we find it difficult. It is too dangerous outside. We should not play with health. This coming Shabbat this will be emphasized extra in all shuls in the world. Noah Had to Enter the Ark: The First Global Lockdown!

Bill to ban circumcision introduced in Iceland’s parliament

Legislation claims the practice violates children's human rights, places them at risk of infection and causes 'severe pain'

Lawmakers from four political parties in Iceland introduced a bill in parliament that would ban the nonmedical circumcision of boys younger than 18 and impose imprisonment of up to six years on offenders.
Members of the ruling Left Green Movement, the Progressive Party, People’s Party and the Pirate Party submitted the bill to the Albingi on Tuesday, the RUV news site reported. Together, the parties account for 46 percent of the parliament’s 63 seats.
The measure cites the prohibition of female genital mutilation in 2005, arguing a similar prohibition is necessary for males. The report did not say when the bill would come to a vote.
Advocates of male circumcision, which many physicians believe reduces the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and genital infections, have long objected to the comparison of the practice with female genital mutilation, a custom with no medical benefits that is universally viewed as detrimental to the ability to derive pleasure from intercourse.

The bill calls the circumcision of boys younger than 18 a violation of their human rights, according to the news site, and says it places them at an elevated risk of infection and causes “severe pain.”

Throughout Scandinavia, the nonmedical circumcision of boys under 18 is the subject of a debate on children’s rights and religious freedoms. The children’s ombudsmen of all Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway — released a joint declaration in 2013 proposing a ban, though none of these countries has enacted one.
In the debate, circumcision is under attack from right-wing politicians who view it as a foreign import whose proliferation is often associated mostly with Muslim immigration. And it is also opposed by left-wing liberals and atheists who denounce it as a primitive form of child abuse.
In 2012, a German court in Cologne ruled that ritual circumcision of minors amounted to a criminal act. The ruling was overturned but triggered temporary bans in Austria and Switzerland.
A similar debate is taking place across Western Europe about the ritual slaughter of animals, which is illegal in several European Union member states.
Iceland, which is not a member of that bloc, has a population of approximately 300,000, including several dozen Jews and a few hundred Muslims.
The article was published on The Times of Israel

The New Antisemitism In Europe.

The L'obs had interviewed European Jewish Association Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, as part of L'Obs comprehensive report on the subject of New Anti-Semitism in Europe.
You can find the entire report here:

Protesters mass in France, Israel, UK to demand justice for Sarah Halimi

In France, some 25,000 demonstrate against court decision that Jewish woman’s killer was too stoned to be held criminally responsible
Protesters gathered in Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and London on Sunday to demonstrate against the ruling of France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman in the French capital was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.
Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, was pushed out of the window of her Paris flat to her death in 2017 by neighbor Kobili Traore, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
But in a decision earlier this month, the Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore cannot stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions.
Some 25,000 protesters, many of them Jewish, gathered in Paris to demand justice for Halimi.
Under the banner of “Justice for Sarah Halimi,” the rally at Trocadero Square overlooking the Eiffel Tower reflected the widespread indignation of many French Jews at the April 14 ruling by their country’s highest court.
It was held under tight security arrangements in a cordoned-off enclosure where the Jewish umbrella group CRIF played a video on a giant screen in which French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia demanded another “trial of facts,” even if it ends without sentencing of Traore.
The rally Sunday was the first time in decades that a large number of French Jews gathered to protest against organs or actions of the French state.
“The clamor has risen and hope has returned. That hope is all of you here,” Halimi’s brother William Attal told a crowd of several thousand at the Trocadero esplanade in Paris.
The MP who leads Macron’s Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner, addressed the protest, which was also attended by opposition leaders and by several well-known actors.
Jacques Essebag, a French-Jewish comedian who is known by the stage name Arthur, in a video message said he has “decided to start using drugs because in France you can do whatever you want, even kill your neighbor if you don’t like her, if you use drugs.” He then added: “What has become of this country?”
Former French first lady Carla Bruni, wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, also appeared at the Paris rally, as did Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who said the city would soon name a street in Halimi’s memory.
“It will also be a way of doing her justice,” Hidalgo said.
However, the video message from Hidalgo, a Socialist politician, provoked whistles and booing from many protesters at the event, which did not feature live speeches due to COVID-19 measures.
Organized by the CRIF umbrella of French Jewish communities, the rally was called “to show our astonishment at a decision that conforms to the law, but not to justice,” CRIF said.
The event featured many French and Israeli flags, and those of the far-right Jewish Defense League.
More than 20,000 people demonstrated in Paris, and up to 2,000 took part in a march in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, police said, while around 600 gathered outside a synagogue in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Three protests were also held in Israel, all taking place at 3 p.m. in order to coincide with the demonstration by the Jewish community in Paris. The main demonstration was in front of the French Embassy on Herbert Samuel Street in Tel Aviv.
The Jewish community in the United Kingdom also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in London on Sunday at 1 p.m., in solidarity with the community in France. Attendance was limited because of COVID-19 restrictions.
In addition to the rally in Paris, protest rallies were planned to take place on Sunday in Marseille, Strasbourg and Lyon. Abroad, rallies were scheduled to be held in Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami in the United States as well as in Rome, Italy.
Some Jewish organizations have used harsh language about the case, including the conservative Europe-Israel group, which called it “the new Dreyfus Trial.” It’s a reference to the anti-Semitic treason charges leveled at a French-Jewish soldier in 1894, and which many to this day believe showed that French society and European societies, in general, were too anti-Semitic to allow Jews to truly integrate.
Israel blasted the decision of the French court last week.
“Sarah Halimi was murdered for clearly anti-Semitic motivations, for the sole reason that she was a Jew,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat told The Times of Israel. “This was a despicable murder that harmed not only the victim herself and her family, but also the entire Jewish community’s sense of security.”
“The way to confront anti-Semitism is through education, zero tolerance, and heavy punishment,” Hayat continued. “This is not the message that the court’s ruling conveys.”
Sarah Halimi was beaten before she was thrown off her Paris apartment building’s roof in April 2017. (Courtesy of the Halimi family)
Critics of the ruling cited apparent composure by Traore, an immigrant from Mali who was 27 when he killed Halimi, a physician in her 60s. Traore, whom a lower court said targeted Halimi because she was Jewish, called her a demon as he pummeled her in her third-story apartment, which he entered by force.
He then threw her out the window and shouted: “A lady fell down from the window!” to cover up his actions, witnesses said. He left the scene, allegedly to escape it, and was arrested on a nearby street.
Others argue that even if Traore was psychotic, he was criminally liable when he took the drugs that made him psychotic and should therefore stand trial. He has no documented history of psychiatric problems.
French President Emmanuel Macron has said he would advance legislation to prevent criminals from avoiding trial by using an insanity defense for actions committed under the influence of drugs.
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