Stunning religious practice in Europe

December 28, 2020

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.
Read More

Additional Articles

‘How can there be Jews in Europe if you keep bringing in laws against us?,’ asks Jewish leader after Greece rules to ban slaughter without stunning

Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack across Europe from the very institutions that have vowed to protect our communities, said European Jewish Association Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin following Greece’s Supreme Court’s ruling that ritual slaughter without stunning violates EU law, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.
The ruling is an immediate consequence of a ruling by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg last December that member countries may ban the practice of ritual slaughter in order to promote animal welfare, without infringing the rights of religious groups.
The December ruling said that the EU’s animal slaughter regulation “does not preclude member states from imposing an obligation to stun animals prior to killing which also applies in the case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites”, but encouraged member states to find a balance.
“It is now clear that a number of member states are zealously applying the former whilst ignoring the latter,” said Rabbi Margolin in a reaction to the Greek decision.
The Brussels-based European Jewish Association represents hundreds of communities across the continent.
“We warned in December about the downstream consequences that the European Court of Justice ruling carried with it, and now we see the outcome. Jewish freedom of religion is under direct attack. It started in Belgium, moved to Poland and Cyprus and now it is Greece’s turn.
“These direct attacks are coming from many of the same governments and institutions who have sworn to protect their Jewish communities. What we are witnessing is rank hypocrisy,” said the EJA leader.
He added: “When it comes to antisemitism, governments and institutions rightly stand behind us. But when our faith and practice is assailed left and right by laws, they are nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found.”
“What use is it to protect Jews while legislating fundamental pillars of our religion out of existence?,’’ he asked.
He said his group ‘’will urgently making representations to the highest levels of the Greek government to get direct answers to this simple but fundamental question: How can there be Jews in Europe if you keep bringing in laws against us?’’
Under freedom of religion, which is protected by the European Union as a human right, EU legislation allows exemption on religious grounds for non-stunned slaughter provided that they take place in authorized slaughterhouses. Jewish kosher religious practice requires livestock to be conscious when their throats are slit.

‘How can there be Jews in Europe if you keep bringing in laws against us?,’ asks Jewish leader after Greece rules to ban slaughter without stunning

EUROPEAN JEWISH ASSOCIATION WELCOMES NEW AUSTRIAN GOVERNMENT’S REJECTION OF ANTI-SEMITISM

The European Jewish Association (EJA) today congratulated Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz on the establishment of the new Austrian government. In a statement, EJA Founder and Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin said:
“We remember Mr. Kurz as a foreign minister sensitive to the values of democracy and a friend of the Jewish people.
“In recent years, European Jewry has faced a wave of opposition to Jewish religious practices on the continent, as well as a worrying rise in the level of anti-Semitism and the popularity of extremist parties, both right and left.
‘Jewish Ethics denote that a people are never rejected personally, but their behavior and actions are’.
“For this reason, and in light of the statements made by the new government who all its members are united in condemning any expression of anti-Semitism, we congratulate the Austrian chancellor on his unprecedented achievement and his success in founding a stable government.
“Austria as an EU Member however poses a challenge. We cannot ignore the fear that in other countries extreme parties will join the government based on the Austrian model without the unambiguous rejection of anti-Semitism that Austria has provided.
“The European Jewish Association is asking the new government to join the United States, the European Union and other countries and to appoint a special government representative to initiate and coordinate government action to eradicate anti-Semitism and Xenophobia in Austria in the spirit of the anti-Semitic definitions adopted in the European Parliament in June 2017 and to clarify that freedom of religion in Austria will remain unchanged.”

Remembrance at Auschwitz

EUROPEAN lawmakers and Jewish communal figures commemorated the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht during a ceremony at Auschwitz on Tuesday, calling for enduring memory and education to counter the forces of hatred.
Capping off a conference on antisemitism organised by the European Jewish Association, the delegation – including representatives of more than two dozen countries – held a short candlelighting ceremony, before laying wreaths at the “death wall” where thousands of inmates were killed by firing squad.
“On this day exactly 83 years ago, hundreds of Jews were murdered, fathers, mothers, children, by my countrymen, in my country,” said Stefanie Hubig, the education minister for the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate. “Synagogues and prayer houses were set on fire, Jewish cemeteries were devastated. Countless people were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps.”
Hubig added, “There is still antisemitism in Germany, and I am ashamed of it, deeply”
Igor Zorcic, president of the Slovenian National Assembly, referenced more recent atrocities in his remarks.
“Unfortunately, present times do not always prove that our promises of ‘never again’ are entirely sincere,” he said. “Remember Srebrenica – and don’t underestimate the seriousness of the current political friction over genocide.”
He was referring to the 1992 massacre at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 7000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were slaughtered by Serbian forces.
Addressing the delegation in Krakow a night earlier, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, chairman of Yad Vashem and a Holocaust survivor, said Kristallnacht underlined how much the world is willing to ignore human suffering.
“[Kristallnacht] was a test to humanity, to all the nations, to all the globe, how would they react,” said the former chief rabbi of Israel. “In my eyes it was a test,” he said, noting how little international outcry followed.
“Ask in your cities, in the archives, for the newspapers of November 10, 11 and 12, 1938: What is written in the newspapers about Kristallnacht? Almost nothing.”
https://www.australianjewishnews.com/remembrance-at-auschwitz/

ABOUT CORBYN, an Op-Ed by our Director of Public Affairs

“Israel is a racist endeavour.” So, read the posters put up around bus shelters around London yesterday, and most prominently facing the Houses of parliament.

When the genie is out of the bottle, as anyone knows, it’s hard to get it back in. And when the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn spent weeks prevaricating, ducking and weaving to avoid signing up to the full IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism, fuelling his base of cocksure cult-like Palestinian sympathisers on the hard left, when the Labour Party eventually adopted the IHRA definition (with the underlined caveat that they can call out Israel), the base posted their response. 

From a self-proclaimed man of peace (despite his penchant for engaging and sympathising with the IRA, Hamas and who called Bin Laden’s death a tragedy) there’s a strong whiff of cordite around Corbyn and his acolytes. We British Jews knew it all along. The Labour leader has a track record of being outside the pale of political norms. It is precisely for his disgusting penchants that the hard left embraced him as their saviour and formed a messianic cult around him as the man to save Britain and the man to save the left.

What they really mean of course, is that he gave voice and credibility to their non-mainstream views, the type that had no place in any rational political discourse, and which hitherto put most of his support in the same political bin as the communists or St.George’s flag waving, shaven headed racists on the right.

The results are clear to see. “Nothing to see here” is the refrain from Labour as British Jews look on in horror. “He’s wrong and doesn’t get it” is the spin retort to Lord Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi and hugely respected voice of reason who pulled the alarm cord last week. 

“When people hear the kind of language that has been coming out of Labour, that’s been brought to the surface among Jeremy Corbyn’s earlier speeches, they cannot but feel an existential threat,” Sacks told the BBC. “Jews have been in Britain since 1656, I know of no other occasion in these 362 years when Jews – the majority of our community – are asking ‘is this country safe to bring up our children?’” he added. “Now, this is very, very worrying.” Worrying indeed. Almost 40 percent of British Jews would “seriously consider emigrating” if Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn became prime minister, according to a poll conducted for The Jewish Chronicle published on Wednesday.

Mr Corbyn made things personal. He stoked up his rabid base in ways that President Trump can only fantasize about, insults Jews day in day out by suggesting that we feel nobody can critique Israel (when most Jews have daily conversations about government and politics in the Jewish State), claims we lack of sense of humour and despite having lived there for generations, don’t get English Irony, then feigns mock indignation when there’s a backlash from the community. 

It’s sickening and reminds me of a scene I witnessed in Belfast, when a couple were arguing in front of a relative. The man struck the woman and she fell to the floor, and the lady with her started, quite understandably, screaming and crying. The man then turned to the woman who he had just struck who was still on the floor and exclaimed while pointing to the upset woman: “see what you’ve just done? You’ve upset your mother.” I can’t think of a better comparison for the odious leader of the Labour Party and his treatment of the Jewish Community in the UK when it comes to Israel. And doubtless just like the struck woman and her mother, Jews will not forget, nor forgive. Nor should we.  

Because “Israel is a racist endeavour” is but the veneer on the table of how British Labour sees Jews under Corbyn. The wood itself underneath is – make no mistake – riddled and rotten with anti-Semitism. And Corbyn is the carpenter to blame.

The Op-Ed was written by our director of public affairs, Alex Benjamin and was published on The JPost

Additional Communities
United Kingdom
Ukraine
Turkey
Schweiz
Switzerland
Spain
Slovakia
Serbia
Russia
Romania
Portugal
When you click on "Donate" you will be redirected to a secure donation page