We should not stand quietly while activists and politicians in Europe try to impose their values on the Jews who live there. Just as it bothers us when countries such as Iceland discuss criminalizing brit milah, so too should we feel sad and angry when European governments try to forbid the slaughter of animals in accordance with Jewish law.
While there may be alternative methods for Jews in Europe to obtain kosher meat, we should not accept it when governments chip away at Jewish tradition, as is happening now in many European Union countries. It’s about much more than the availability of local brisket; it’s about protecting the Jewish way of life on a continent that tried to wipe it out.
Shechitah (ritual slaughter) has been in the news too much in recent years in Europe. Countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Sweden have long required that animals be stunned before slaughter. Because the stunning must be carried out by shooting a penetrating bolt pistol into the animal’s head, the animal is rendered nonkosher from the outset, precluding kosher shechitah in those countries.
Religious slaughter is not prohibited in Belgium at the federal level, but two of three regions require pre-slaughter stunning. The Dutch seem to be next in line to outlaw shechitah. While this strikes a nerve with me, having been born in the Netherlands, it should be a concern for every Jewish person.
Just before World War II, the Netherlands was home to around 107,000 Jews. Amsterdam was around 10 percent Jewish. But less than 25 percent of Dutch Jewry survived the Holocaust.
My grandfather and his parents were among the few who were fortunate enough to live through the war while hiding in the countryside in the homes of kind gentiles. After the war, they helped rebuild Jewish Amsterdam, and one of the key roles my grandfather played (and still advises on) was shechitah.
The shochet (kosher butcher) was always an important position in any Jewish community, and the Dutch tradition of shechitah goes back many hundreds of years. One can imagine then that getting rid of shechitah is not only a matter of practicality, but also one of principle.
The Germans failed to exterminate us from the Netherlands; now the Animal Rights Party is trying to see what damage it can do to what’s left of us. The Netherlands carries out kosher slaughter on only a few heads of cattle a week; for chickens, the Dutch turn to Belgium.
In the past, Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau of Israel and the late Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits of the British Commonwealth implored my grandfather to do whatever he could to keep shechitah in the Netherlands. You can’t have a Jewish community without a shochet, and the Dutch precedent could affect other countries.
You may feel that Jews don’t belong in Europe anymore. You may feel that frozen meat can be easily imported from Israel and America. You may be a vegetarian. However, when people are trying to erase a part of the Jewish people in any part of the world, it should hurt us. We must take notice.
— Jonathan Safier, Bergenfield, N.J.