Posted Magda Dorosz
Analysing Jewish Europe Today – perspectives from a new generation conference took place in Berlin in October 2013. The conference, coorganized by AJC Berlin and JDC – ICCD, gathered around 40 young researchers from Europe, both Jewish and non-Jewish. I was able to take part in this conference thanks to a ROI-Micro Grant. Being able to spend the weekend with people more or less my age but from a definitely different backgournd was very eye-opening. On the other hand, at some point I was very disappointed. But let’s start from the beginning.
The goal of the conference was: ‘to analyse contemporary Jewish life in Europe from the point of view of the younger generation. Since the collapse of communism and the re-emergence of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe, a renovated view of European Jewry has arisen.’ Thanks to many reaserchers I was able to learn a lot about Jewish contemporary life in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and much more. Interfaith and intermarrieges realations were also one of the biggest topics raised during the conference.
The after hours conversations, that lasted till early mornings, brought a lot of an insider view to differnet communities. While listening to stories coming from well established Jewish communities and those which are in developing stage, I finally realized how much I appreciate my own, Jewish community. From my point of view the polish Jewish community is somewhere in between the developing proces and already an established community. We still have a long way to go, but we are here. Only now I could see how open, welcoming and friendly community we have. Comparing to the one in Germany, that seems more of a closed and very insecure, community. Being able to see that from a different perspective and through eyes of people coming from different experience, was really refreshing.
This conference and the network it has created was another energy boost that everyone needs from time to time. I got back home with a renewed energy to work even harder. But why and where the disappointement came from? I have listened to an outcome of a research on a polish Jewish community and its informal education for the youngest generation. The foundings were pretty surprising for me, as I do know a lot about the polish Jewish community, being an active member for a couple of years and now being employed there. So, I have heard that the Sunday schools are closing down because of a decreasing number of students, lower educational level and lack of interest in Jewish life. Why was I surprised?
As far as I know, and as I mentioned above, I am a well informed insider, the number of kids attending Sunday schools over the last two years increased by at least 50% in the cities with the biggest Jewish communities, there is more and more people who want to know more about Jewish culture and Judaism, thus in Poland you can find more and more Jewish departments at different universities. Not even mentioning the summer and winter camps organized by JDC in Poland, increasing number of polish participants on Taglit trips, or a MiNYanim seminar or even Limud, which in fact is the biggest gathering of polish Jewery for the last 6 years.
Why did the reaserch differ so much from the reality? It was carried out 4-5 years ago and wasn’t consulted with members of the polish Jewish community. I believe if you want to make a valuable research you are obliged to ‘get inside’ the community, talk to its members, see the educational and cultural offer very thoroughly in order to present the true picture of a minortity group causing no harm for their members and their perception all over the world. I am very glad I could be the voice of a polish Jewish community, which is not as big as it used to be 75 years ago, but definitely is not vanishing! Thank you ROI for making this happen!
12.3.13 at 1:03 pm | Analysing Jewish Europe Today – perspectives. . .
12.3.13 at 12:57 pm | In August this year I was going to provide my. . .
11.15.13 at 11:20 am | Representatives of the New-York based Foundation. . .
11.15.13 at 11:18 am | It all began this October, at a seminar with a. . .
11.3.13 at 9:40 am | As Henry Ford put it, coming together is a. . .
11.1.13 at 10:54 am | The Museum of the History of Polish Jews was. . .
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December 3, 2013 | 12:57 pm
Posted Ian Shulman
In August this year I was going to provide my first city tour in the beautiful and bleak city of Hamburg, and all I had on my mind was the list of challenges I was about to face. Seems like this list was complete: rain, wind, memorizing a dozen of random dates and names, speaking in front of 20+ strangers, being quick and smart in answering their questions and learning a bit more of German history to make my answers sound reasonable. Yet there was one thing I have surely forgotten of: it is the German history itself.
Oh yes, however hard I try to pay a bit more attention to the cholera epidemic, the Great Fire, or even the bombing of Hamburg, I still have to say a few words about the Holocaust at some point. In fact, I only need to touch this challenging topic twice - at the former building of Tesch & Stabenow, the distributor of Zyklon B gas; and at one of the Stolpersteins, tiny cobblestones commemorating the lives of Holocaust victims. I am quite lucky, since most of my guests are not German. Yet, every time I am about to mention the Shoah, I am getting to the limits of my cautiousness and gentleness. Sometimes I feel like a father, who tries hard to tell his children a scary fairytale without making them cry. I carefully watch my guests’ reactions and prepare for a retreat, in case I see too many alarmed faces hopelessly seeking for a happy end. I also have a consolation planned for the end of the story, such as an idealistic statement of how good it is to be able to discuss this topic openly today and to know that it belongs to the past and will never take place again.
One way or another, all my efforts of entertaining my guests at the beginning of the tour vanish without a trace once the word ‘Holocaust’ is pronounced; and trying to cheer them up right after the story seems to be a morally questionable move. How relieved I am to see the very same angst and grief on my guests’ faces when I start talking about another sensitive topic - WWII bombing of Hamburg! So it was not about Jews at all, it was just about people’s lives. However, when the biggest challenge of my tour is left behind and I lead my guests to a canal to tell the story of the Great Fire, which destroyed 1/4 of Hamburg back in 1842, uncertainty is there again. It’s not that my audience is completely indifferent, but the strong feelings caused by the Holocaust and bombing stories are certainly gone. Is it because the Great Fire was obviously less disastrous? Or is it just the time difference; some hundred years, which make the victims of the past so distant and so irrelevant? What about some hundred years from now, year 2113? Will my successors encounter the same reaction to the Holocaust stories? And more importantly: which reaction would be more desired?
November 15, 2013 | 11:20 am
Posted Jérôme SEGAL
Representatives of the New-York based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali came to Vienna on November 7th to promote their program for action in Europe. On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Novemberpogrom (called "Kristallnacht" by the nazis), the first severe and simultaneous pogroms in Germany and Austria. The two men demonstrated their unity of purpose by presenting their program to improve relations worldwide between their two religious communities.
At a press conference held in the morning, Schneier mentioned the enormous demographic difference: there are a hundred times more Muslims than Jews (1.4 billion to 14 million). It should be possible for each community to speak out when the other is under attack. In this respect it is critically important to realize that 82% of Muslims are not Arabs, and do not support the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam, which remains hostile to Jews. As examples, Schneier cited the case of headscarves in France, where Jews demonstrated in solidarity with Muslims, and the communal peace demonstration of Imams and Rabbis after the shooting of Jewish children in March 2012 in Toulouse.
The largest Muslim population in the world is in Indonesia (200 million) where Shamsi Ali was born. Many mosques and synagogues cooperate closely with the FFEU actions: imams speak in synagogues and rabbis in mosques. For Schneier and Ali, their religions are almost identical. They cite the parallels in food rules, halal and kosher, and the practice of circumcision. They recommend joint action by both communities against the latest decision of the European council to condemn the circumcision of infants and children, and launched a massive joint Jewish-Muslim petition which will be handed to the European Council on December 1st. In a more historical perspective, both talked about the positive aspects of their long shared history, evoking the Muslims who saved Jews during the Ottoman Empire, and likening the present difficulties, particularly in the Middle East, to “family disputes” among cousins.
Both religious leaders insisted on the necessity to re-read the holy texts. Ali explained that the Hadiths represent the important oral traditions in Islam. Thus, for instance, the sentence of the Quran which says Muslims shall not “make friend” with Christians or Jews is due to bad translation of the term “wali” the meaning of which is that of a “religious teacher” rather than that of a “friend”. By the same token, Schneier explained that the concept of the term “chosen people” should be interpreted as bearing responsibility to guard and promote monotheism but does not imply being superior to others. The theological peace process they advocate is based on such re-reading of the texts.
Both men promote “rationalization of the understanding of religion”, but Schneier’s explanation may sound like an oxymoron. Asked about their views on homosexuality, both became somewhat unease. The rabbi it clearly an “abomination” in the Torah but that he would accept homosexuals if they have “no other choice” and “born that way” (sic). The Imam seemed a bit more open, avoiding the answer saying he is not interested in the sexual orientation of the mosque-goers. If they really want to rationalize religion, since the capital punishment for adultery has been cancelled and since they are now thinking of considering homosexuals as equal humans, it could be wiser to reconsider the position of both religions regarding disputed topics like the forced circumcision of babies and children or the ritual slaughtering, opposed to basic children or animal rights. The “Muslim-Jewish interfaith luncheon”, they organized in Vienna, presented as the first event of this kind in Austria might not suffice to deepen this approach.
(many thanks to George Wolf for the proofreading and editing of this text)
November 15, 2013 | 11:18 am
Posted Ian Shulman
Oh, the sweet feeling of counting days and nights till several great projects come to life, what can be compared to you? Well, several things: being a part of one of these projects, working for a beautiful cause and looking forward for an event greater project to launch and succeed current enterprises.
It all began this October, at a seminar with a promising name ‘Future Jewish Media Makers’, which gathered 12 Jewish media enthusiasts and professionals for four days in Berlin - a city full of fresh initiatives and endless inspiration, from the Jewish perspective in particular. Participants made their way from different cities and countries, brought along different professional and personal backgrounds, but shared the same intent of using media to change perceptions and bring out the truth. Be it Israeli affairs, Jewish community life in Germany, Jewish-German shared history or other areas, there are countless topics suffering from significantly imbalanced media coverage. Blaming the offenders or recalling the past will hardly restore justice, but raising awareness and providing another viewpoint will certainly do.
If you are looking for a trendy definition to fit the fancy title, I would suggest ‘the Jewish startup incubator”. It is indeed about great ideas, young teams, innovation, social media and the whole bundle of startup-related terms; yet it has a strong Jewish and, if you prefer, social focus. It is not enough for the ideas born here to sound cool (though it is required too); most importantly, they have to make some social or political impact.
The seminar’s initiator Oren Osterer, who is also active as a program director at the European Janusz Korczak Academy and as a researcher at History Channel, invited some truly inspiring presenters in order to provide a solid ground for the future projects. A veteran of German pro-Israeli and pro-Jewish activism and a leading PR and communicational psychology expert Leo Sucharewicz, a delegate of Jewish Agency in Germany and a social media activist Dan Fayutkin, European correspondent of Israeli newspaper Yedioth Achronoth Eldad Beck along with chief editors of Germany’s leading Jewish newspapers Jueddische Allgemeine and The Jewish Voice From Germany David Kauschke and Hartmut Bomhof - there is hardly a better mix of people to teach some great lessons on the essence of media and its implementation in Jewish issues and let the work begin.
Wanna hear more? Well, let’s wait till January, when the second seminar will take place in Munich and bring together the achievements of the past four months and the new project, which is still to be revealed by Oren, but was already perfectly labeled by one of the participants as “GUP” (“Grosses Unbekanntes Projekt’, aka “Big Unknown Project” in English). By that time the current projects are expected to go through the pilot phase and roll out at a full scope. And yes, since this article was delivered to you via another Jewish media project, be sure all exciting updates will come your way.
November 3, 2013 | 9:40 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
As Henry Ford put it, coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Such was the case with the joint concert-project in Krakow.
A few months ago a representative of the Shomer program from Belarus wrote to TSKŻ Kraków and proposed a collective initiative involving a concert of the Shalom band from Belarus, for the Jewish community in Kraków.
Some time, work and involvement later, there we have it - after a few months, one October evening we find ourselves in the beautiful Tempel synagogue, available to us thanks to the Jewish Community of Kraków. Credit is also due to one other person and here I will quote the words of Lou Vickery. “Four short words sum up what has lifted most successful individuals above the crowd: a little bit more. They did all that was expected of them and a little bit more. Itzchak Horowitz, a member of the Jewish community in Kraków since several years, helped not only with the finance and logistics but did something more than that, he helped the idea become a reality, allowed the event to even take place. Therefore TSKŻ Kraków, as the main organizer, had the privilege of hosting 200 listeners who decided to spend one of their evenings with Jewish music, which came to us all the way from Belarus. However, this concert was not the only joint initiative. Apart from the photographs, we also organized three video recordings where Itzchak Horowitz, not just the co-sponsor but a man of unique vocal talent, performed songs with the band. One seems especially exceptional, due to the innovative idea of combining a prayer for Israeli soldiers which we can hear every Friday in the synagogue, with the popular melody from the 1977 film Raid On Entebbe, which tells of the Mossad freeing passengers from a hijacked Air France flight on June 27, 1976.
Somebody once taught me that at the beginning of each project there is chaos and the organizer (in this case TSKŻ Kraków) must be the squirrel, which slowly puts everything in order and makes it a success. I report that the squirrel fulfilled its duty.
(Below is a recording of the aforementioned song. Enjoy!)
November 1, 2013 | 10:54 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews was probably the most needed repository of memories in the country. The core exhibition is still under construction, however the Museum’s building is already open for visitors.
- It has been a few years since we started working on the core exhibition. This is how we started the whole project of the Museum. Firstly we produced a concept of the exhibition and the building was tailored to what we wanted to show – says Piotr Kossobudzki, spokesperson of the Museum. The task of fitting the needs of the place must have been challenging and received large interest in the architectonic milieu. Finally Rainer Mahlamäki and his studio Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects won the competition. A large, regular hexahedron has landed in the middle of Muranów, an area located not far from the Warsaw’s Old Town.
The place was not chosen by chance. The building is situated in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, commemorating the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, in the area that used to be densely populated by the Jewish community. The Museum softly converses with the surrounding architecture and the adjacent park. It opens to the park with a large glass wall resembling a light-green curtain. The entire glass surface is covered with a print designed by Klementyna Jankiewicz, saying "polin", which means "rest here" in Hebrew. When Jews reached Poland in the Middle Ages they decided to settle there – to rest. Sharply defined walls covered all in silk printed glass panels open in a dramatic entrance inviting into an extensive hall. The hall’s unique double-curved walls symbolize the Jerusalem valleys and the Red Sea opened for the Biblical passage of the Jews. It might also seem that the opening in the walls can reflect the drama of Holocaust. The jury of the project competition believed that that the concept of the whole building has been produced “without unnecessary rhetoric, with simplicity and elegance”, which was smartly realized in Warsaw. On its three floors the building hosts not only the exhibition space located in the basement but also offices, information center, auditorium and classrooms.
There is no exhibition though. - Right now the exhibition produced by the Jewish Historical Institute Association in Poland is being installed. We need around 9-10 months to be ready. We decided though, that if the building is ready, all the rooms can be opened any time and the staff of the Museum is extremely eager to start working, we will not wait until the core exhibition is ready, but we will start the programmatic activities earlier – says Kossobudzki. This means that the Museum became a center for culture and education and from the very beginning attracted crowds of guests both from Poland and abroad. Everyday, guided walks are offered in and the Museum invites for its events and temporary exhibitions. So far the Museum has organized several debates, movie screenings, concerts, workshops, meetings and theater shows.
Interestingly, the Museum of the History of Polish Jews is the first public-private partnership type of investment in Poland. Joint efforts of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Jewish Historical Institute Association in Poland and the City of Warsaw as well as many private donors were needed to launch this 110 million USD worth project. This structure of funding caused some several issues while designing and building of the Museum. For example the head of the Museum has been changes several times. Currently the head is charged with leading the work of the Museum’s team up to the opening and afterwards a new head will be appointed. – One of the features we will be looking for is strong personality. There have been many stereotypes attached to the topic we are dealing here with. We need a visionary who will know how to present the history of Polish Jews both here and abroad – says Kossobudzki.
Indeed, the expectations are high. The Museum of the History of Polish Jews will need to confront the stereotypes about the Jews that still are present in the Polish society as well as explain role of the Jews in Poland in the last 1000 years and today. Before the war, 10% of the Polish population was Jewish or was of Jewish origin and in a result of Holocaust and communist repressions basically the whole population of three millions Jews disappeared from Poland, for the benefit of all a museum like this needed to be created in order to show the richness of the Jewish culture, its significance for Jews and non-Jews. It is also a large awareness-raising enterprise: many Poles are not cognizant of the role that Jews played both in history and in daily life. More importantly however, it is charged with showcasing that the relationship between Poland and Jews is much deeper than just Nazi concentration camps and Holocaust. - Often the groups from Israel or from the US visit only concentration and several cemeteries to later head off home, then they have a distorted view of contemporary Poland but also of the history of Polish Jews – underlines Kossobudzki. Some initiatives are in progress. From April 2013 on the Museum has been hosting groups of students who visit the Museum in the framework of their history classes. Students often experience a clash between the knowledge they can find in their textbooks and what we convey. – Obviously, there is a tendency to show one truth, so when groups will come to visit the Museum and will explore the history of the same period told from a very different perspective. It might well be that it will be a significantly contrastive one. We expect those surprises. Some events that were extremely important for the Poles were not that important for the Jews. At the same time, the period of partitions was extremely interesting from the Jewish perspective, as falling under Russia, Prussia or Austria meant a lot for the Jewish population – says Kossobudzki. In a similar spirit international exchanges are organized. Special attention is given to the groups from Israel. – We are striving to include into their trip to Poland a day that they could spend with their Polish peers. They are able to see that there are not many differences between them. Also the officers of the Israeli army who come to Poland meet their counterparts here.
The opening of the core exhibition is planned for September 2014. The public is expecting that the core exhibition will match the virtuosity of Mahlamäki’s project and contribute to a better understanding of the complicated history it aspires to tell. We shall be in touch from Warsaw soon.
Here pictures: http://www.jewrnalism.org/jewrnalism-gallery/culture/museum-of-the-history-of-polish-jews-416
September 13, 2013 | 2:28 pm
Posted Michal Zajda
A day not like other days, after all it’s the New Year – because Jews have it better. First they celebrate their new year sumptuously, then a couple months later another, just to be decent, not their own, but after all a new year. Think of those in Russia, where additionally the Eastern Orthodox use the Julian calendar! It is madness.
Yesterday, as a Jewish community, we rang in the new year 5774 in Kraków and if the whole year is truly going to be like its beginning, then I’m afraid a wardrobe change, at least a size or two up, will be required. It is no surprise that on momentous occasions the community requires nourishment, but it is worth noting that during less official ones it is also gladly accepted. Surely, this is due to the fact that after eating Jews show increased spiritual activity. In my opinion, this aspect of religiousness requires in-depth research. By the way, Tadeusz Jakubowicz, Chairman of the Religious Community in Kraków, along with rabbi Eliezer Gurary, who also happens to be the proprietor of pretty much the only professional kosher catering service in Kraków, prepared a small treat. . But let’s start from the beginning.
At two o’clock in the afternoon the celebration began with a dinner in the Community headquarters on Skawińska street, one knows there is no point in praying on an empty stomach, but also... let’s not overdo it. Considering the above, a Jew when hungry loses his spiritual vigor, and that can’t be allowed. What would the ancestors say. The traditional dinner prepared especially for this occasion was meant to invigorate the Jewish spirit and lead it toward God. The plan was successful. In the Remuh synagogue opened especially for this occasion (it is being renovated) the crowd milled and pulsated, which taking into account the number of Jews in Kraków, is quite impressive.
The hungry faces, which reflected the many hours of prayers like a mirror, crawled into the Kupa synagogue on Miodowa street in Kraków around 8 p.m., what awaited them – well, what indeed? There are few Jews in Kraków, of course not as few as is commonly assumed, but not many nonetheless. There are many tourists, friends, sympathizers, tourists’ pals, friends of friends and sympathizer’s girlfriends, surely friendly as well. Dear Ladies and Gentleman! It is a sure thing that they must all eat, because it is not customary for cultured people in Kraków to deny a “lost” friend a snack, the friend who knows a colleague from a former workplace, because he just happened to be walking by, of course. There is an economic crisis in Poland. Unemployment is out of control but there never was a situation where people went hungry during the holidays. In keeping with this old Polish-Jewish ecumenical tradition, everyone interested was allowed in for a meal. Dear Ladies and Gentleman – the general gathering of dozens of people present there could not manage the entirety of the available foods, but even a starving cohort of Roman legionaries, after a year-long march of following the enemy, would fall to ileus immediately, having consumed all of the food there! I will not describe the menu, because it does not seem moral considering the people starving in Africa and the reader may get some ideas. There was plenty to eat there and let’s leave it at that.
July 16, 2013 | 10:55 am
Posted Pavel Pustelnik
The decision to ban ritual slaughter in Poland threats causes upheaval both domestically and abroad. The fragile relations between the Polish Jews and Poles are again put to trial.
Poland has been one of the last countries in the European Union where ritual slaughter was widely allowed. This has changed at the beginning of 2013 when the Constitutional Tribunal of the Republic of Poland ruled that slaughter without a prior stun is illegal. The need to implement the ruling caused a highly polarized debate in the Polish Sejm. On Friday the ritual slaughter became illegal in Poland.
Political coalitions created were as sharp as during discussions on the most controversial issues. This time even the ruling coalition split and presented different views on the issue. Strikingly, the religious argument was one of the most recurring in the whole debate. Suddenly the some of the politicians became extraordinarily sensitive towards the needs of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Poland. The walls of the Polish Sejm have probably never heard that many references to the religious freedom. What brings that change? Quite obviously, the religious needs are not at stake. The economy, stupid: Over thirty percent of all Polish beef and a tenth poultry exported comes from ritual slaughter, which sums up to approximately 500 mln euro annually. Until the beginning of 2013, Poland was one of the biggest exporters of kosher meat to Israel and also Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Iran.
- Both Jewish and Muslim communities are legitimately concerned. They have the right to follow their customs. Fortunately, there is no dramatic contradiction. The most important issue is to block the vulgar business that is based on industrial killing of animals in the rotating cages. During the debate in Sejm, some of the politicians were advancing economic arguments for keeping the ritual slaughter – this is a crying shame. Making money on cruelty cannot be accepted - says professor Jan Hartman, the chair of the Department of Philosophy and Bioethics, Jagiellonian University, Cracow.
The Polish society seems to be quite convinced by the humanitarian approach to the problem – according to the recent survey conducted by the Polish Public Opinion Research Center over 65% of the population is against ritual slaughter. Many scientists, artists and celebrities signed a letter to the MPs stating that the slaughter should be prohibited.
- There are two issues on two different levels. The first and more important concerns rendering illegal the business of sophisticated cruelty inflicted on animals. The second issue that needs to wait is to satisfy the needs of religious communities who live in Poland – the right for ritual slaughter. Unfortunately, these two levels met here in the atmosphere filled with exceptional hypocrisy – says prof. Hartman.
The debate has been fuelled also from outside and the decision of the Polish MPs was given a lot of attention by the Jews world-wide. - We urge Poland’s legislative and judicial authorities to move expeditiously to recognize by law the Jewish community’s right to prepare kosher meat according to Jewish tradition – said David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee. It would be beyond shocking if a democratic Poland prevented kosher slaughter, which is so integral to Jewish life in the country – he added.
- I think that the AJC just waits for a pretext to accuse Poland of anti-Semitism. They are very anti-Polish. These types of statements are absolutely inappropriate. Although I believe that these organizations have a full right to demand from the Polish government to provide access to kosher meat, they should do it upon request of the Polish Jews. In this case I do not know if that was a case – says prof. Hartman. He believes that interpreting the decision to prohibit ritual slaughter in the context of attitudes towards Judaism are unjustified. – They [American Jews] have a right to demand recognition of the Jew’s rights but they cannot announce their anti-Semiotic interpretations. There is no evidence, it is an insinuation and unfair imputation that come out of anti-Polish bias of these milieus. These statements are very detrimental for the relations between Poles and Jews.
A similar view is presented by Klaudia Klimek, head of the Krakow Department of the Social Cultural Association of Jews in Poland: - Interference of American Jewish organizations in Polish affairs and unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism of our politicians or comparing this situation to 1930' is not only an exaggeration but it means that they are taking an active part in the deterioration of Polish-Jewish relations in Poland. This unwarranted hysteria of third parties creates only unnecessary confusion. This will affect the Jews of Polish origin living in Poland. - I am absolutely convinced that the decision to ban ritual slaughter was motivated by the sympathy for animals – summarizes prof. Hartman.
The voices opposing the vote in the Polish Parliament came also from Europe. - Jewish communities across Europe will be incredibly distressed that the Polish parliament has voted not to protect the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim citizens - adds Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, head of the Conference of European Rabbis. The Polish Jewish organizations did not remain silent either. – It was shocking for us to learn about the result of today’s vote in Sejm. The untrue view that ritual slaughter is cruel or even intentionally cruel has won. This opinion became popular in Europe in 1930’ when Norway and Sweden influenced by the Nazi propaganda prohibited ritual slaughter. From now on, Poland will be the first EU member state where there is a ban of this kind that does not stem from the Nazi regulations. It menaces directly the basic rights of the rights of Jews and Muslims living in Poland that will be pushed to buy more expensive, imported meat or switch to forced vegetarianism. (…) It is hard not to make an assumption that the decision of Polish Sejm was motivated by sinister hypocrisy, which usually is used to mask discrimination of some citizens – reads a statement signed by Piotr Kadlčik, head of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland and Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland. The latter enforced the statement by his Facebook update: “I cannot imagine serving as chief rabbi in a country in which the rights of the Jewish religion are curtailed, as I would not be able then to serve properly my coreligionists. This obviously is not a threat, for whom would I threaten, but a statement of an obvious fact. If the legality of ritual slaughter will not be reinstituted in a legitimate way, I will be obliged to resign from my function.” The response of Polish Muslims was just as dramatic: “The prohibition of the ritual slaughter results in restrictions in lives and everyday practices of the Muslim community. It prevents us from celebrating Eid al-Adha (The Feast of Sacrifice) when a sacrifice of an animal is done and the meat is offered to the community. It is a sine qua non condition – reads the statement of the head of the Muslim Religious Association in the Republic of Poland.
Prof. Hartman disapproves of the statements by the Jewish leaders. – I don’t understand this attitude. Schudrich perhaps does not feel quite safe, he does not understand all the subtleties whereas Kadlčik disappointed me. If they are people of religion they should distance themselves from cruelty – he comments. - In Poland there not more than couple of hundreds of people who obey kosher rules to the extent that eat only certified beef and obviously Jewish communities have a right to demand regulations that will allow them to produce meat for their own needs. This should be said instead of tearing hairs out and shout that there is harm happening to Jewish communities. The Jews cannot secure their kosher meat supply at expense of industrial ritual slaughter that is export-oriented – adds prof. Hartman.
Today the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has joined the debate by issuing a statement in which it expresses its disappointment. - Poland's history is intertwined with the history of the Jewish people. This decision seriously harms the process of restoring Jewish life in Poland – it reads. The Ministry called also for revisions - We call on the parliament to reassess its decision and expect the relevant authorities to find the way to prevent a crude blow to the religious tradition of the Jewish people. The Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk limited his comments only to saying that the statement was inappropriate.
With a strong opposition of animal rights activists, quite vocal elites who are against the ritual slaughter the changes are not likely to be introduced with regards to industrial ritual slaughter for export. However, there are chances that special provisions may be introduced to accommodate the needs of the religious communities. After all, the decision to ban ritual slaughter was motivated by the sympathy to the animals, not anti-Semiotic or anti-Muslim feelings in the Parliament. - It is a great day for the Polish ethics and public morality. Now we need to think how to provide Jews and Muslims who live in Poland with halal and kosher meats. The needs of these domestic communities are very limited and therefore the size of the ritual slaughter industry can be almost non-commercial. I believe that this can be dealt with in the next couple of months – concludes prof. Hartman.