The Conference of European Rabbis, Warsaw.
(photo credit: Moshe Fridman)
More than 200 rabbis from across Europe have gathered in Warsaw this week for
the 27th convention of the Conference of European Rabbis.
High on the
agenda is the concern held by Jewish communities on the continent over
continuing efforts to ban shechita, the ritual slaughter of animals for human
consumption, as well as the defense of other religious practices such as ritual
In June of this year, the Dutch lower house of parliament
passed a bill outlawing shechita, although it must be approved by the upper
house before becoming law.
“For those of us that remember a time when
half of Europe wasn’t free and suffered under the yoke of the Soviet Union,
there are literally no words to describe the irony of a liberal European country
enacting a law against freedom of religion,” said Chief Rabbi of Poland Michael
Schudrich at a press conference on Tuesday in Warsaw’s Noz˙yk
The Dutch bill was proposed by the small Animal Rights Party
but supported by Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, an anti-Islam, right-wing
faction which holds 24 out of 150 seats in the lower house.
the CER and Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt condemned the Dutch bill
in equally strong terms.
“The last time laws were passed in Europe
against shechita was by the Nazis in 1930s Germany,” he said.
we’re not facing that kind of situation again but such laws seek to delegitimize
the Jewish people and our traditions.”
Referencing a call by the Royal
Dutch Medical Association in September of this year to end circumcision,
Goldschmidt argued that it was hypocritical for European nations such as Holland
to infringe religious rights in the name of liberalism, while legalizing
euthanasia, drugs and prostitution.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post
or not he saw a difference between such issues, based on the free choice of
those choosing to engage in euthanasia, prostitution and drug use and the
imposition of some religious practices on their subjects, Goldschmidt asked “Is
sex slavery freedom of choice, is drug addiction freedom of choice? I don’t see
President of Poland Bronislaw Komorowski also sharply criticized
Holland for the anti-shechita law in a meeting held on Monday with Goldschmidt,
Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine Ya’acov Bleich and the President
of the CER’s Bet Din Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu.
“Holland used to be a moral
compass for the world for tolerance and freedom, and it is a shame that we have
to criticize western European nations on these matters,” Komorowski said.“It is
they who should be setting an example to the rest with regards to human rights
and religious freedoms.”
Numerous dignitaries were in attendance at the
opening gala dinner on Monday night at Warsaw’s Marriot Hotel, including the
Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, the ambassadors to Poland of France,
England, Germany, Italy, Holland and Lithuania, former Polish prime minister
Tadeusz Mazowiecki, and former Polish foreign minister, Wladyslaw
Bartoszewski, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz for seven
months between 1940 and 1941 and was a member of the Polish underground,
delivered a message from current Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
his message to the conference, Tusk said that ties between Israel and Poland
“have never been as good as they are today under my government,” and added that
the EU cannot tolerate any form of xenophobia, racism, intolerance or religious
Bartoszewski himself, who is an honorary citizen of Israel,
recalled his participation in the resistance and the Warsaw uprising and noted
that the 70th anniversary of the decision to implement the “Final Solution” to
exterminate the European Jewish community will occur in January
“Polish and Jewish history are inextricably linked,” he said. “1942
was a moral turning point for me. I began helping those threatened with
destruction, not by Poles or Communists but by Nazi Germany. Those who were
indifferent to these atrocities were not moral.”
In her address,
Gronkiewicz-Waltz welcomed the conference to the city and noted the “huge
contribution” made by Warsaw’s Jewish residents before the Holocaust.
personal request is that you remember us in your prayers and leave with us the
blessing of Abraham,” she concluded.
The conference ends on Wednesday.