Jewish groups welcome limited legalization of shechita in Poland

Several international Jewish communal bodies applaud the Polish decision.

Jewish rabbis in Poland (photo credit: CONFERENCE OF EUROPEAN RABBIS)
Jewish rabbis in Poland
Poland’s Jewish community reacted warmly to yesterday’s decision to again allow them to practice shechita (religious slaughter).
A position paper issued by the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, and presented to the country’s Constitutional Tribunal, stated that “in its current form, Polish law does not permit penalizing slaughter for internal Jewish communities.”
However, this would only allow slaughter to provide for the internal consumption needs of Poland’s Jewish community, the position paper stated. “This excludes the same slaughter for other needs [especially economic and commercial].”
Until the ban, Poland was Europe’s primary exporter of kosher and hallal meat.
Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich called the statement a “very important and positive step towards the decision to be taken by the Constitutional Tribunal,” crediting it to “months of meetings and discussions” on the issue.
The Jewish community had turned to the court in its quest to legalize shechita and is still waiting for a final ruling.
In a statement sent by the Conference of European Rabbis, Schudrich elucidated his position that the shechita ban contravened a 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which permits ritual slaughter.
“This is indeed a difficult time and we must insist on our rights, but on the other hand we have to maintain the good relations we have with the Polish government,” Schudrich said.
Schudrich has worked with senior Polish officials on the issue.
An attempt last year by the government to introduce legislation legalizing the practice fell flat when its bill was rejected by the Sejm, despite lobbying efforts by the Jewish community.
Several international Jewish communal bodies applauded the Polish decision.
“The Sejm did the right thing by clarifying the murky legal situation of kosher slaughter in Poland and by backing shechita for local communities’ consumption,” World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer said. “We hope this statement will help to put to rest the controversy over shechita – which Jews hold to be a crucial religious freedom.”
The European Jewish Congress, a WJC affiliate, said it was “satisfied” with the Sejm’s position paper.
“The Polish people have decided that the Jewish communities’ religious freedom will not be harmed,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said in a statement, adding that he hopes that it “will put an end to the attempts to curtail Jewish practices that meet the highest and most humane standards.”
Other European nations considering banning shechita should take Poland as their example, he said.
“Shechita is an indispensable element of Jewish life. [It is] a time of many dark clouds on the horizon in Europe, including attacks on Jewish life, such as proposed bans on kosher slaughter and circumcision, the IJC strongly applauds the Sejm for making such a principled decision,” a spokesman for the Israeli Jewish Congress said.
JTA contributed to this report.