Jews in Poland continue ritual slaughter despite ban

Large scale industrial kosher slaughter has ceased but the the local Jewish community is still carrying out practice.

Ambassador Prawda and Rabbi Margolin370 (photo credit: EJA- Courtesy)
Ambassador Prawda and Rabbi Margolin370
(photo credit: EJA- Courtesy)
While industrial-scale ritual slaughter has ceased in Poland since being outlawed in the country’s parliament, the Sejm, the Jewish community is still practicing shechita, its chief rabbi told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
American-born Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich defended continuing shechita as usual, saying that the Jewish community has spoken with several top constitutional lawyers who believe that it “is already legal.” The Jewish community “did a big shechita” a week-and-a-half ago, Schudrich said.
“I have no hesitation to do shechita. When it becomes necessary we certainly will do shechita [again] because I believe it’s legal.”
Ritual slaughter officially ceased in Poland in January, following a 2012 decision by Poland’s constitutional court that exempting religious Muslims and Jews from a law requiring that animals be stunned before slaughter was “unconstitutional.”
A government-sponsored bill that would establish such an exception in the law was voted down in a vote of 222 to 178 in the Sejm last Friday.
While Prime Minister Donald Tusk has declared that he has no plans to reintroduce legislation to lift the ban, he did appoint Administration and Digitization Minister Michael Boni – who is also in charge of religious matters in Poland – to head a committee to find a solution to what Jewish groups are calling an infringement of their fundamental religious rights, announced European Jewish Association general director Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
Tusk’s move comes after a series of condemnations by Jewish organizations all over the world and a protest by the Israeli government calling the ban “unacceptable.”
Marek Prawda, Permenant Representative of Poland to the EU, has also informed Rabbi Margolin that Boni has already instructed its legal councils to examine the legal issues surrounding the ban; the Polish constitution prohibits any violation of religious freedom and the rights of worship of minority groups.
Jonathan Ornstein, director of the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, said that the establishment of the committee was very encouraging news for Poland’s Jews.
“It’s very encouraging that Prime Minster Tusk has asked Minister Boni to find a solution; we feel that the Prime Minister and his administration take the concerns of the Jewish community very seriously and are doing all they can to rectify this situation. We are very confident that our rights will be protected,” said Ornstein.
Eliezer Gurary, the Chabad rabbi in Krakow, said that he hoped Boni could find a solution, as the Jewish community now has to “import kosher meat from neighboring countries and that of course makes it difficult for anyone who keeps kosher and raised the price.”
According to Schudrich, Boni sent a brief to the Polish Legislation Center, a body which serves to clarify issues of Polish law. He said that he expects an answer within seven to 10 days and that “in the meantime we have the opinion of several top constitutional lawyers who say that there is no questions that in fact we have the right to religious slaughter.”
Schudrich referred to the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland, which states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community. This law, he asserted, overrides the current ban.
“We think there is a legal solution,” he said.
JTA contributed to this report.