Rabbis reminded of Nazi laws by Dutch legislation

Conference of European Rabbis laments law forcing observant Jews to carry identity documents on Shabbat.

Dutch identity card 370 (photo credit: Courtesy voorst.nl)
Dutch identity card 370
(photo credit: Courtesy voorst.nl)
The Conference of European Rabbis on Thursday compared a Dutch law that requires citizens to carry their identity cards at all times to restrictions placed on Jews by the Nazi regime in Germany.
The current controversy stems from a decision by an appeals court in The Hague which ruled this week that there is no religious exemption for Orthodox Jews that would allow them to refrain from carrying their identity documents on Shabbat, when transporting objects outdoors is prohibited under Halacha (Jewish law).
The case focused on an unidentified Dutch Jew who was ultimately fined 60 euros for being unable to produce his documentation when approached by police.
The loss of his appeal means that Dutch Jews who are observant will be forced to choose between allegiance to secular law and their religious principles.
The legal requirement to carry documentation came into effect in the beginning of 2005 and marked the first time since the end of German rule during World War II that such legislation was implemented in the Netherlands.
While many Orthodox Jews allow the use of an eruv , (wire and poles used to create an almost invisible fence around a public space, thus earning it the designation of a private area, where there is no prohibition of carrying) not every community boasts such a structure and some are stringent in avoiding their use.
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that “the current halachic question of whether or not a Jew may carry his ID on Shabbat had to be addressed by poskim, legal scholars, in Nazi Germany.”
“We encourage and support the Jewish community of the Netherlands and hope that the religious rights of Dutch Jews will be respected and upheld by Dutch authorities,” Goldschmidt said.
Ruben Vis, secretary of the central committee of the Nederlands-Israelitisch Kerkgenootschap, Dutch Jewry’s representative body, told the Post that his organization is searching for an appropriate solution to the issue within the strictures of Jewish law.
“The case of the identification requirements has implications,” he said. “Someone who adheres to the laws of the Sabbath may unintentionally end up in a situation where the police or any other official may ask him to identify himself. The NIK has committed itself to ensuring that a halachic solution to this problem will be formulated.”