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Poland: Jews Aren't Welcome

Poland: Jews Aren't Welcome

Nearly seven decades since the end of World War II, Poland is once again turning on its Jews.


In a stunning move last week, the lower house of the Polish parliament rejected a bill that would have restored the legality of shechita, or kosher slaughter, by a vote of 222 to 178.

After a Polish constitutional court had previously banned the practice in December, asserting that it violated the country's animal-rights legislation, the government in Warsaw sought to override the decision in the wake of worldwide criticism.

But 38 members of the ruling Civic Platform party voted against the government-sponsored bill, sending it -- and Poland itself -- down to an ignominious defeat.

You do not have to be a Holocaust scholar or student of modern European history to understand how bitterly ironic this turn of events is.

For a country in which 3 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi era to bar Jews from freely practicing their faith is a disgrace and an outrage.

Ever since the downfall of Communism two decades ago, Poland has striven to become a liberal Western democracy. But protecting the rights of minorities is one of the key barometers for determining the health of a free and democratic society. By this measure, Poland is clearly failing the test.

Ostensibly, its decision to prohibit shechita is a question of protecting animals from unnecessary suffering during the slaughtering process. But as anyone who has seen a Jewish ritual slaughterer meticulously check his knife to ensure it is completely smooth can attest, shechita is in fact precisely about minimizing, as much as possible, the pain caused to the animal.

Indeed, as Maimonides writes in the Guide for the Perplexed (Chapter 48), the Torah intended that the animal be killed in the gentlest way possible and prohibited us from causing it needless agony.

Over the years, there have been numerous scientific studies that have confirmed that shechita is humane.

As Dr. Stuart Rosen of the faculty of medicine of London's Imperial College has written concerning shechita, "The speed and precision of the incision ensures the lack of stimulation of the severed structures and results in the immediate loss of consciousness."

"Irreversible cessation of consciousness," he continued, "and insensibility to pain are achieved, providing the most effective stun. There is no delay between the shechita stun and subsequent death so the animal cannot regain consciousness, as can happen with conventional slaughter methods."

Other experts, such as Dr. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a world-renowned authority on designing livestock handling facilities, have also concluded that shechita is at least as humane as other conventional procedures used to slaughter animals.

It is nothing less than an assault on an ancient practice that is central to Jewish communal life.

It is therefore hard to escape the feeling that what truly motivates the opponents of shechita is perhaps sheer anti-Semitism.

After all, to declare shechita inhumane is by extension an allegation that Jews are gratuitously cruel. It is nothing less than an assault on an ancient practice that is central to Jewish communal life, one that sends a message loud and clear: Jews are not wanted here.

In an interview with a Polish radio station, Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich condemned the parliament's decision, going so far as to threaten to resign over the matter.

"I cannot image how I am to continue as chief rabbi in a country where the rights of Jews are not complete," he said. "Ritual slaughter," he noted, "has been demonized in this country, when, in fact, it is not as brutal as it is being presented."

Sadly, by placing the rights of cattle before those of Jews, Poland has managed to undo more than two decades of efforts to repair its ties with the Jewish people. The Poles have shown they can be astonishingly insensitive to the Jews who live in their midst, and equally callous toward the demands of civil liberties and constitutional freedoms.

In a letter of protest to his Polish counterpart, Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein wrote, "I see it as a moral obligation of the Polish people and the parliament in Poland to change this unacceptable decision, a decision that makes Poland the first EU country to forbid kosher slaughter on its soil."

"I hope," he concluded, "that this troubling and threatening law is removed from the Polish law books at the first opportunity."

We too must raise our voices loud and clear against this outrageous decision. Call or write to the Polish embassy or consulate nearest you, and tell them what you think of the fact that they are trampling on the rights of Jews.

Remind them politely but firmly that after their behavior during the Holocaust, Poles are in no position to preach to us about morality or decency.

It shouldn't have come to this, but as obvious as it is, it bears repeating: for a country that afflicted its Jews so heartlessly in the recent past, Poland has a special responsibility to make up for its transgressions.

And a good place for them to start would be to rescind the ban on shechita forthwith.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish Press


July 21, 2013

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 127

(66) Julia, December 2, 2015 1:08 AM

"after their behaviour during the Holocaust"? You mean, when they were being killed along with Jews and others or risked their lives to save Jews? Well, after such horrible suffering they simply respect any life on this beautiful planet. While people like you show too much bitterness and hatred.

(65) Dora, May 28, 2015 3:02 AM


What does it mean 'For a country in which 3 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi era to bar Jews from freely practicing their faith is a disgrace and an outrage." Did POLAND murder the Jews? What are you implying? Stop this insinuations against the historical truth. But maybe I am misunderstanding your sentence. Please explain yourself.

(64) rachel, August 11, 2014 3:07 AM

Well hitler certainly didn't care whether Jews made noise or not, Most Jews were assimilated to German culture and yet Hitler (may his name be erased). killed every single Jew he got his hands on, so whether Jews speak up or not it doesnt matter, Its the fact that we are Jews is what bothers the non Jews so very much, it says in the Torah Esav hates Yakov, so no matter what we will do we will always be hated, its in their Genes, and it been proven through out our history. Jews should stick up for themselves and not be bullied.

(63) former genevoise, October 28, 2013 2:06 AM


In Switzerland it is also forbidden to do Shechita. When the community some yrs ago,asked to please revise this law made a long time ago when antisemitism was rampant, the government's response was :"be quiet, or else we will also not let you bring kosher meat from abroad". Jews in Geneva must pay high taxes to import it,(about $20.00 a kilo price of the meat) or, drive to France (15 min drive) and bring half a kilo per person. Most of us simply smuggled it! we drove from one frontier to another until we found one empty of police. ..Quite degrading.... Also, did you know, in Switzerland it is also forbidden to bury the dead the Jewish way? the cemetery's entrance is in Geneva, and the land is in French territory. bottom line, Europe hasn't learned a thing about the consequences of hate. !!

(62) S.Levy, September 23, 2013 10:09 PM

Antisemitic Europe

It´s simple: Europe has ALWAYS been latently, subconsciously and rabidly anti-semitic and now its governments bend over to the Nazislamic Arabs´demands. Europe is managing to create a new Exodus and replacing Jews (who they think are domineering) with primitive, barbarian cavemen calling themselves Allah´s People, with a difference, Jews NEVER oblige anyone to convert nor kill for not doing so, Arabs tell you ..."either convert or you´re dead..." AND PUT THIS TO PRACTICE. So, let Syria and the Arab countries war at and kill each other, better this way than us having to bear the expenses of these assassinations, rapes, arson, terrorism - and let Europe find out the hard truth.

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