Ending Poland’s Ban on Ritual Slaughter: Jews Working Together for a Common Cause

In early December, Poland rescinded a ban on ritual slaughter that threatened Polish Jewry’s ability to freely practice their religion. The ban had meant that the traditional shechita practice, a procedure of animal slaughter according Jewish law, could not be adequately observed, denying Polish Jewry access to local meat and severely curtailing their religious freedom. Fortunately, Jewish groups from across the country, continent and world, rallied together to protect Jews’ religious expression. Together, they forced a reversal of the law through legal means and set an example for the Jewish world that even the most difficult issues facing us as a people can be fought off if we work together for a common cause.

On the 10th of December, the Polish Constitutional Court struck down a law banning animal slaughter without prior stunning of the animal. The law had held exceptions for Jewish and Muslim religious slaughter, but in January 2013, the Supreme Court struck down this measure. This effectively ended the production of kosher Polish meat, as the law prohibited the shechita practice, a form of slaughter mandated by traditional Judaism that is believed to be the most human and requires animals being healthy and uninjured at the time of their slaughter, precluding the use stunning methods. The law also endangered Poland’s nearly $400 million kosher meat exporting industry.  In a country that has been practicing schechita for centuries, Polish Jews were not about to take this infringement on their rights lightly and banded together to fight this law and the precedent it could set for other countries across the continent.

brisket

(photo via Joy of Kosher)

Representatives from the European Jewish Congress (EJC), the Polish Jewish community and the Conference of European Rabbis continuously lobbied the Polish government and MPs, expressing the concerns of the Jewish community, while the European Jewish Association EJA) launched a pan-European campaign against the ban. Petitioning the Polish Constitutional Court, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland (UJRCP), along among several entities appealed the ban, claiming it violated the European Convention on Human Rights and led to “discrimination in social and economic life of Jews in Poland”. The court agreed in a 5-4 decision, and today, shechita and the production of kosher meat in Poland can once again continue.

As countries like the UK debate banning ritual slaughter, and others, like Denmark, outlaw the practice, the Polish court’s decision comes at an opportune time. The campaign against the ban by Jewish organizations in Poland, Europe and the greater Diaspora, serve as a fine example of how threats to the Jewish way of life can be successfully combated by working together. I encourage future cooperation by Jews all across the world in all matters of Jewish life, and especially in combating the mounting existential threats that the world’s Jewish population is facing.

This should send a clear signal to all governments across the European Union that our communities will not allow their basic religious rights to be trampled on in contravention of the letter and intention of EU law

European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor

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Following Violent Attack, The European Jewish Congress Calls on France to Protect the Jewish Community

creit

(photo via Twitter)

A recent violent anti-Semitic attack in France has got Jewish organizations up in arms, and rightly so.

At the start of December, three unknown assailants broke into the home of a Jewish couple in the Paris suburb Créteil (which is known for its sizable Jewish population). The couple were tied up, robbed, and the 19-year-old woman was violently raped.

In addition to this, the assailants told the couple “You Jews always have money” as explanation for their choice of target.

This came only days after two Jewish brothers wearing skullcaps were beaten whilst praying near the Shaare Zion synagogue. The brothers both live in Créteil.

These attacks come as yet another reality dose to French Jewry, who have left France this year in record numbers.

Jewish organizations responded to the attack with horrified outrage. The European Jewish Congress immediately called “on police and public authorities in France to swiftly arrest all the perpetrators and bring them to justice as well as to enhance security at Jewish institutions and to protect the Jewish community.”

The group asks that anti-Semitic attacks be placed at the forefront of the French government’s agenda. Their president stated:  “Unfortunately, it appears that it is ‘open season’ on Jews in France following so many recent violent attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions going all the way back to the brutal torture and murder of Ilan Halimi…”

That doesn’t seem to be far from the truth.

France’s Jewish umbrella organization, CRIF, staunchly condemned the attack in Créteil, but has not done much more. CRIF’s current concentration is France’s Palestine vote, which is where their energy is predominantly directed.

Anti-Semitism has reached a fever pitch in France over the past decade. It is a pervasive force in French culture and must be CRIF’s number one priority. If they are to combat it effectively, the cultural sphere of anti-Semitism must be their constant target.

Anti-Semitic Crisis in Belgium: What More Can Be Done?

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Photo Joods Actueel/Flash 90

The security of Europe’s Jewish community looks bleak. In Belgium, the seat of European justice groups, anti-Semitic sentiment has been realized through violent attacks on Jewish citizens.

If you had told me that only half a year after the gruesome murders at the Brussels Jewish Museum, a Jewish man in Antwerp could be so casually stabbed in the neck on his way from synagogue, I would have been shocked. But hearing it now, after months of anti-Semitic “incidents” with little political or social backlash, I am sadly not surprised.

Europe doesn’t seem to be treating anti-Semitism with the gravity it deserves.

Only recently, a conference on anti-Semitism organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was held in Berlin. It was attended by only two-thirds of the OSCE’s 57 member nations. Two-thirds!

US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, expressed deep concern regarding the absence of one-third of attendees- after all, anti-Semitism is steadily on the rise across Europe. But Stephan Kramer, director of the American Jewish Committee’s European Office on Anti-Semitism and former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said it best: “Besides nice declarations and solidarity addresses which are very welcome and encouraging, we are missing… concrete steps and action plans by the governments across Europe.”

(Source)

In response to the stabbing, the European Jewish Congress (EJC) straightaway called on European authorities to take immediate measures to protect Jewish communities. The group called for “European authorities to form a specially dedicated pan-European body to deal specifically with the wave of anti-Semitism…This will require additional resources to be put into place for shared intelligence, law enforcement cooperation and tougher punishments, to guarantee the security of our communities.”

The immediacy of this response highlights the recent changes in the EJC, after many months of inaction.

The Flemish Forum of Jewish Organizations has stated that they are working on improving security measures, but the fact remains that strict security measures have been in place since the murders in May.

It seems to me that current necessities are stronger action on the part of Belgium’s government, and a cultural campaign through media and schooling to tackle anti-Semitism at its roots.

Could Dieter Graumann Save the European Jewish Congress?

Graumann faz.net

photo via faz.net

The future of Jews in Europe has not looked so uncertain in decades.  The anti-Semitic uproar that took place these last few months has yet to fizzle out, and frankly I see so evidence that it will.

If you’re reading this you probably are already aware of the dangers European Jews face. Physical and verbal anti-Semitic attacks, the threat of ISIS “lone wolves,” and a threat to the safety of being Jewish “in public.”

Quite understandably, this has had a powerful effect on the way Jewish people see their place in Europe. But the issues that arose were not only the actions of aggressors. The response of Jewish leadership was far too often too little, too late.

If European Jews are to continue living in this dangerous climate, they urgently need new leadership. This isn’t a question, it’s a priority. European Jews deserve to be represented by leaders that actively support their best interests, and do not use their positions in Jewish organizations only for their own political gain.

So I’d like to ask the question that seems to me to be most imperative: who should be considered as future leaders for European Jewry?

A great example would be Dieter Graumann, a prominent lawyer, economist, and business owner.

As a Jewish community leader from Germany, Graumann has real world experience combating anti-Semitism in the diplomatic sphere. And he did just that this past summer, even writing an article for Huffington Post in July, drawing attention to the severity of German anti-Semitism.

As for credentials, Graumann currently serves as Chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and is the Vice President of the World Jewish Congress. He is a trustee for the charitable Leo Baeck Foundation, aimed “at expanding and strengthening European Jewry and at creating perspectives on interfaith dialogue”

(Source: Leo Baeck Foundation)

“Graumann has also repeatedly and openly criticized Germany for its extensive business ties with Iran, calling them “despicable” and “a disgrace.”

(Source: WWRN)

This is the kind of active, exemplary leadership that European Jews deserve, but are currently lacking. The current head of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor, has not only neglected his diplomatic duty to combat anti-Semitism, but also lacks the experience needed to address the issue. Kantor is a Russian oligarch with close ties to Putin. It’s little wonder that he has neglected the Jewish community.

But the facts are clear- in a time of necessity, Kantor has failed to address the needs of Europe’s Jewish communities. The time has come to find a competent successor, thus empowering and protecting European Jewry.

Did Moshe Kantor fund his way to European Jewish Congress Presidency: The Czech Commemoration Project

As the specter of anti-Semitism returns to haunt Europe en mass, and the European Jewish Congress (EJC) neglects their diplomatic duty to the Jewish community, I find it more and more pressing to build my case that EJC President Moshe Kantor funded various communities in return for votes during his 2007 election.

I believe that Kantor’s creation of the European Jewish Fund(EJF) in 2006 (only a year before his election) was aimed towards funding various projects of European community leaders in return for the electoral support of their communities.

For example, in 2012, the EJF funded an event that was organized by The Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic. The event is called “The Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust and Prevention of Crimes against Humanity.”

What interests me is the large number of Czech politicians that took part, as well as the extensive media coverage. According to the EJF site, these politicians used the event “to voice their attitudes towards actual political issues, concerning the Jewish community, Israel and related problems.” 

(Source:European Jewish Fund)

Of even greater interest are the event organizers, who happen to be quite influential personalities in the Jewish world. They include Chairman Petr Papoušek, who is Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress, as well as Tomáš Kraus who is on the EJC executive committee and was a past Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.

(Source: fzo)

(Source: European Jewish Congress)

Such significant community members surely have far-reaching influence within the pool voting for Kantor’s election to the EJC.

I am in no way refuting donations promoting Holocaust awareness. But it is more than fair to question a political candidate setting up a fund that he is head of, and that gives money to the exact audience that is his voter pool.

Moshe Kantor is an old-school Russian oligarch with a vast history of business indiscretions and close dealings with the Kremlin. His umbrella organization, Akron, was purchased from the Russian government and has been the center of various scandals (many brought to light by unions). It’s not a stretch to see how he could have funded his election.

(Source: Rumafia)

Though I leave the question open, I would like to stress the consequences of Kantor’s election. His position is one of importance to European Jewish leadership. His voice is the Jewish diplomatic voice, and in the wake of renewed anti-Semitism and Iranian nuclear proliferation….that voice is critically absent.

European Jewish Congress head Moshe Kantor revealed: Involvement in sale of X-55 missiles to Iran and China

Some of the information I’ve come across while researching Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), has set off blaring alarm bells in my consciousness. I began this research out of fear that Kantor, a billionaire Russian oligarch, was a risk to European Jews and Israel’s Iran threat- due to his close relationship with Vladimir Putin. Well that theory has been exacerbated with my findings of Kantor’s involvement in the sale of X-55 (Kh-55) missiles to Iran and China in 2005.

X-55 Missiles are Russian-made, air-launched cruise missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The X-55 has a range of 3,000 km- enough to put Japan within range of the Asian continent or to reach Israel from Iran.

Kantor’s involvement in the affair is highly guarded, with little information available to the public. Rumafia was able to find reports from IA “AKS-News” from 2007 that revealed that during the investigation of this case the names of two offshore companies came up: “Isofert Trading INC” and “Transchem International INC,” which belonged to Kantor. “The Ukrainian media reported that these companies were related to financial operations of the company “Far West Ltd”, where Kantor was playing a mediating role between them.”

(Source: Rumafia) 

This information came to light after Ukraine admitted to exporting 12 missiles to Iran and 6 to China. Ukraine was under immense pressure from the international community to explain the sales. The Financial Times reported that “Svyatoslav Piskun, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, told the FT that 18 X-55 cruise missiles, also known as Kh-55s or AS-15s, were exported in 2001.” (Source: Financial Times)

Furthermore “Two Russian businessmen were suspected of masterminding the sale… one of whom, Oleg Orlov, was arrested last July in Prague in response to a Ukrainian warrant.” (Source: FT) The other has never been mentioned by name. What are the chances that name was Kantor?

After all, Kantor was a non-governmental advisor to Viktor Yushchenko from April 2005 to 2007, while Yushchenko was president of Ukraine.

Here’s the final piece for the puzzle. In February 2006, a year after information was release regarding the missile sale, Kantor was detained for questioning at Ben Gurion airport in Israel. Money-laundering was the suspected reason at the time, but subsequent information leads me to assume otherwise. (Source:JTA)

This man is the President of the European Jewish Congress.  It is his sworn duty to protect the Jewish people and work for their collective good. His involvement in the sale of missiles to Iran (which directly threatens Israel) greatly conflicts with his role as a supporter of Israel and the Jewish people. Is this the kind of man we can trust as our leader?

The Murders at Jewish Museum of Belgium were the start of this antisemitic siege- why didn’t the European Jewish Congress act then?

tabletmag

Photo via Tabletmag

 

The tide of European anti-Semitism began with the vicious murder of four individuals at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. At that moment, seeing as a blaring threat had been sent to the European Jewish community, the European Jewish Congress should have stepped in.

 

On the 24th of May, 2014, 4 individuals were murdered in the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. Their names were Emanuel and Miriam Riva of Tel Aviv, Alexandre Strens of Morocco and Belgium- the final victim was an unnamed French museum volunteer.

They were murdered because their attacker believed them all to be Jewish, or promoting Jewish values.

This horrifying attack occurred in broad daylight. On a Saturday afternoon. In the middle of a major city, Brussels. A masked man opens fire with a rifle, then packs up and leaves. Weeks later it is presumed that he is Mehdi Nemmouche, and that the attack can be understood because he might have spent a year as a member of ISIS in Syria.

But I will not understand. I will not understand because this horrific hate crime set the stage for something too large to quantify. (Source: WJS)

The months that followed this attack have seen Europe riddled with anti-Semitic hate , the like of which has not been seen since the 1930’s. Newsweek reported that Jews have fled in record numbers, and many more are questioning their futures in Europe. Far-right anti-Semitic parties gained power in Hungary, Germany, and Romania. Fears of extreme persecution began to prevail. (Source: Newsweek)

And now we sit here, in the midst of a storm, and I ask myself…could this have been prevented? Perhaps not, perhaps anti-Semitism is too cyclical in its nature to fully defeat. But European Jews are in grave peril, and the organizations that were built to protect them are impotent. I speak of the European Jewish Congress who promote themselves ” As the sole political organizational representative of European Jewry, the EJC protects the interests of its affiliated communities, working daily with European Union institutions and officials, the Council of Europe (where the EJC has participatory status) and national governments and parliaments.”

The EJC is the political and diplomatic arm of the European Jews. Their president, Moshe Kantor, built his election campaign on claims to fight anti-Semitism. The moment the murder of Jews in Europe began again (Brussels, Toulouse, Bulgaria) it was his job to step up and exert diplomatic influence. But he didn’t.

Now European Jewry is paying the price.

 

Click here to help European Jews attain a trustworthy diplomatic voice by asking your community to call on Moshe Kantor to resign