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In early December, Poland rescinded a ban on ritual slaughter that threatened Polish Jewry’s ability to freely practice their religion.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.

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(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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Did Moshe Kantor fund his way to European Jewish Congress Presidency: Micro-Spending Part 2

Krakow

I’ve had the suspicion for quite some time that Moshe Kantor became president of the European Jewish Congress (EJC) through electoral fraud- buying votes.  I suspect that Kantor not so coincidentally created the European Jewish Fund (EJF) in 2006, only a year before his election, with the aim of funding various projects of European community leaders in return for the electoral support of their communities.

Yet Moshe Kantor is not one to generously spend his billions. You can see proof in the projects funded by the EJF. Micro projects such as one-off meetings and summer camps could scarcely be called substantial. I strongly suspect that by “donating” small amounts to art projects and the like he buys individual votes of community leaders.

For example, The Jewish Community Centre of Krakow’s “Young Jewish Artists” project which was planned although it does not appear to have taken place yet.

The EJF site claims “In the coming year The Jewish Community Centre plan to initialize a program, which focuses on promoting young artists who work in the area of Krakow and other parts of Poland – ‘YJA – Young Jewish Artists’. The program would be conducted as a series of four exhibitions and meetings with young artists working in Poland who connect to their Jewish heritage through art.”

(Source: European Jewish Fund)

This is not a serious contribution to communities. This is not building solid Jewish infrastructure. And neither is it pageantry. So why would a billionaire spend these insignificant sums? It appears to me to be the “funding” of individual community leader’s votes.

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.

 

Did Moshe Kantor fund his way to European Jewish Congress Presidency: The Museum of the History of the Polish Jews

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Photo via European Jewish Fund

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 The Museum of History of Polish Jews in the former Warsaw Ghetto. The EJF website lists the founders of the museum as “the city of Warsaw, the Ministry of Culture of Poland, the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.”

(Source: European Jewish Fund)

I took a look at who exactly the museum council members are, and found quite a significant amount of political involvement. There were at least 7 politicians and a few business magnets, whom I will list for you.

Władysław Bartoszewski, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Waldemar Dąbrowski, former Minister of Culture; Corinne Evens, a wealthy business magnet; Rafał Grupiński, lower parliament member; Wiktor Markowicz, an American businessman; Małgorzata Niezabitowska, former spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s cabinet;  Włodzimierz Paszyński, deputy president of the Capital City Warsaw; Prof. Adam Rotfeld, diplomat and former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Prof. Henryk Samsonowicz, former Minister of Education…The list goes on.

(Source: Jewish Museum)

 I don’t need to do the math for you. This council consists entirely of highly influential politicians involved in the Jewish community.

 I fully support donations geared towards the preservation of Jewish history and culture- but it really is questionable to set up a fund that you control, that gives money to the audience that you are trying to get votes from in the next year. Doesn’t this seem a little…blatant?

And to make matter’s more complicated, Kantor’s recent business scandal involves his company Akron hostile takeover (majority share buy-out) of Polish company Grupa Azoty. This is troublesome- Kantor would be able to place his own men on the board of directors, but more importantly Grupa Azoty has the power to manipulate the entire Polish market. Consequently, Akron and Kantor are currently under investigation by The Polish Financial Supervision Commission.

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 President Moshe Kantor Embroiled in Polish Controversy

I’ve been wondering what Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), has been focusing on these past few months. His presence has been notably absent as tensions rise in Europe. What could his priorities be, what could come before the EJC and protecting European Jews from this recent surge of anti-Semitism? From aiding Ukrainian Jewish refugees?

Well the answer has rather suddenly dropped into my lap. It turns out that he has been absorbed in a scandal concerning his umbrella organization, Akron (bought from the Russian government), and his recent acquisition of Poland’s “Grupa Azoty.”

Russian news outlets have reported that Kantor bought a massive 2.75 million shares in “Grupa Azoty,” one of the largest producers of mineral fertilizers in Europe (and the largest in Poland). It is also one of the chief consumers of natural gas in all of Poland.

This massive buyout was achieved through various subsidiaries of Akron, namely “Norica Holding,” which is based in Luxembourg. Several Russian businessmen connected to Kantor and Akron now own a 20% stake in Grupa Azoty, which would allow them to place their own representatives on the board of directors. This has sparked a response of extreme concern from Polish security agencies. 

Akron would be able to access documents, investment plans, and critical data from the company’s research and development centers. This in itself is extremely dangerous, as the Polish company affects the entire Polish market- including the price of gas.

The Polish Internal Security Agency are rightly concerned that Russia is attempting to take control of the Polish economy. Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine speak of plans for a massive Eastern take-over.
(Source:inosmi)

In response, The Polish Financial Supervision Commission have been tasked by the Ministry of the State Treasury to check the legality of the acquisition (domestic Akron package of 4.6% of the securities in Grupa Azoty). The Polish side suspects that Akron ignored the norms of the law on public offers and didn’t fulfill their obligation to inform the stakeholders about its activities. They are seeking to declare the purchase illegal.

(Source:Invest Cafe)

This scandal runs deep, pertaining to state level politics. It’s no surprise that Kantor has been busy. He has made a barefaced choice to place his eggs in Russia’s basket. To work alongside the Kremlin, placing all his other “interests” in danger.

Even if we were to disregard his failure and indifference as president of the European Jewish Congress (which we should not), is this the kind of man we can trust to guard our welfare? Is he qualified to represent our community or our values?

The time has come to treat this with the alarm it deserves. Beyond his criminal activities, Moshe Kantor has failed the community he has sworn to protect. The question needs to be asked- is the Jewish community safe from his dishonest intentions?