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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
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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 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.”

About the Author: Michael Freund is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel. He writes a syndicated column and feature stories for the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s leading English-language daily, and he previously served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister’s Office under Benjamin Netanyahu. A native of New York, he holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.


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13 Responses to “Poland: Jews Aren’t Welcome”

  1. Ch Hoffman says:

    why would anyone be surprised that Poland is still the wellspring of anti-semitism.

    they got rid of their jews.
    but they'll never rid themselves of their hatred and their ignorance.

  2. Jack Kraszewski says:

    What exactly was the Poles "behavior" during the Holocaust and how exactly did the Poles "afflict its Jews so heartlessly?" There were over 3 Million Poles murdered during the Holocaust. When I visited Oświęcim, it was rather apparent that the Germans ran the camps.

  3. Stephen Manning says:

    "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."

    It is rudimentary psychology that this kind of attempt at shaming someone who already obviously sees you as unwelcome does NOTHING to improve the situation. It only makes them resent you more.

    By talking about "Poles vs us", you validate their sense that you are foreign.

  4. My father was born in Poland in 1933 and only survived because his parents got lucky enough to be captured by the Soviets and interned in a Siberia work camp. My father hated Poland, refused to speak Polish, would never return to Poland and pretty wished the country would fall into the sea. He would visit Germany before he would go to Poland. Coming from that background, I am not surprised. The Germans for the most part hated jews politically. The Poles hated the jews personally.

  5. Peter Mainwald says:

    who gives a **** about Poland. What the hell have they contributed? If they did fall into the ocean, do you really think anyone would care?

  6. The Poles had a habit of ratting out their fellow Jewish Poles to their Nazi masters and then taking over their homes and businesses. The Polish resistance went out of their way not to help those fighting in the Warsaw rebellion even though they too were fighting the Germans. When the war was over, some member of my father's family went back to Poland to see what was left of their lives. When they approach their villages, they were shot at and killed. My fathers cousin until this day (she passed away 4 years ago) has the dress she was wearing when went back to Poland. It has bullet holes in it . Although he she survived the gunshots, he family thought she was dead and left her in Poland. She recovered and made her way to the US. After the war, it was safer to be in German (where my fathers family was) than in Poland

  7. The Poles had a habit of ratting out their fellow Jewish Poles to their Nazi masters and then taking over their homes and businesses. The Polish resistance went out of their way not to help those fighting in the Warsaw rebellion even though they too were fighting the Germans. When the war was over, some member of my father's family went back to Poland to see what was left of their lives. When they approach their villages, they were shot at and killed. My fathers cousin until this day (she passed away 4 years ago) has the dress she was wearing when went back to Poland. It has bullet holes in it . Although he she survived the gunshots, he family thought she was dead and left her in Poland. She recovered and made her way to the US. After the war, it was safer to be in German (where my fathers family was) than in Poland

  8. Erran Stowe-Mermelstein says:

    I TOTALLY agree. Don't go there and give them your dollars. We went to the Ukraine and Harvey couldn't stand looking at the people, knowing what they did to the Jews. His father was in Auschwitz, his mother on a kinder transport, very emotionally charged for him. He was glad to see just how backwards the country was, this was 17 years ago. Still used horse and carriages outside of Kiev, and the stores in Kiev were literally empty.

  9. Please feel invited to Poland as every Jewish person is. Just please stop the hatred speech as this is not welcomed in our country. I hope that after visiting Poland you will get rid of all the painful prejudice against Polish people you are now suffering from. I hope you will see our country as a place of death of 6 Polish citizens killed by Germans (half of them Jewish). Regarding the comment about Ukraine there is a huge misunderstanding – Ukrainians were part of the German Nazi army as they saw in Hitler a savior on their way to independency. Polish nation fought them and suffered from them a well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacres_of_Poles_in_Volhynia_and_Eastern_Galicia. Regarding the text itself – it was published on the official website of Polish Jewish Forum. Just a few days ago following statement was published there: “Unfortunately, in the context of several absolutely unfortunate wordings used by the author, the text begs for editorial. Do FZP (Forum Żydów Polskich – Polish Jewish Forum) readers will see it or will them (…) be subjected to pure anti-Polish propaganda smuggled under the cover of merits – similar to anti-Semitic texts – generalizing, prejudicial to the people and negative thinking based stereotypical clichés?”. And last but not least Constitutional Tribunal will decide (and the answer is expected to be obviously in favor of religious freedom) about the interpretation of the Animal Protection Right vs. the Law of Religious Associations. So chill out and please apply maximum scrutiny before sending such hatred loaded comments.

  10. Polish citizens were thoroughly murdered by Germans (Nazis) and Russians (Soviets) so out of every 1000 Poles 221 died. Out of thoses 221 statistically 110 were Jewish. Did we invite Germans to our country to kill our citizens? Maybe we invited Russians to complete the work of destruction? Your ignorance is overwhelming sir. Polish nation is one of the biggest victims of IIWW – it is inhuman to say "they got rid of their Jews". Polish were slaughter and their bodies were lying on the same piles as the Jewish. Read, it does not hurt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%BBegota

  11. Shirley Hutnicki Rosen says:

    When I was in my 20's I worked with this girl who came from Poland. She was taught in school that the holocaust never existed. She had been in the u.s for a few years and still denided ever happening.

  12. I am sure Poland is beautiful place now and it a great place to visit. However, these comments and feelings arent prejudice against the Poles. These are reaction to the acts of betrayal and murder committed by Poles on Jews. The biggest betrayals happened after the war when the Jews tried to get back to Poland The fact that millions of Poles were killed by the Nazi doesnt excuse how the Poles treated the Jews. I also recognize that there were many Poles that did help the Jews survive and hide, but as a whole the disgust many jews have about Poland is justified. Of course the irony is that Poland is one of Israel biggest supporters

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