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September 21, 2014 / 26 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Danish Jewish Leader Disputes Report of Ban on Kosher Slaughter

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

The president of Denmark’s Jewish community has disputed a government minister’s claims that new regulations would outlaw all kosher slaughter in the country.

“We find this an odd statement,” Finn Schwarz, the community’s president, told JTA on Thursday about statements made earlier in the week by Agriculture Minister Dan Jorgensen to the Ritzau news agency.

Jorgensen was speaking about slaughter without prior stunning — a requirement for kosher certification of meat in Jewish Orthodox law and for halal certification of meat for observant Muslims. Jorgensen said, “I am in favor of religious slaughter, but it must be done in a way that does not bring pain to the animal. This can be accomplished only by stunning.”

Danish Jews already agreed in 1998 to the certification as kosher of meat from cattle that were stunned with non-penetrative captive bolt pistols, Schwarz said, adding that the decision was made in consultation with the British Chief Rabbi’s office. The new regulation will not ban the slaughter of animals after stunning with non-penetrative captive bolts, he added.

The new regulations, regardless of how they are interpreted, do not directly affect Denmark’s 6,000 Jews because there are not kosher slaughterhouses in the country. All kosher meat is imported.

The European Jewish Press reported Thursday that European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy Tonio Borg told a Jewish leader during a meeting in Brussels that the new Danish legislation regulating ritual slaughter in the country contradicts European laws that ensure the right of religious groups to perform ritual slaughtering.

Jewish Orthodox law and Muslim law require animals be intact and conscious when they are killed. Non-penetrative captive bolts were permitted because they do not wound the animal, which is slaughtered immediately after being knocked on the head.

Rabbi Yitzi Loewenthal of Copenhagen said the agreement on the use of captive-bolt, non-penetrating pistols may have applied to post-cut stunning, a procedure in which the animal’s head is knocked immediately after its neck is cut. Some rabbis have allowed the procedure elsewhere in the world. However, because shechitah is not regularly performed in Denmark, some issues regarding the procedure are not immediately clear, Loewenthal said.

Anti-Semitism Spurs More European Jews to Flee

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Nearly one-third of European Jews are considering emigrating because of rising anti-Semitism, and 25 percent of Jews in Europe are afraid to appear in public with cloths or symbols that would identify them as Jews, a new report reveals.

There was no indication of which countries were the desired new homes of those wanting to flee, but Israel presumably is high on the list.

The study released in Israel prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27 also shows that social websites on the Internet serve as a platform for rising anti-Semitism.

“Social networks have the growing ability to mobilize crowds to attend events, and [have increasing] influence in the political public sphere. They have also become a means of communication reaching hundreds of millions of people, also on aspects related to the disclosure of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” according to the report.

As earlier reported here, three pig heads were mailed to Rome’s main synagogue and to the Jewish Museum of Rome, which is displaying en exhibit concerning the Holocaust.

Naftali Bennett, who serves as Minister of Diaspora Affairs, said, “Like the efforts to delegitimize Israel, anti-Semitism is both a disgrace and a blot on every society. Trying to understand their ‘causes’ legitimizes them. There is no reason or justification for anti-Semitism.”

“Despite what people might think, anti-Semitism does not strengthen our ties with Jews overseas,” he said. “For every Jew who makes Aliya as a result of anti-Semitism, there are many others who cut ties with Judaism and the Jewish way of life.”

Dutch Funds Divest from Israeli Banks but not from Occupied Tibet

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

A Dutch pension administrator has divested from five Israeli banks over their activity in the Judea and Samaria as a matter of “responsible investment policy” but it retains its investments in Chinese banks operating in Tibet on land widely seen internationally as land occupied by China.

The pension investment company PGGM announced its decision to divest from Bank HaPoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank on Tuesday on its website.

The text cited the banks’ “involvement in financing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. This was a concern, as the settlements in the Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international humanitarian law.”

PGGM had a marginal investment of several dozen millions of dollars in Israeli banks out of billions it invests all over the world, according to the NRC Handelsblad daily. The paper reported PGGM was Holland’s second-largest pension administrator.

In its statement, the company also cited its “responsible investment policy,” which excludes investing in bodies involved in “violations of fundamental human rights and labor rights.”

But according to a document released by the company in 2013, PGGM investments abroad include two Chinese banks – Bank of China and China Construction Bank — with offices and activities in Tibet, which is widely seen internationally as land occupied by China. PGGM also invests in China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec, which is exploring for oil in Tibet.

PGGM’s international investments also include the Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby, which last year paid a million dollars in reparations to villagers in Liberia amid accusations that the firm had violated their human rights and confiscated their property.

PGGM spokesperson Maurice Wilbrink declined to answer JTA’s questions on the scope of his company’s investments in Chinese firms active in Tibet, explaining the figures were confidential.

Dutch Christians’ Mega-Menorah Helps Jews Come Out of their Shell

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Amsterdam’s Chabad Rabbi Binyamin Jacobs lit the candles on the first night Hanukkah Wednesday on a 36-foot menorah with a six-ton base that was made with donations by Christian Zionists.

Klaas Zijlstr designed and built the menorah, in the shape of a Star of David, in his metal workshop in the northern tip of the Netherlands. Possibly the largest in all of Europe, the handiwork of a Protestant metal contractor is meant to be a sign of solidarity by Christian Zionists with the Jewish people.

“It’s exactly like the rabbi wanted,” Zijlstra said.

Rabbi Jacobs helped Zijlstra and a group called Christians for Israel design the nine-branch candelabrum so it could be used for the eight-day holiday, which began Wednesday night and which was lit in front of hundreds of Christians and Jews during a public ceremony in Nijkerk, not far from Amsterdam.

Though commonplace in the United States and even in Russia, public Hanukkah events are a recent and revolutionary development in the Netherlands. Here they signify the growing self-confidence and openness of a Jewish community whose near annihilation in the Holocaust left a deeply entrenched tendency to keep a low profile.

“Twenty years ago, this wouldn’t‎‎ have been possible,” said Arjen Lont, the Christian Zionist businessman who donated $40,000 to build and transport the menorah. “It requires a lot of openness.”

Lont says the purpose of the giant menorah, which can be used either with electric bulbs or oil lamps, is to send a message.

“After unspeakable suffering, the horrors of the Holocaust and most recently the attacks on Israel, Jews may feel they are alone,” Lont told JTA. “This is our way of saying you are not alone; we are behind you.”

The first public Hanukkah lighting ceremony in the country was organized in 1989 in Buitenveldert, near Amsterdam, by the wife of a Chabad rabbi, according to Bart Wallet, a historian of Dutch Jewry at the University of Amsterdam.

Today, such events are held annually in 19 municipalities, from the northern city of Leeuwarden, near Berlikum, to the southern border city of Maastricht, according to Rabbi Jacobs.

He said that public menorah lightings in the country signify the Jewish community’s confidence in asserting its place in Dutch society.

“Nowadays it’s also saying we are here; we are also a part of the fabric of religious communities and society,” he explained.

Dutch Jewish reticence toward public displays of faith dates back at least to the 19th century, according to Wallet, when Dutch rabbis decreed that no Jewish rituals should be held in the public domain. At the time, Dutch Jews were keen on integrating into a democratic society as equal citizens, and they considered it counterproductive to showcase religious customs that set them apart from their compatriots.

The tendency was greatly reinforced after the Holocaust, when three-quarters of Holland’s population of 140,000 Jews perished — a higher percentage than anywhere else in occupied Western Europe. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in the Netherlands.

Wallet says things began to change in the 1970s, when Dutch Jews began displaying greater activism around anti-Semitism and Israel.

Even today, however, many Dutch Jews retain a sense of reticence when it comes to public displays of religion.

“There’s nothing wrong with these Hanukkah events, but to me they don’t seem familiar,” said Jaap Hartog, chairman of the umbrella group of Dutch Jewry, called the Dutch Israelite Religious Community, or NIK. “To me, Hanukkah is more a holiday that you celebrate at home with your family. The public candle lightings are more of an American thing.

“On a personal level, I’m not too keen on participating.”

Initially, Chabad rabbis organized candle lighting ceremonies as part of their efforts to reach lapsed Jews, but today the menorah lightings are not organized exclusively by Chabad. Nathan Bouscher, a Jewish activist who is not himself religious, has co-organized candle lightings at the Dam, Amsterdam’s best-known square.

“It’s a way to build bridges between Jews and the non-Jewish environment, but also within the community and between Dutch-born Jews and the thousands of Israelis who live here and the tourists from Israel,” Bouscher said.

Back at Zijlstra’s metal workshop, his menorah is attracting attention from neighbors. During the test run last week, a few of them stopped by to admire his handiwork and congratulate him.

Norway Official Wants to ‘Educate’ Jews against Circumcision

Monday, November 25th, 2013

The anti-circumcision bill in Norway, which the country’s foreign minister vows will not become law, is being pushed by the country’s child welfare adviser who wants Jews and Muslims to understand that causing pain is tantamount to a sin far worse than violating the Jewish law of circumcision.

New legislation on non-medical circumcision of boys under 18 is scheduled to be introduced before mid-April.

“With good information about risk, pain and lack of health benefits of the intervention, I think parents from minorities would voluntarily abstain from circumcising children,” Anne Lindboe, Norway’s Children’s Ombudsmen, told the Norwegian Aftenpost daily last week.

Her claims are questionable to say the least, but lest she be accused of trying to negate religious practice, she has a solution to those Jews who insists on upholding the ritual that is the physical bond among Jews since Abraham and which is the bond with God, for which Jews have been cursed and killed.

Her solution, reported here, is simply to perform a “symbolic ritual,” presumably one in which the baby will not cry, God forbid.

It would be easy to criticize her for ignorance of Judaism, but why expect a non-Jewish pediatrician from one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe to understand Jewish law and belief?

Lindboe is a pediatrician. She has seen children abused and even killed by parents, some of them mentally disturbed, drunk or simply wicked, and she puts them in the same basket as normal parents who circumcise their baby boys.

“We introduced a law on violence against children even though we had reason to believe that individuals would still be beaten and mistreated,” she told the newspaper,, dismissing concerns raised in Norwegian media that a ban on ritual circumcision would mean that parents would perform it illegally.

“If 15 years is set as the minimum age, we expect Norwegian parents follow and respect the law,” said Lindboe, a longtime advocate of the criminalization of ritual circumcision, which she considers a form of abuse and infringement of children’s rights to “physical integrity.”

“I think it’s disrespectful towards minorities to assume that they are going to break the law,” she added, showing an unbelievable ignorance of the very concept of any religion.

Her thinking, so to speak, reflects a modern and sterile philosophy that there is no such thing as “religious law” if a government views it as wrong.

Her attitude also reflects a modern view, often Christian, that no one has to suffer in life. Smile, have a nice day and don’t struggle with everyday difficulties that cause pain.

It is the same type of bleeding heart mentality that is behind “engagement” with monsters like Syrian President Bassar al-Assad and with masters of evil, such as the Islamic regime in Iran.

Ervin Kohn, president of the Jewish Community of Oslo, told JTA he did not expect her campaign to lead to a ban on ritual circumcision in Norway. The country’s new Foreign Minister Børge Brende has promised the Simon Wiesenthal Center that “the Norwegian Government recognizes the importance of ritual male circumcision for the Jewish community in Norway…[and] it will not propose a ban on ritual circumcision.”

Regardless of whether Norway keeps its promise, the anti-circumcision campaign is alive and well around the world, even  though Germany passed legislation last year to protect Jews and Muslims’ right to circumcise their children.

As reported here and here, the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly passed a non-binding resolution to ban ritual circumcision.

Some politicians in Quebec, a long-time bastion of anti-Semitism, have floated the idea of a ban.

Jews in Quebec have no fear of a ban, but more worrisome is the thinking, or lack of thinking, in which intelligent people want to see the world as the cover of a Saturday Evening Post magazine from the 1950s, or as a Woodstock festival, where no one has to struggle and everyone lives in complacence.

The problem with the dream world is that it leaves it defenseless against the Assads and Ayatollahs.

Linboe’s “no pain” world  that she wants to replace religious circumcision, about which she knows only a bit of the physical side and less than nothing about the metaphysical side, is a world that pretends evil does not exist and therefore does not have to be fought.

The Wiesenthal Center has said about all of the campaigns to ban circumcision, “Historically, such draconian actions were taken by tyrants, dictators and mass murderers. Today we are confronted with such initiatives being proposed and passed in democracies.”

The results are the same, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-circumcision crowd. The only thing that matters is that they don’t feel the pain when an Iranian or Hezbollah nuclear bomb blows up in their back yard.

French Politicians, Clergymen Back Petition Defending Circumcision

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

More than 5,500 people, including prominent French politicians, scholars and clergymen, have signed a petition against attempts to ban the ritual circumcision of boys in Europe.

Titled “No to a ban on circumcision,” the petition was published on Oct. 16 by CRIF, the umbrella organization representing France’s Jewish communities, following the Oct. 1 passage of a Council of Europe resolution that calls male ritual circumcision a “violation of the physical integrity of children.”

Among the petition signers are Anne Hidalgo, a candidate in next year’s Paris mayoral elections, the director Claude Lanzmann and former government ministers Claude Goasguen and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet.

By Thursday, the petition had more than 5,500 signatures.

The non-binding resolution by the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly “targets European Jewish communities that are already exposed to the unprecedented resurgence of anti-Semitism,” the petition reads. “It is inconceivable to those who survived the Holocaust” and “dangerous because it stigmatizes Jews.”

Other co-signatories include Patrick Dubois, a French Catholic priest and Holocaust scholar, and Alain Massini, a well-known Protestant pastor.

The text of the petition also characterizes the resolution as “insulting” because it “equates between circumcision and [female genital] mutilation.”

Lithuania’s Support of Ritual Slaughter May Turn the Tide

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

The Lithuanian parliament has taken the first steps to legal ritual slaughter in what could be move that turns the tide against the wave of initiatives in Europe to defend the “rights of animals” as a higher priority that freedom of religious practices.

“The fact that Lithuania currently holds the Presidency of the European Union means that this law will have an extremely strong symbolic significance for the rest of Europe,” said Jewish Congress president Dr. Moshe Kantor.

The bill passed its first reading in the parliament by a lopsided margin of 51-2.

Religious slaughter was banned in Poland on January 1 after its Constitutional Court deemed it incompatible with animal rights legislation, and there have been other attempts in Europe to ban religious traditions like circumcision.

“We face significant opposition to our traditions in Europe, but we are glad to be winning some significant victories for freedom of religion on our continent,” Kantor said. “Freedom of religion is one of the EU’s founding pillars and those who fight against it are compromising the principles of tolerance and mutual respect which the new Europe is supposed to be built upon.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/lithuanias-support-of-ritual-slaughter-may-turn-the-tide/2013/10/17/

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