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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Poland’

Russia Giving Up to $1 Million to Auschwitz Conservation Fund

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Russia will contribute up to $1 million to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation for the conservation and maintenance of the site of the former Nazi concentration camp, the Polskie Radio website reported.

A statement issued by the Russian Embassy in Warsaw stated that support for the project is “a common moral duty as it serves the mission of preserving the memory of the huge number of victims of the Nazi camp and of other crimes against humanity.”

The four-year-old foundation is working to raise nearly $160 million for a perpetuity fund to continue to maintain the site. Twenty-four countries have contributed thus far. Germany has contributed $80 million, followed by the United States with $15 million. Poland, where the camp is located, has promised about $13 million, according to Polskie Radio.

Some 155 buildings on the site are in need of repair. The money is needed as well for conservation projects such as the Auschwitz-Birkenau archives, documents and objects in the museum collection.

Kosher Slaughter Ban Shows Poland Has a Jewish Problem

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, has a Jewish problem.

In a painful affront to the Jewish community, it recently defeated a government initiative to reinstate the legality of kosher slaughter of animals. This prompted Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, to threaten resignation and triggered sharp criticism of the Sejm from Jewish communities in Poland and around the world.

What happens in Poland regarding Jews has special significance because of the Holocaust. More than 90 percent of the country’s three and a half million Jews were killed during the Nazi occupation. Poland began legislating against kosher slaughter in 1936, and once the Germans occupied the country three years later, the practice was banned entirely.

Since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, however, Jewish life in Poland has undergone a remarkable, and previously unimaginable, renaissance. Full recognition of the rights of Jews to practice their faith – including kosher slaughter – was enshrined in an agreement the government signed with the Jewish community in 2004.

Indeed, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, addressing an overflow crowd at the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington several weeks ago, declared it was his country’s responsibility to ensure “that today’s Jewish community in Poland is safe, welcome and respected.”

He honored Poland’s Jewish community “not just for how it died, but for how it lives, and how it is coming back to life.”

When legislation was adopted a few years ago mandating the use of electronic stunning equipment before an animal is killed – a practice prohibited under Jewish law –the Jewish community was granted an administrative exemption. In January, however, a court ruled the exemption unconstitutional. Alleged violations of animal rights trumped age-old Jewish religious practice.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government framed legislation to override the court decision. What should have been a fairly easy corrective measure was instead defeated on July 12 by a vote of 222 to 178, leaving in place the judicial ban.

Thirty-eight Sejm members representing Tusk’s ruling Civic Platform party joined with the opposition in voting to outlaw ritual slaughter. In Poland, this was viewed as a major victory for animal rights advocates, as their views prevailed against the nation’s farmers and meatpackers, who had developed a lively business exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim countries.

Jews, however, see matters quite differently. From their perspective, the Sejm’s action stigmatizing kosher slaughter as inhumane blatantly contradicts Foreign Minister Sikorski’s pledge to make Jews “safe, welcome and respected.” They point out that kosher slaughter, whereby the animal is rendered immediately unconscious by severing the carotid artery, is humane, and that the continued legality of hunting in Poland, which results in far greater and more indiscriminate pain to animals, suggests there may in fact be another, unstated reason for outlawing kosher slaughter: anti-Semitism.

In the wake of the Sejm vote, pejorative comments about Jews in some of the Polish media and online give some credence to these fears.

Unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. The situation for European Jews looks even grimmer in a broader context. Just a few months ago, a similar scenario unfolded in Germany when a court banned ritual circumcision, another fundamental element of the Jewish religion, on the grounds that it mutilated children without their consent. There, too, anti-Semitic motivation was not hard to discern in certain quarters amid the talk about physiological and psychological harm.

Fortunately, Chancellor Angela Merkel navigated a bill through the German parliament overruling the court and reestablishing the religious freedom of Jews to continue an age-old tradition of their faith. Whether Poland will successfully follow her example and push through a law guaranteeing the right to kosher slaughter remains to be seen.

Such attacks on Jewish religious practice, in fact, constitute just one front in a wider struggle over the future of Jewish life in Europe. Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise, increasing by 30 percent between 2011 and 2012. In France, there was an astounding 58 percent jump over that same period, including the targeted murder last year of four Jews, three of them small children, in Toulouse.

Vocally anti-Semitic political parties are represented in the Greek and Hungarian parliaments and are gaining power on the local and regional levels in other countries. Public opinion polls show alarmingly high levels of anti-Semitic attitudes. Demonization of Israel in the media and among some intelligentsia is often indistinguishable from Jew-baiting. No wonder that opinion surveys point to a striking number of European Jews contemplating emigration.

Parts of Bulgarian Bus Bomb Smuggled from Poland

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Hezbollah terrorists smuggled from Poland the remote control and the detonating device used to set off the bomb that exploded on a Bulgarian tourists bus last summer and killed five Israelis, according to the Polish Trud daily newspaper.

Last week, Bulgaria named two native Lebanese as part of the cell that carried out the attack near the airport in Burgas, a resort city on the Black Sea.

Hassan El Hajj Hassan, who also holds Canadian citizenship, is suspected of detonating the bomb from the a remote control device,. Meliad Farah, who holds Australian citizenship, is suspecting of having put together the bomb in Bulgaria after receiving the parts that arrived on a train form Warsaw, according to Trud.

Hezbollah wired the terrorists $100,000 for their “success,” the newspaper added.

The Bulgarian Interior Ministry last week published pictures of the two wanted suspects, who it said registered at a  hotel and rented a car under fake names days before the bombing.

Bulgaria’s evidence that Hezbollah was behind the bombing helped pressure the European  Union to declare Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, but the designation applies only to the military branch and to to the political arm, which gives orders to its terrorists.

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Threatens to Quit over Kosher Slaughter Ban

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Poland’s chief rabbi said he will resign if a definitive ban on kosher slaughter is imposed in the country.

“I cannot imagine serving as chief rabbi in a country in which the rights of the Jewish religion are curtailed, as I would not be able then to serve properly my coreligionists,” Rabbi Michael Schudrich wrote on his Facebook page. “This obviously is not a threat, for whom would I threaten, but a statement of an obvious fact. If the legality of ritual slaughter will not be reinstituted in a legitimate way, I will be obliged to resign from my function.”

The American-born Schudrich, who has worked in Poland for more than two decades, has served as Poland’s chief rabbi since 2004. Before that he was rabbi to the Warsaw Jewish community and director of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in Poland.

The lower house of Poland’s parliament last Friday rejected a government-sponsored draft law that would have legalized Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in Poland, by a 222-178 vote.

Poland had allowed shechitah until earlier this year, making about $650 million annually by exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim-majority countries. But in January, acting on a petition filed by animal rights groups, a constitutional court ruled that the country has no right to allow religious slaughter.

Poland Rejects ‘Shechitah’ Kosher Slaughter

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The Polish Parliament rejected a draft law that would have legalized Jewish ritual slaughter, or shechitah, in Poland.

The bill, defeated 222-178 on Friday, would have allowed shechitah provided it is done in a slaughterhouse. It also excluded certain forms of immobilizing the animal.

Until this year, Poland allowed shechitah, making about $650 million annually by exporting kosher and halal meat to Israel and Muslim-majority countries like Egypt and Iran. But the business practically ground to a halt in January after a constitutional court ruled that the country has no right to allow religious slaughter. The ruling was made after a petition filed by animals’ rights groups.

Dozens of Polish farmers marched in Warsaw on Wednesday in a rally in support of allowing shechitah.

On Friday, Jewish groups bemoaned the failure to pass a law allowing ritual slaughter.

“The majority of Polish MPs gave the Polish Jewish community three choices: don’t practice your religion, don’t eat meat, or don’t live among us,” said Abraham H. Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“For a country still struggling to come to terms with its past treatment of Jews, it is outrageous to strike such a blow to the future of Jews in Poland. This vote was a clear violation of religious freedom, supported by the ignorance of some and the bigotry of others.

“The debate demonstrated acceptance of the false premise that kosher slaughter, which involves a single cut with a razor-sharp knife to minimize pain, is less humane than slaughter with pre-stunning by electrocution, gassing or a bolt shot to the animal’s forehead.”

“Populism, superstition and political interests won out,” said Piotr Kadlcik, President of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. “It looks like we’ve made a full circle and are heading back to what happened in Poland and Germany in the 1930s.”

“Jewish communities across Europe will be incredibly distressed that the Polish Parliament has voted not to protect the religious freedom of its Jewish and Muslim citizens,” Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in statement.

“The result of today’s vote in the Sejm is extremely disappointing,” a spokesperson for Shechitah UK, a non-profit working to repeal efforts to ban the practice, told JTA. “It represents the lowest point in the campaign to protect shechitah in Europe.”

The group said that it will work with Polish Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich and the Conference of European Rabbis to offer assistance in the campaign to overcome this setback.

The Conference of European Rabbis also said it was “alarmed by the level of disinformation that has characterized the parliamentary debates” on the issue.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Polish prime minister,” the conference said. “We will also be exploring what our legal options at E.U. level might be at this stage. This is very sad day for the Polish Jewish community and indeed for all of European Jewry.”

In a joint statement, Schudrich and Kadlcik said the result of the vote was “a shock.” The de-facto ban infringes on freedom of religion, they added. Noting that hunting for sport is legal in Poland, they said the vote against shechitah reflects “sinister hypocrisy which usually masks the discrimination against a part of the citizenry.”

Polish Court asks Tribunal to Rule on Ritual Slaughter Ban

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

A Bialystok court has asked the Polish Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether the country’s ban on ritual slaughter is compliant with the constitutional freedom of religion.

The case is connected to the ritual slaughter of one cow which took place in March in Tykocin.

Poland on January 1 banned slaughter without stunning, a requirement for kosher slaughter. In March, one cow was slaughtered in northeastern town of Tykocin.

Urszula Sienczylo, the chief prosecutor of Bialystok, said at the time that it did not violate Polish law because the 1997 Act on the Relation of the State to the Jewish Communities in Poland states that ritual slaughter may be performed in accordance with the needs of the local Jewish community.

The decision of the Bialystok prosecutor was appealed by animal rights activists and the local veterinary inspector. The case then came to the court in Bialystok which last week turned to the Constitutional Tribunal. The case is on hold pending the ruling of the tribunal.

This month the Polish Parliament is scheduled to vote on the legalization of ritual slaughter.

Memorial to Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Vandalized

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Unknown vandals painted “Jude Raus” (“Jews Out”) and “at the entrance of the Anielewicz Mound memorial to the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. It was discovered Wednesday, the same day Michelle Obama was visiting a Holocaust memorial in Berlin.

The monument to Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the uprising, as well as to the rest of the uprising’s fighters, is located on Mila Street, which was a busy thoroughfare in Jewish Warsaw before the Holocaust.

Anielewicz and the staff of the Jewish Combat Organization made their plans and directed operations from a bunker at 18 Mila Street. The Germans surrounded the bunker on May 7, 1943, and most of the 100 resistance fighters and leaders inside the bunker committed suicide, although a few escaped.

After World War II there was no excavation of the remains inside the bunker. Instead, the Anielewicz Mound was created, and a memorial stone on top of the mound recounts the story of the resistance fighters led by Anielewicz.

The vandalism currently is under police investigation. A company that specializes in the removal of graffiti has been retained to clean the monument.

Last March, the same graffiti along with “Hitler Good” in English were found on a large monument at the former Plaszow camp near Krakow. A smaller memorial plaque was also painted with a swastika and “Jude Raus.”

The following day, a march commemorated the 67th anniversary of the liquidation of Krakow’s ghetto, transferring 16,000 Jews to the Plaszow and Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/memorial-to-warsaw-ghetto-uprising-vandalized/2013/06/20/

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