Awkward in Auckland? Come Home

It is obvious that minority civil rights don't matter much in New Zealand, but is the right to eat kosher meat the ultimate fight for Jewish civil rights?

Yishai Fleisher,

OpEds Yishai Fleisher.jpg
Yishai Fleisher.jpg
Arutz 7


The Jewish community of New Zealand has come under a very real threat. Laws banning kosher slaughter - called shechita in
Imagine if New Zealand's Jews would issue a statement telling the world that they plan, as a group, to immigrate to Israel.
Hebrew - have come into effect, to the shock of Jewish Kiwis. The tiny Jewish community of placid New Zealand, barely 1,000 families in number, today faces one of the most severe challenges to the well-being of any Jewish community in the world.

New Zealand's Agriculture Minister David Carter rejected the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee's recommendation to exempt kosher slaughter from the new regulations. Instead he followed in the footsteps of some European trends that favor animals being stunned before slaughter. But while the EU has not made this practice mandatory and it is not required in the US or Canada, New Zealand is taking an uncompromising position. When confronted with the argument that the new law violated his nation's guarantee of religious freedom, Carter dismissed it, stating "We may have upset a relatively small minority".

So it seems that minority civil rights don't matter much in New Zealand.  Ironically, New Zealand is denying Jews the ability to live according to Jewish tradition by barring them from fulfilling the world's oldest animal rights practices. Jewish Shechita is, first and foremost, a system for insuring a moral, painless, and yes, humane way to slaughter an animal. The Jewish people were practicing moral slaughter when animal cruelty was considered entertainment in Rome.

The government of New Zealand should be ashamed of these narrow-minded laws and the Jews should fight to defend their right to have, produce, and eat kosher food in New Zealand. Indeed, Jewish leaders are bracing for a protracted, expensive legal battle. In a recent ominous statement, they warned, "New Zealand recently became the first country in the world to outlaw kosher slaughter since the Nazis enacted similar legislation in Europe over 70 years ago... moreover, if we lose the right to practice shechita, then the ability to import kosher meat will soon follow."

While it is vitally important to fight for our civil rights and to make the case to the world regarding the morality of our practices, it is no less important to recognize that kosher is more than bagels, chicken soup and ritual slaughter.  Kosher is part of a holistic package that includes a language, a land, a calendar, food and culture. The ultimate fight for Jewish civil rights is not ensuring the right to eat kosher in New Zealand, it is the reestablishment of a Jewish state where all the components of kosher are found in their most vibrant form.

In their statement, New Zealand's Jewish leadership voiced concern that as a result of the shechita ban, "Your children or grandchildren may never experience a Passover with chicken soup and matzah balls, or ask the meaning of the lamb shank on your family's Seder plate."

Really? Are little New Zealand children doomed to never experience cherished Jewish traditions again? While those children will probably not be able to have a kosher Seder in Auckland or Wellington, they will surely have the opportunity to eat chicken soup and enjoy a proper seder in Jerusalem.  And isn't that what we have hoped for so long, to be in Jerusalem for Passover? Dont we say 'Next year in Jerusalem on that very Seder night?  Don't we, as a people, yearn not to be in Aukland next year?

Imagine if New Zealand's Jews would issue a statement telling the world that they plan, as a group, to immigrate to Israel. "Thanks for everything New Zealand, but it's time to go. The anti-Shechita laws broke the camel's back and we, as a community, are getting up and going home. We care more about our children future than eating kosher in a country that clearly does not want us."

By making this bold decision New Zealand's Jews would become world famous in an instant. They would be covered in all the media outlets as a proud Jewish community who picked it all up and made the audacious move to the State of Israel.  All of Israel will stand up and salute. This story will have amazing world impact and issue a head-on challenge to the Israel-haters and the Flotilla organizers who seek to undermine our commitment to Israel

Most importantly, the children of New Zealand's Jews would not only get a kosher Passover Seder, they will have lived through a modern day Exodus which they will never forget and it will give them enough pride and Jewish identity to last a lifetime.

However, if the New Zealand Jewish community will win their court case and will opt to stay - or worse yet lose and still opt to stay -then New Zealand's Jewry will continue to be a small enclave in the South Pacific with a high likelihood of the ultimate assimilation of their children.

Instead, let us hope that in this dark moment in New Zealand's history, the light of Chanuka will shine bright and with it a new dawn for New Zealand's Jews.  The birth of a flourishing and fruitful modern Jewish state signals a new era, a time when our efforts are needed to build our own country - and there is a lot of work to do.  Let's light that menorah together! %ad%