As many around the world continue to suffer from the coronavirus pandemic, orthodox Jewish communities are also carrying the necessary burden of handling a significant shortage in the supply of kosher food. In the wake of such developments, the Hungarian government, which has imposed a lockdown due to COVID-19, is allowing entry for Israelis with jobs in the kosher food industry to work at one of the only kosher slaughterhouses in Hungary and Europe that remain open.
The orthodox Jewish communities in Europe have seen a significant decrease in the supply of kosher meat and poultry. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, countless workers in the kosher food industry have been unable to fly to kosher slaughterhouses most of which are located in just a select number of countries such as Poland and Spain. Even in a scenario in which flights are available, the workers must first enter quarantine for a two-week period, which only serves to create more of a delay for the employees to get to work. Moreover, many of the slaughterhouses have been forced to close as they have not been logistically prepared to operate throughout the pandemic.
One of the largest kosher meat suppliers in Europe stressed: "Every day that passes, the supply of kosher food continues to shrink. We have closed slaughterhouses, and who knows when we will be able to return to the routine that we were used to beforehand. The losses are huge. More than a few kosher traders will permanently close, and there will not be many others who will open.״
Against the backdrop of such developments, the Hungarian government in cooperation with the Nezer Hakashrut kosher food company and the Hungarian Jewish Communities Association (EMIH) led by Rabbi Shlomo Koves, has over the past month, built a procedural basis that includes full health monitoring of the health status of kosher food workers in Israel before they even arrive in Hungary. In this process, 6 shohatim (kosher slaughterhouse workers) have arrived almost two weeks ago and six more arrived earlier this week.
Nezer Hakashrut, which has specialized in organizing teams of workers in the kosher meat industry, known as sheichita of meat kosher slaughtering of animals, for many years, said: “We have been performing Shechitah in a number of countries for many years. Creativity is an integral part of this industry. The adjustments we had to make during this very complicated time appeared completely unrealistic at first. However, we were able to make everything work due to the full cooperation of all actors involved including the Hungarian government, the Jewish community and kosher food industry. There is no doubt that we all have made a breakthrough in the world of kosher food and the kosher food industry in particular, as a result of the crisis that has been forced upon us.”
“It is of a great significance that in such historical period when a pandemic not only causes immeasurable economic and social damages, but also contributes to the increase of anti-Semitism worldwide, the Hungarian government shows openness in enabling the seamless operation of the kosher food supply throughout Europe” – said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association (EJA).
Rabbi Shlomo Koves said: "Our goal immediately after Passover was unequivocal. We needed to begin Shechitah and respond to the plight of the Jewish communities in Hungary and Europe. When we approached the Hungarian government, they responded to the challenge and built a medical tracking program in Israel, helping to prevent any delay in the arrival of workers at kosher slaughterhouses upon landing in Hungary. There is no doubt that while there are those in the world who choose to fan the flames of anti-Semitism, Hungary is choosing to be a role model against such sentiment."