Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Isaac Herzog, sent urgent missives to European heads of state on Wednesday, launching a campaign to protest the ban on Kosher slaughter in Belgium. The legislation prohibiting Kosher slaughter was recently upheld by the European Court of Justice, which rejected an appeal by the Belgian Jewish community. There is marked concern that other European nations will follow suit and adopt similar legislation, preventing Jews across Europe to live a Jewish religious life as they have done on the continent for thousands of years.
“Today, my purpose is to alert you to a growing sense of discomfort and rejection among a number of Jewish communities, who feel that the Jewish traditions and religious observance are increasingly challenged by certain parts of European publics and legislators. I am referring to legislation, which bans Kosher slaughtering of animals and initiatives to ban by law religious circumcision,” wrote Herzog, adding, “These are foundations of Jewish religious practice, and they are non-negotiable aspects of traditional observance.”
The letter emphasized the impact of the legislation on the practice of Judaism by European Jewish communities: “Forbidding [these acts] would be tantamount to outlawing Judaism as a whole, casting a shadow of discredit and suspicion on millennia-old traditions, which constitute the bodywork of Jewish rite," it stated.
The Chairman of The Jewish Agency referred to similar events that took place on European soil before World War II during the period when his grandfather, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi, the late Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog z”l, served as the Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1921-1936, stating: “During his tenure, he succeeded in blocking an initiative to ban Kosher slaughtering. I know what it had meant to him and to his community, and how they must have felt in these pre-War years in Europe. As the Chairman of the largest Jewish non-profit, which brings together communities from around the world, I feel it is my duty to alert you to the growing unease of ever more Jewish communities in Europe as they face these repeated efforts to restrict and curtail their way of life.”
Herzog warned European heads of state that Jews living in Europe for thousands of years may likely feel they are no longer welcome, asking, “Will they feel accepted and welcome in countries which truncate their freedom to lead a life of religious observance according to their ancient traditions?"
"We all must ask ourselves that question with a sense of urgency. I am sharing these thoughts with you to beseech you to do everything in your power so that the answer to that question will not be negative," he concluded.