The future is looking bleak for the small Jewish community in Northern Ireland as a shortage of kosher meat is making life extremely difficult.
The community, which numbered 2,557 as of the 2016 census, imports its kosher meat through the last synagogue in Ireland, the Belfast Jewish Community Synagogue. Deliveries come in bulk every eight to 10 weeks from Manchester.
In early September, UK media reported that the community was facing a looming kosher food shortage due to post-Brexit trade disagreements between the EU and Great Britain, with the British government’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis calling the possibility that Jews in Northern Ireland would face difficulties importing kosher food “despicable.”
Mounting paperwork and regulations in the post-Brexit climate have made the situation even worse, the Jewish Chronicle reported.
While the community is expecting a shipment of kosher meat later in October, their last meat delivery took place during Passover and “supplies are nearly exhausted.”
Michael Black, the chairman of the Belfast Jewish Community, told the Chronicle that the community was worried their rabbi would leave if the shortage was not solved, and that observant members of the community might move elsewhere.
The synagogue’s congregation is dwindling, with only 66 members left, barely enough to get a regular minyan.
The Jews of Northern Ireland are now relying on the government to get them through the huge amount of paperwork and rules they need to follow to import kosher products.
Black said that the community felt uncomfortable being “beholden to people in government every time we want some food.”
The kosher food shortage is being felt particularly hard by the many elderly members of the community, especially those in assisted living facilities or in the hospital.
There are currently talks between UK officials and the EU, with community leaders hopeful a solution will be found.