The Jews of Europe will not stand idle while one of our communities is prevented from practising the free expression of their religion,” said Thursday Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, after hosting a meeting of leaders of Jewish communities in Brussels. The meeting, organized by the EJC in cooperation with the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), ‘’strongly condemned’’ the attack on basic religious rights of the Jewish community in Poland, following the failure of the government initiative to formally legalize Jewish religious slaughter for meat, known as Shechita, in line with EU directives.
The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, last week rejected a government-sponsored bill to legalize the Jewish ritual.
“It is all well and good to commemorate Jewish history in Poland with the opening of museums and memorials but we wish to celebrate Jewish life as it is today in Poland,” Cwajgenbaum said. He stressed that EU legislation on Shechita did not prevent a member state of the Union from proscribing a fundamental Jewish practice while warning of a potential repercussions across Europe. Cwajgenbaum called on the European Union “to reinforce the legislation to allow Jews and Muslims to practise their religion."
“What is happening today in Poland could be a prototype of similar attacks on Jewish rights all over Europe,” said Piotr Kadlcik, president of the Union of Jewish Communities of Poland. Kadlcik came to Brussels to discuss with the EJC and CER legal team regarding potential legal challenges to the situation in Poland.
CER President Pinchas Goldschmidt said while the motivations of those legislators who favored a ban were not necessarily anti-Semitic, "the end result is that the Jewish community of Poland feels unwelcome." Referring to the upcoming opening of Warsaw's Jewish Museum, he added: "You cannot be proud of the Jews of yesterday and tell the Jews of today 'Your religion is not welcome'."
EJC Vice President Ruben Vis added:” It is not for us to judge the intent of Polish legislators in rejecting this bill, but we are entitled to ask why many cruel practices which involve the slaughter of animals and do not affect Jews and Muslims are ignored.“