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December 4, 2020 11:54 am

EU Must Protect Rights of Jews to Circumcision and Kosher Meat, Otherwise Declarations Against Antisemitism Are ‘Useless,’ Top Rabbi Declares

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

European Union flags in front of the European Commission building, in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: Amio Cajander via Wikimedia Commons.

One of Europe’s leading rabbis on Friday criticized the Council of the European Union’s milestone declaration on antisemitism issued earlier this week, highlighting the absence of any protection for key Jewish rituals such as circumcision and kashrut that have faced legislative challenges in a number of European countries.

In an interview with the French Catholic news outlet La Croix, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt — president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) — stated that while he welcomed the EU declaration, “it does not correspond to what is fundamentally necessary to safeguard the Jewish communities in Europe.”

Goldschmidt said that he had been “particularly disappointed by the omission of an explicit commitment to defend our religious practices, such as shechita (the slaughter of animals for consumption according to religious guidelines) and the milah (the circumcision of Jewish male infants eight days after birth).”

The six-page declaration published on Wednesday by the Council of the European Union — the key body coordinating policies among the EU’s 27 member states — asserted that “antisemitism, in any form, is and must remain unacceptable and all steps must be taken to counteract it, including, where necessary, through legal measures at European level.”

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It underlined that “the member states of the European Union support policy initiatives at European level that aim to combat incitement to antisemitic hatred and acts of violence, as well as the dissemination of antisemitic conspiracy myths online.”

But Goldschmidt insisted that such declarations against antisemitism were “useless” if the legal rights of Jews to practice their faith were not adequately protected.

“These ancient customs are an integral part of Jewish life,” he said. “Certainly, it is imperative to combat the odious ideology of antisemitism. But if at the same time, the prohibition of important Jewish practices is maintained — as is the case in the Belgian regions of Flanders and Wallonia, where shechita is prohibited — then public statements against antisemitism are useless.”

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