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October 11, 2021 2:10 pm

Belgian Jews Feeling Effects of Ban on Kosher Slaughter: ‘If You Want to Say Jewish People Are Not Welcome Here, Just Say It’

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The Brussels Great Marked Square in Belgium. Photo: Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons.

Belgium’s Jews are feeling the detrimental effects of an effective ban on Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughtering that was recently upheld by the country’s highest court.

The law, originally imposed in 2017, bans the slaughtering of animals without pre-stunning. Neither Jewish nor Muslim religious law allow for stunning the animal before slaughter, effectively making their practices illegal in Belgium.

Politico Europe reported that merchants in the Jewish community are facing supply problems and other obstacles to providing kosher meat to their customers. In particular, as a result of the ban, all kosher meat must now be imported into Belgium, which raises prices and degrades quality.

The chef at Hoffy’s kosher restaurant in Antwerp’s Jewish quarter, Moishy Hoffman, told the outlet he was “ashamed” by the lack of choices available in his establishment as a result of the ban.

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“You go to the butcher here and see empty, empty, empty counters,” he said.

“Sometimes they give me 10 steaks,” he explained. “I need 60 or 70, and I have 10. What is 10? Nothing. I need a filet de canard, I don’t have it. Lamb, we don’t have it.”

Ari Mandel, who owns the kosher food supplier, said, “We’re facing a very, very big and problematic issue.”

“I would say 90% of meat in town is frozen, not fresh,” he said. “We’re losing customers.”

He added that two kosher butcheries had already closed, and more may follow.

Mandel expressed anger at the effect of the ban, and blamed it on unspoken antisemitism.

“If you want to say Jewish people are not welcome here, just say it,” he said. “If you don’t explicitly say they’re not welcome, but you take measures to push them out, it’s really the same message.”

Yohan Benizri, head of the Coordination Committee of Jewish Organizations in Belgium, does not blame antisemitism for the ban, but said it nonetheless sends “a signal that ‘We don’t really care about Jews. We don’t care about their customs. We don’t care about their traditions.’”

He added that there is a good chance that similar bans may be enacted throughout Europe.

“It’s not a theoretical issue; it’s something that’s spreading like cancer,” he told Politico Europe. “You already have enough to worry about as a Jew in Europe.”

Belgian Muslim organizations have also condemned the ban, with the Executive Council of the Muslims of Belgium (EMB) and the Coordinating Council of the Islamic Institutions of Belgium considering an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the issue.

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