The Conference of European Rabbis praised Romanian authorities for adopting a law that acknowledges and protects shechitah, or kosher ceremonial animal slaughter explicitly, and hailed the action as a “landmark” precedent for other European nations.
A little over a year after the Court of the European Union upheld the restrictions on both the Muslim and traditional Jewish ways of animal slaughter in two Belgian counties; the Romanian parliament passed new laws on Thursday.
Jews have worked to lobby the European Union for protection and were encouraged last month after the EU brought Muslim and Jewish leaders together for the first time to discuss the production of ritual meat.
Jewish leaders and organizations have decried the ruling, which the Israeli ambassador in Belgium called “catastrophic and a blow to Jewish life in Europe.”
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, who attended the signing ceremony in Bucharest, said, “I hope that other leaders across Europe will follow the initiative of the Romanian Parliament, valuing and protecting the continued future of Jewish life on the European continent. (Goldschmidt was Moscow’s top rabbi until recently.)
The practice of killing animals without first stunning them is prohibited in many European nations.
Animal rights groups argue that this is more humanitarian, but Jewish law forbids it.
According to the Conference of European Rabbis, many countries permit shechitah exceptions, and Romania had previously allowed one.
However, the new law more legally enshrines the right to shechitah.
The most vocal opponents of the restrictions historically have been animal rights activists, but in recent years, right-wing European anti-immigration groups have joined the campaigns against ritual killing, primarily because they are opposed to Muslim immigrants.
In the rest of the EU, nations including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Slovenia, and portions of Belgium forbid ritual slaughter.
Years ago, the Netherlands and Poland were included on the list, but the bans were lifted.
At the bill signing, Chief Rabbi Rafael Schaffer of Romania was thanked by Silviu Vexler, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and the representative of the Jewish minority in the Romanian parliament.
He called the law “a shining symbol to other countries throughout the world.”
Marcel Ciolacu, the speaker of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, declared that he is “glad to protect and support the Jewish community and Romania” and that this legal protection will assist Jews in the nation in continuing to “practice their faith freely.”