Krakows Jewish, Muslim leaders fight ritual slaughter ban

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

The directors of the Jewish Community Center of Krakow and the Krakow Islamic Center are joining forces to fight Poland’s ban on Jewish and Muslim ritual slaughter.

Jonathan Ornstein, the JCC’s executive director, and Dr. Hayssam Obeidat, director of the Islamic Center, issued a joint open letter on Aug. 27 saying their “communities stand united and call on the Polish government and the Supreme Court if necessary to ensure that we have the right to ritual slaughter and practice our traditions.”

Ornstein said he believes this is the first time the directors of Jewish and Muslim community organizations in Poland have formally issued a joint statement.

Poland’s Parliament this summer rejected a law that would have legalized both kosher slaughter, or shechitah, and Islamic halal ritual slaughter. Parliament’s vote was the latest in a series of moves and counter-moves by the Polish government and the country’s strong animal rights lobby. Ritual slaughter has been in a legal gray area in Poland for many years, and has been increasingly controversial. The failure to allow ritual slaughter was “a great source of distress” to both communities, Ornstein and Obeidat wrote.

“The mistaken idea that such slaughter is particularly cruel to animals goes against the very reason it is called for in the tradition of our people,” their letter said. “Muslim and Jewish practices demanding humane treatment of animals date back to the very founding of our faiths.”

Some 15,000 to 25,000 Jews are believed to be living in Poland, several hundred of them in Krakow. Between 25,000 and 40,000 Muslims are estimated to be living in Poland, with about 1,000 in Krakow. — jta