Romanian Government Issues Law Protecting Shechitah

By Matis Glenn

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the President of the Conference of Rabbis (CER) shaking hands with the Prime Minister of Romania, Nicolae Ciucă (Eli Itkin)

Amid efforts to ban Shechita across Europe, Jewish groups scored a victory Tuesday, as Romania passed a law guaranteeing the right to practice Shechitah.

Marcel Ciolacu, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Romania, signed the legislation, which explicitly permits Shechita to performed, and does not require stunning, a practice required by many European countries which renders the Shechita invalid.

Rabbinic leaders of the Conference of European Rabbis, an umbrella organization representing Jewish communities across the continent, attended the event at the Romanian Parliament. The CER and the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania lobbied for the law, largely meant to set a precedent and act as a symbol of religious tolerance in a country where Shechitah is not performed on a significant scale, as European countries are being pressured by animal rights groups to ban Shechita.

“I am proud to protect and support the Jewish community of Romania, Ciolacu said. “and will ensure that their life can flourish and remain safeguarded. They can continue to produce and provide Kosher meat, and to practice their faith freely.”

“The decision of the Romanian Parliament to enshrine in law the provision of Kosher slaughter is greatly welcome,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the CER said. “Romania has an established and important tradition, spanning several decades and even before this democratic age, of supporting Jewish life, be it Jewish education, Yeshivas, and communities. Now, with this law, Romania continues its noble path of support for its Jewish community.“

In recent years, four countries in the European Union have effectively banned Shechita, due to stunning requirements which render the Shechita invalid according to Halacha. Those include Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and two out of three regions in Belgium. One state-member, Slovenia, has banned all ritual slaughter regardless of stunning. Four non-EU affiliated European states – Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein – prohibit non-stunned slaughter as well.

Other European countries, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia and Austria  have laws that require the animal to be stunned immediately after Shechita, which presents difficulties in kashering the meat afterwards. Greece requires post-Shechita stunning for all animals except poultry.

Besides prohibiting Shechitah, the law also prevents Muslims from practicing Halal slaughter, as well.

European Regulation 1099, passed in 2009, requires animals to be killed only after stunning, but the regulation provided a clause for individual states to allow religious exemptions. Most EU member states, including France, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Cyprus and Spain, have chosen to uphold those exemptions for Shechitah and Halal.

On Monday, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Romania hosted a gala dinner in Bucharest, attended by Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, other government officials, and members of the CER, in anticipation of the law being signed the following day.

As part of the event, the Rabbi Moshe Rosen Prize was awarded to the Romanian Parliament in appreciation of the law.

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