We Are Dismayed


We are Dismayed
Na temat (On Topic), Polish news website, interviews AJC Executive Director David Harris
Interview in English is below.
July 17, 2013


Na Temat: Why has the AJC published such a harsh statement? Polish Jews will still be able to buy kosher meat that will be imported to Poland from other countries.

David Harris: AJC sees the action of the Sejm as a direct attack on the freedom of religion of Jews (and Muslims). It stigmatizes a central practice of the Jewish religion, and thus has the effect of relegating Jewish practices to “inhumane” status. In practical terms, not only will the importation of kosher meat make the process considerably more cumbersome, but the Polish precedent could cause neighboring countries to follow Poland’s lead and ban kosher slaughter as well.

Na Temat: In Poland the Sejm’s decision has been met with a positive reaction. It is said in general that the decision was made in order to prevent animals suffering while being killed. How would you comment on this?

David Harris: In fact, kosher slaughter minimizes suffering. One cut of a sharp knife severs the carotid artery, cutting off blood flow to the brain and causing unconsciousness within seconds. Poland allows the shooting of animals for sport, which results in terrible suffering for the animals. This leads many observers to question whether the Sejm’s action was really motivated by concern for the welfare of animals.

Na Temat: Do you believe the Sejm’s decision is anti-Semitic?

David Harris: We have no basis for judging the motivation of Sejm members. Nevertheless, the infringement upon Jewish freedom of religion suggests that those voting against legalization of kosher slaughter may lack respect and appreciation for Judaism, its age-old and central rituals, and its key role in Polish history.

Na Temat: Do you think that the rule introduced by the Sejm will harm Polish-Israeli and worldwide Polish-Jewish relations?

David Harris: The Sejm vote actually defeated a Polish government bill upholding the legality of kosher slaughter, so it is clearly not the current government that is at fault for what has happened. Many in Israel and world Jewry see the Sejm’s action as hostile to Judaism, but they also understand that there are Poles, including the ruling coalition, who oppose a ban on kosher slaughter.

Na Temat: How do Jewish communities in New York comment on the Sejm’s decision? Are they equally harsh as the ones made by AJC?

David Harris: Virtually all Jews and Jewish organizations surely feel the same way AJC does. Even Jews who themselves do not follow Jewish law are likely to be dismayed at the idea that a traditional Jewish practice is condemned as inhumane.

Na Temat: Besides publishing a statement will the AJC undertake any other actions? Will they be political actions? Will they lobby for and run campaigns on religious slaughter in Poland?

David Harris: AJC will seek to do whatever we can to ensure that kosher slaughter remains legal in Poland, a country with which we have had uniquely friendly ties since the dramatic events of 1989. A model for such a campaign could be the recent successful effort to have Germany reaffirm the legality of ritual circumcision, when this practice came under legal challenge. This was done principally through public education.

Na Temat: Could this case damage Poland’s reputation? If so, what kind of damage could this decision cause?

David Harris: Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski recently addressed the AJC Global Forum in Washington, D.C. He spoke eloquently before 1,600 people of how a democratic Poland treasured the role played by Polish Jews in the country’s history, and stressed the importance of preserving and strengthening the current Jewish community. All of this is jeopardized by the Sejm’s unwise action, which has already led Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich to contemplate resigning and can only tarnish Poland’s hard-earned status as a flourishing democracy that protects freedom of religion and minority communities..

Na Temat: In general, is religious slaughter permitted in other Western states?

David Harris: In general, yes. We know the United States best of all and there has never been an issue here. This country takes very seriously full freedom of worship and protection of faith communities. Indeed, those communities have often stood together in support of common concerns. American Catholics and Jews are a wonderful example of that kind of ongoing cooperation.

Related Content

  • Why Poland?
  • David Harris in Rzeczpospolita, The Huffington Post and The Times of Israel