Outlawing Jewish Religious Practices
Speaking out when core Jewish practices, and religious freedom and diversity, are attacked
There are organized movements in Europe attempting to severely limit or even ban kosher slaughter and infant male circumcision, two Biblically-based Jewish religious practices necessary for living a Jewish life. Restrictions on these rituals also threaten Islam, which requires halal slaughter and male circumcision.
Throughout Europe, Jews and Muslims are facing constraints on their religious freedom. The Jewish community is in the awkward position of publicly defending age-old religious practices that secular European societies believe to be barbaric. Even if the motives for these bans are not racist or overtly antisemitic, they stigmatize Jews, and the heated public discussions they generate frequently elicit strongly antisemitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric. Switzerland, Norway, Denmark, and Belgium have already banned kosher slaughter, while in other nations—the Netherlands and Poland, for example—there have been legislative efforts to do so. Strong anti-circumcision campaigns have been mounted in a number of European countries, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe—which plays only an advisory role—passed a resolution in 2013 urging an end to infant circumcision when not medically indicated.
AJC’s European offices have helped counter bans on kosher slaughter and circumcision. In Germany, AJC exposed significant distortions, fallacies, and prejudices in claims made by anti-circumcision activists, helping to build support for the nation’s approval of a law to allow circumcision for religious reasons.
In Poland, AJC undertook a sustained advocacy effort after the country’s parliament voted to ban kosher slaughter. A Constitutional Tribunal eventually reversed the ban, asserting that it violated the religious freedom of Jews and Muslims alike, and sent an unwelcome message about their place in Polish society.