Krakow, Poland — 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 Tuesday 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 can practice our traditions as Poland and the European Union allow.”
Poland’s Parliament this summer rejected a law that would have legalized both kosher slaughter, or shechitah, and Islamic halal ritual slaughter. The failure to legalize 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.”
They continued, “A free, democratic Poland must safeguard the rights of all its citizens whichever race, faith or group they belong to. Our two communities, Muslim and Jewish, although small in number, deserve the same rights as the majority of Poles, who are Catholic.
“While we do not feel this ruling was meant to curtail our freedom and turn us into second-class citizens, we are afraid that that is the result. We cannot help but to point out the hypocrisy of a situation which allows hunting for sport to be legal but ritual slaughter to be forbidden.”
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.
Ornstein told JTA that while Jewish and Muslim leaders have been in contact about the ritual slaughter ban, he believed it was the first time the directors of Jewish and Muslim community organizations in Poland had issued a formal joint appeal or statement.