Shortly after approving a deal which allows kosher slaughter in the Netherlands, the chief rabbi of Amsterdam called the agreement “flawed” and warned it could ultimately eliminate the practice.
Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag made the charges in a letter dated June 13. The previous day, however, he approved the deal by declaring it did not violate principles of Jewish law, or Halacha.
The Dutch Jewish community and the Dutch government signed the deal on June 5. It sought to adapt kosher slaughter to state norms without restricting religious freedoms. The Dutch Senate ratified the deal on June 13.
Representing the Jewish community was the Organization of the Jewish Communities in the Netherlands, or NIK, which is Ralbag’s employer in Holland.
“To our regret and surprise, a week ago the community signed an agreement with the government without showing it in advance,” Ralbag wrote in a letter. The letter was co-signed two dayanim, or judges, of the Amsterdam rabbinical court which Ralbag heads.
The deal, the dayanim wrote, “is not in accordance with our wishes, views and liking.” They had approved the deal anyway to avoid an immediate ban on kosher slaughter, the letter explains. Last year the Dutch parliament passed a law banning ritual slaughter. The Dutch Senate blocked it pending the signing of a deal with the Jewish and Muslim communities.
The deal, according to Ralbag, allows interference on the part of scientific advisers and interferes with the size of the knife used for slaughter, among other issues. Nonetheless, it does not contradict Halacha, the letter notes.
In January, NIK briefly suspended Ralbag for describing homosexuality as a curable condition.
Ron Eisenmann, president of the Amsterdam Orthodox Jewish community, which belongs to NIK, told JTA that Ralbag had been informed in advance of all Halachic matters in the agreement. “Without his consent, there would have been no agreement.” Ralbag was consulted only on matters within that scope, Eisenmann added.
In their letter, Ralbag and the dayanim mention “a rabbi who, in our stead, went forth and said he favored the deal.”
Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi of the inter-Provincial Chief Rabbinate in Holland, helped NIK broker the deal with government officials with his “enormous network of contacts,” Eisenmann said. Jacobs did not rule on kashrut and halachic issues connected to the deal, as this role is Ralbag’s responsibility, Eisenmann added.