Amsterdam chief rabbi decries shechitah deal


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The chief rabbi of Amsterdam warned that an agreement allowing kosher slaughter in the Netherlands ultimately could eliminate the practice.

Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag called the agreement “flawed” in a letter dated June 13 — the day after he approved the deal by declaring it did not violate principles of Jewish law, or halachah.

The agreement, which the Dutch Jewish community and the Dutch government signed on June 5, adapts kosher slaughter to state norms without restricting religious freedoms. The Dutch Senate ratified the deal on June 13.

Representing the Jewish community at the signing 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 by two dayanim, or judges, of the Amsterdam rabbinical court headed by Ralbag.

The deal, the dayanim wrote, “is not in accordance with our wishes, views and liking.” Still, they approved the deal 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 an agreement with the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Ralbag says the agreement allows interference by scientific advisers as well as with the size of the knife used for slaughter, among other issues. Nonetheless, it does not contradict halachah, 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,” Eisenmann said, adding that Ralbag was consulted only on matters within that scope.

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, Eisenmann said, as they are Ralbag’s responsibility.

Contacted by JTA, Jacobs declined to be interviewed for this article.

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