Leading rabbi challenges Sweden: End bans on milah, shechita

June 20, 2016  

The President of the Conference of European Rabbis has challenged the Swedish government to lift all restrictions on Jewish practices in Sweden, after its Ambassador to Israel claimed his prime minister wants to lead the fight against worldwide anti-Semitism.

In a letter to Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt – who also serves as Moscow’s Chief Rabbi – called on the Swedish premier to repeal laws banning Jewish ritual slaughter (shechita) and restricting the practice of circumcision (Brit Milah).

The Conference of European Rabbis (CER) is the primary rabbinical alliance in Europe, which unites more than 700 religious leaders of the mainstream synagogue communities throughout the continent. The conference is designed to maintain and defend the religious rights of Jews in Europe and has become among the most prominent voice for Judaism and Jewish rights in the European continent.

In his letter, Rabbi Goldschmidt cited a recent Jerusalem Post interview in which Swedish Ambassador Carl Magnus Nesser claimed that “Prime Minister Stefan Löfven really wants to take a lead in combating anti-Semitism worldwide.”

Such a statement, Rabbi Goldschmidt said, smacked of hypocrisy.

“It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister thinks he can lead on anti-Semitism whilst restricting Jewish life in his own country,” the rabbi wrote in his letter.

“I read with interest that Sweden ‘is taking charge in tackling its own recent issues with Jew hatred’ and of course I welcome that,” he continued.

“However, I would like you Sir to address two specific issues relating to Jewish practice where Sweden is at odds with pretty much every country in the democratic free world.”

“Both Shechita, the Jewish method of preparing animals for food and Brit Milah, the neonatal circumcision of baby boys are severely restricted in Sweden. These restrictions place the Jewish community in Sweden under great strain and indeed the political nature of the restrictions on Jewish practice contribute directly to the anti-Semitism you have pledged to fight,” Rabbi Goldschmidt stated.

“Prime Minister, fighting anti-Semitism requires far more than words. Imagine what a positive message you would send if you removed the restrictions on Jewish practice currently in place in Sweden.”

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