Agudath Israel Statement on Belgium Shechita Ban
Agudath Israel of America expresses its grave concern over
the ban in the Flanders region of Belgium that effectively
prohibits the slaughter of animals according to kosher
ritual requirements. The new law places a substantial burden
on religious liberty and on Jewish life in Belgium and other
affected European countries. We are hopeful that the
constitutional court will recognize this serious
infringement on the rights of the Jewish community and
strike down this grievous statute.
Jewish law scrupulously safeguards the humane treatment of
animals, and its rules regarding kosher slaughter require a
swift and painless kill. There is no need to require prior
stunning, a practice which compromises Jewish law and makes
kosher certification impossible. Many countries, including
the United States, recognize in their law the humane nature
of the millennia-old practice of kosher slaughter and have
exempted it from further unnecessary regulation.
Leaders of the Belgian Jewish community have indicated that
the new law in Flanders ö and the pending one that is
intended to go into effect later this year in Wallonia ö
will have a clear negative impact on the kosher food
industry and on the availability and accessibility of kosher
meat and poultry. The relocation of facilities will be
disruptive to companies, workers and consumers and result in
possible shortages, and an attendant rise in costs, that
will be detrimental to those wishing a lifestyle in line
with Jewish belief and practice.
The Belgian constitutional court should fulfill its mandate
and carefully consider these imperatives as it reviews the
law. The Jewish community, and other faith groups affected
by this law, must be free of the burden placed on their
ability to properly adhere to their religion and be granted
accommodation of practices that allow them to enjoy a full
measure of religious life.
Agudath Israel Shares SED Letter to Suffern School
District: Provide Equitable Services to Nonpublic School
As the Orthodox Jewish community in Monsey grows, it is
expanding beyond the borders of Monsey and Spring Valley.
New challenges have arisen, including one from the Suffern
School District. Agudath Israel's offices received a number
of complaints over the past few years regarding this
particular district's failure to provide certain basic
services to yeshiva students in their jurisdiction, such as
transportation, special education services, and others. As
the problem became more widespread, Rabbi Hersh Horowitz,
Director of the Rockland Community Outreach Center, and Mrs.
Chana (Andre) Jaffe, a concerned parent who has been
advocating for children who have been adversely affected by
the lack of services, have also reached out to the Agudah to
collaborate on resolving this issue.
By law, school districts are required to provide certain
services to students in nonpublic schools in their district.
Because of this, the Agudah worked with the New York State
Education Department (SED) over the last year, requesting
that they reach out to the Suffern School District to
address these serious concerns.
At the Agudah's urging, SED wrote a strong letter to the
Suffern School District advising them of their legal
obligation to provide services to students enrolled in
nonpublic schools in the Suffern district. Such services
include transportation, textbooks, health services, and
special education services.
The letter advises that these services must be provided in
the same manner as services that are provided to public
school students in the district. The letter, which Agudath
Israel received after a FOIL request, was written by Renee
Rider, NYS Education Department Associate Commissioner,
Office of School Services, to the Suffern Superintendent,
Dr. Douglas Adams. The letter, which can be read here,
states, in part:
"I strongly encourage you to continue outreach to nonpublic
schools and parents to ensure the appropriate, statutorily
mandated services are being provided by the SCSD. While the
District is legally obligated to provide certain services, I
hope that as an educator you will make a personal effort to
play a role in the learning and growth of all of the
students in your community, regardless of the school in
which they are enrolled."
"The Agudah is optimistic that this letter will be helpful
to yeshivos and parents in the Suffern district as they move
forward to seek the services to which students are legally
entitled. We are committed to continue working on their
behalf until this situation is fully resolved," said Mrs.
Deborah Zachai, Agudath Israel's Director of Education
Affairs. Mrs. Zachai added that yeshivos should continue to
be in touch with her office to provide updates on the
"We are grateful to the Agudah for securing this letter
which gives the district its marching orders from SED. We
are hopeful that yeshivos and their students will finally
begin to receive services which had been denied them for
many years," said Rabbi Horowitz.