Sunday, June 20, 2010

Where the Supreme Court Has Failed

I’ve been avoiding commenting on the Emanuel case, on one hand I am against any type of racism, particularly within the Jewish Community, on the other hand I think that it is the right of parents to set religious standards for their schools, and it seems that the sfardi girls who were being excluded from the school in Emanuel were excluded based on their religious standards, not their ethnic background.

That said, I think that the Supreme Court overplayed its hand by sending parents to prison. If they wanted to fine the school or close the school down, that would have been reasonable, but sending parents to jail sounds more like a power play than a reasonable way to enforce the law.

However, I think that there is a bigger problem with the Supreme Court and it has been a problem for many years, and that is that the Court is nor perceived as being neutral or fair.

Leaders of the religious community, the “Settler” community, the Arab community have all accused the Supreme Court of bias. If the only segment of Israeli society that regard the court as fair is the “Liberal Secular” then we have a real problem.

Again, the problem is one of appearance, even is bias is not really there.

If the leadership of the Black, or Mormon, or Asian community in the US claimed that the Supreme Court was biased against them, and were able to organize demonstrations across the country protesting against the Court, that would indicate that the court has a credibility issue within that community.

If the court did not address the issue, by meeting with leaders of minority communities, getting more minority representation on the court, or other methods, it would not matter whether there was real bias or not, the court would have lost all credibility within that community, making it almost impossible do make any ruling which effects that community that would be accepted willingly by the community.

In Israel the perception of bias has gone on for decades. This is not the first time that there have been massive Heredi demonstrations against the Supreme Court, and the court has done little, if anything to convince the Haredi, or religious Zionist community that they are not biased against them.

This perception of bias undermines the authority of the court, and contributes to the breakdown of law in the country as a whole.

Releasing the Slonim parents from jail, and meetings between the Supreme Court judges and leaders in the Slonim community would be a good step in restoring the credibility of the court. Unfortunately, I don’t see the court as regarding its own credibility as a worthwhile venture.

Friday, June 18, 2010

History of Opposition to Shechita in New Zealand

Sorry to beat a dead horse (or at least a stunned chicken), but I found this brief history very interesting.

Opposition to Shechita in New Zealand is nothing new, according to the History of Jews in New Zealand, proposals to make stunning of animals mandatory date back to 1908:

As far back as 1908, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals attempted to ban Shehitah. It tried to introduce a Bill in Parliament requiring the stunning of animals before slaughter. When it realized its absurdity as far as the Jewish ritual was concerned, it dropped the proposals. Another campaign undertaken all over New Zealand about 1950 by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to prevent Shehitah, seemed to introduce an element of anti-semitism. Most of the previous objections to Shehitah concerned the manner of casting the animals in preparation for slaughter. When the Jewish communities bought casting pens which overcame this objection, the Society began to object to Shehitah itself, although it had incontrovertible evidence given by the greatest scientists in the world of the humaneness of the Shehitah method. Without notifying Rabbi Astor, the Society removed his name as vice-president, but it retained the name of Sir Ernest Davis as a patron.

Even earlier there was a bill before parliament in 1894 which was amended to explicitly allow Shechita:

Besides the problem of compulsory religious education in schools, another question which concerned all the New Zealand Jewish communities came before Parliament in 1894. The Government introduced a Bill which had as its purpose the improvement of conditions in the matter of the slaughter of animals. Fearful that the Bill would affect the Jewish method of Shehitah, the committee of the Dunedin Synagogue, its minister and the mayor of the city, telegraphed the mover of the motion, D. Pinkerton, to insert a clause allowing Jews to continue with their method of Kosher slaughtering. To their relief, Parliament agreed.

So for over a hundred years New Zealand parliament has backed the right of the Jewish Community to eat kosher meat in the face of opposition from various animal welfare organizations. Lets hope that the government gets itself back into track

The Christchurcher Rebbe

When people hear that I’m from New Zealand, one of the most common questions that I get is whether I’m from Christchurch (I’m Not), and whether there is a Rov of Christchurch.

Christchurch is the biggest city in the South Island of New Zealand and has a small shul which has been operating for over a hundred years, in spite of the small size of the local Jewish Community. (I was only once there for a Shabbat, in the 90s, that Shabbat there was an exceptionally large crowd of maybe 13 people, since then the community has gotten much smaller).

In recent years there is a Chabadnik who has set up shop in Christchurch and caters mainly to Israeli tourists travelling the South Island.

Anyway, there is a story about one of the first rabbonim who went to New Zealand  back in the 1870s, who wrote to his parents in Eretz Yisrael that he had been appointed “Minister of Christchurch” – they sat Shiva for him.

I just found the story online, as documented in “The History of the Jews in New Zealand (Chapter XIV)”

By 1870, the gold-rush on the West Coast had ended. Miners and their followers came back in droves to Christchurch, the first town they would touch in the east. Jews of Hokitika returned also, bringing with them their minister, the Rev. Isaac Zachariah. The Canterbury Hebrew Congregation immediately appointed him as its minister and Shohet, although he could not speak English well. A Baghdadi, Sephardi Jew, he had lived and studied in Jerusalem and liked nothing better than when, in the privacy of his own home, he could eat his oriental food and dress in the comfort of his oriental garb. When he wrote to his parents that he had accepted a post as a minister in Christchurch they ceased corresponding with him. They thought he had "shmud" himself and had converted to the Christian Church. Even on explanation they regarded his appointment with suspicion which he only dispelled when on a visit to the Holy Land.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More on Shechita in New Zealand

Just saw this speech from Mr Carter, the NZ Minister of Agriculture, in which he is proud that he twice ignored the recommendations of National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, and disregarded the concerns of a “relatively small religious minority”.

The Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare came back from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and sat on the previous Minister's desk; he sent it back to the Committee because he wasn't completely happy with the recommended exemption for Shechita.

It came back again unchanged. When it came to my desk I decided it had to be dealt with.

And now I have issued it - there are no exemptions.

In doing so, we may have upset a relatively small religious minority, and I do appreciate their strong feelings for this issue but frankly I don't think any animal should suffer in the slaughter process.

At the end of the day, my responsibility is to make decisions and move forward, and that's what I've done.


Glad that the minister regards the feelings of animals during the last 12 seconds of their lives more important than the rights of a small religious community to observe their religion.

The frustrating thing about this case is that livestock bread for meat are terribly abused their entire lives, you only have to look at how cows or chickens are transported to slaughterhouses to realize that there is very little concern for their welfare.

Suddenly, the moment of slaughter arrives, and the minister suddenly feels that “no animal should suffer in the slaughter process” is of extreme importance. However there doesn’t seem to be legislation on how animals are housed or handled prior to slaughter (when they undoubtedly suffer), just the question of how the slaughter should take place.

Scientific studies have indicated that Shechita is painless to the animal, as it cuts the air supply to the brain, however in New Zealand and Australia the Jewish community has voluntarily agreed to stun the animals immediately after shechita as an added precaution. If there was any suffering after Shechita, it could not be for more than a few seconds.

This information is all in the report that the minister decided to disregard.

I’m awaiting the ban on hunting, a sport which is still licensed by the same New Zealand Government that is so concerned about the welfare of animals during the last few seconds of its life.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

But at least he loved his mother

One of the “Peace Activists” who died last week on the "Flotilla Aid Mission” was 19 year old Furkan Dogan, a US citizen because his Turkish parents were in Troy, NY when he was born.

Like many peace activists and humanitarians, he loved his mother. He even wrote about herin his final diary entry, as reported by Al-Jazeera (translated by MEMRI):

"One of the martyrs was 19 years old. We've just found his last diary in his suitcase. The last lines he wrote before the attack were: 'Only a short time left before martyrdom. This is the most important stage of my life. Nothing is more beautiful than martyrdom, except for one's love for one's mother. But I don't know what is sweeter – my mother or martyrdom.'

What a sweet young man, and what a shame that he had to die (or achieve “martyrdom”) in such tragic circumstances. I’m sure that his mother must be very proud of him.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I just removed a post, I received a link from a reliable source, but on further investifation I realized that the video dates back to 2009, so cannot be related to recent events in Ashdod.

My aplogogies

Friday, June 4, 2010

If you can't beat 'em, mock 'em

Given that the Hamas PR guys seem so much better at selling their (false) message than the Israelis, at least a group of creative people managed to put together this song...

Flotilla Choir presents: We Con the World

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I love this quote...

Life in Israel has this great quote from MK Eliezer Moses (UTJ) during yesterday's debate in the Knesset:

When Moses took his turn to speak, he said the following, "It is told that Shchem ben Chamor took Dina the daughter of Yaakov. The sons of Yaakov decided to fight them with trickery, and convinced them to circumcise themselves. On the third day after the circumcisions, at the height of their pain, the children of Yaakov killed them all to save their sister.

The question is asked why did they convert them to Jews?

The answer is that if the children of Yaakov had killed them when they were still non-Jews, the Security Council would have screamed out and the UN would have screamed "Gevald!" - but to kill Jews? nu nu, that can be let go without superfluous commissions of inquiry.