The third conference of kashruth organizations in Europe
The third conference of Kashruth organizations in Europe, organised by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE), ended on Monday in Brussels. This year the conference took place in Crown Plaza hotel, next to the administrative complex of the European Union. Over one hundred rabbis and representatives of the world’s most prominent Kashruth organizations had participated, including many leading experts in this field. In addition to the relevant topics discussed, great amount of emphasis was placed on the question of finding ways to reduce the prices of kosher food in Europe.

For example, the British company, Tesco, charges two pounds sterling for a whole chicken. Comparing to that, koshered chicken with a similar weight costs five to six times more than that – between ten and twelve pounds. This is basically the situation throughout Europe, although the continent may be divided into two categories: countries which do not obtain any koshered meat at all, or countries that can obtain koshered meat but the prices are extremely high.

One of the main reasons of making food Kosher is that Kosher food has a grave influence over the uniqueness of the Jewish population among their non-Jewish neighbours.
A significant facet of the Halachic rules of Kashruth is the principle of preventing Jews from associating socially with non-Jews, fulfilling the verse, “I have separated you from the nations.”

“The current prices of kosher food in Europe make it extremely difficult for tens of thousands of Jews to obtain Kosher food,” said Rabbi Aryeh Goldberg, Director deputy of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe. “Their failure to eat Kosher erodes their Jewish identity and their insulation from non-Jewish society.”

At the conference, a special panel consisting of representatives of the Manchester Kashruth authority (MK), the Federation of Synagogues in London (KF) and others, examined the causes for the inflated prices. There are factors that affect the prices of Kosher food in Europe that do not apply in other countries. For example, in many European communities there is a special tax imposed on the purchase of meat in order to help supporting the community’s educational institutions. The panel decided to lobby to lessen these taxes.

The rabbis explained that the high food prices often place them at a disadvantage when they attempt to present Torah Judaism in a positive light. Many of the members of the Orthodox communities in Europe are not Torah-observant in their personal lives. When a Rabbi attempts to persuade a member to begin purchasing Kosher meat which is available by his Kashruth organization, he is often confronted with the question, “Why should I pay five times as much for the identical meat?” Rabbi Y. Reuven Rubin, Rabbi of South Manchester and an excellent purveyor of authentic Judaism to the public, gave the participants a number of pointers to help deal with these challenges.

Another burning issue that brought up at the conference was the problem of parasite infestation in fish. There was a fiery debate between Rabbi S.Z. Revach, head of the Institute for the Mitzvot Pertaining to the Land of Yisrael, and Rabbi Dov Landau of Badatz Chug Chasam Sofer. Both rabbis are from Israel. Over the past several years Rabbi Revach has waged a campaign to make the public aware of the existence of these parasites and of the need to examine every fish before consuming it. Rabbi Landau, on the other hand, argued firmly that according to the Shulchan Aruch it is permissible to eat these particular parasites and there is no need for such a crusade.

One of the guests at the conference was Rabbi Chaim Lasry, representing the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is responsible for the approval of products imported from Europe. Rabbi David Werner, rabbi of Chadera and chairman of the Conference of Shechitah Organizations in Israel, was the guest of honour.

The conference was sponsored by the Matanel foundation and by the European Jewish Development Fund.

The Rabbinical Centre of Europe represents over seven hundred Rabbis and Jewish communities throughout the continent. Its aim is to improve religious functions and services, such as providing financial and professional assistance for the construction of Mikvehs (ritual baths), offering Halachic guidelines and advice, and much more.