A Jerusalem auction house has stumbled across a poignant letter dated 1926 from the Chief Rabbi of Lithuania to the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain asking for help in the fight to protect shechita in Europe.
The note – never before published and written in Hebrew – discusses the threat to shechita from Norway and urges the Chief Rabbi Yosef Zvi Dr. Hertz in London to “awaken” those with influence in the British Jewish community.
Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, the Chief Rabbi of Vilnius, writes: “I would like to invoke and awaken your attention over the issue of Shechita which was already prohibited in Sweden, and now is up for discussion in Norway.
“The enemies of our people are trying to force us with eating (habits) under the false pretense of animal cruelty pretexts (Tsa’ar Ba’aley Chayim), “and it is said of these people: they offer human sacrifices and kiss (idol) calves” [Hosea, 13:2].”
He adds: “The great politicians in England surely have influence in Norway, therefore I request you to awaken important Jewish individuals who can take steps and who are influential to do all they can do for this matter.”
Between the two World Wars, limitations were imposed on Shechita in various countries across Europe, and Grodzinski’s letter shows the ultimately ill-fated attempt to avoid a similar ban in Norway.
“Grodzinski’s activities in this area have been widely studied by scholars,” says Meron Eren, one of the owners of the Kedem Auction House, which unearthed the find.
“But this newly-found letter attests to the key role Rabbi Hertz and other British officials played in it, using the fact they lived in a country that was repelled by these conspicuous laws… Unfortunately, in this case, there is no happy ending.”
Shechita is still banned in six European countries, namely Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Poland and Denmark (and also New Zealand), Kosher Shechita is considered inhuman and thus forbidden.
“Jewish religious authorities have been running this struggle 150 years now,” says Eren. “Its threat still has not yet been lifted.”