May 11, 2015

Poles Wise up to Kosher Market After Repeal of Ban

Warsaw - What a difference a year makes, particularly if you are Poland with its mixed blend of rich and tragic Jewish history. A year ago, Poland was still under the spell of a ban against kosher slaughter without stunning, a no-no for schechita. Observers could not fathom how the country could even entertain such a ban with its robust kosher tourism and $400 million export of kosher slaughtered meat to Israel and elsewhere. But last December, Poland’s high court ruled that the ritual slaughter of animals should be allowed on the grounds of religious freedom. The ritual slaughter of animals had been practiced in Poland for centuries by both Jews and Muslims, the court's judge said. The observers note that despite the ban, schechita was never completely halted, but now almost 6 months later, the export of kosher meat has resumed, and it appears that Poland is becoming a significant market for kosher in general.

Ten years ago, there were hardly any Polish firms that were producing kosher food,” Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily. “Now, more and more are asking me for a kosher certificate,” he added. “The market is growing every year,” he underlined. He has even provided a kosher certificate for a Nestle Kit Kat ice cream factory in Namysłów, south west Poland. Some 1.25 million cones will be produced there each year, and principally exported to Israel. However, the range of kosher products in Poland is widening, taking in biscuits, cheese, tea, jam, cabbage and even beer.

Poland is also benefitting from a resurgence of Jewish tourism, hosting thousands for the annual March of the Living and an increasing number of Jewish heritage tours.