August 26, 2013

Special Report Ñ French Jews Have Their Own Concerns About Kosher as Category Grows

PARIS — While Poland’s Jews are still waging a battle to preserve kosher slaughter, French Jews have some concerns of their own as a key legislator attempts a “backdoor” way to render kosher slaughter as barbaric. French Senator Sylvie Goy-Chavent has in the past called for a ban on kosher meat, but instead is now promulgating new labeling that would clearly say that kosher and halal slaughter do not stun animals first. Stunned by criticism of her proposal as being anti-Semitic, Goy-Chavent has apologized while defending her proposal. 

Sources in the Jewish community told KosherToday that despite an increasingly hostile environment, kosher continues to thrive. Olivier Princ who has been involved with kosher as a manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor as well as with a European kosher food show some 14 years ago is planning a kosher food show in May 2014. Mr. Princ has been a consultant to the huge Sial show for kosher and halal.

French Jews, say the sources, are caught between a “rock and a hard place.” On the one hand they face a hostile Muslim population which greatly outnumbers them but on the other hand they are allies when it comes to preserving such rituals as kosher slaughter and circumcision. The number of attacks by Muslims against Jews has increased mani-fold, according to Jewish defense agencies in Paris. Coupled with varying degrees of French anti-Semitism, many Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, hide their Orthodoxy. Children on their way to Hebrew school often sport caps and not yarmulkes. 

There are an estimated 6 million Muslims and 500,000 Jews in France, which has the largest Jewish community in Europe. Many French Jews have made aliya to Israel in recent years. Despite these developments in France, Mr. Princ and others say that the kosher category has risen dramatically with many supermarkets carrying kosher certified items. Many new kosher restaurants have opened in Paris, which already had more kosher restaurants than in any other European city. The number of companies that manufacture kosher in France has increased by at least 20%, the sources told KosherToday.

French officials have been quick to condemn the growing anti-Semitism, especially in the aftermath of the massacre in Toulouse and to some extent it has quieted the anti-kosher slaughter lobby. Kosher sources in Paris are hoping to use this sympathy and support by the administration of President Francois Hollande to continue to develop the kosher food industry in France and Europe in general.