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UK chief rabbi: Chilled meat ban could make Jewish life in N. Ireland ‘unviable’

Jewish community sounds alarm over access to kosher food, with upcoming Brexit deal prohibiting import of chilled meat from Britain

Illustrative: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis gives a speech as he attends a Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, on January 27, 2015. (AP/Chris Jackson)
Illustrative: Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis gives a speech as he attends a Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony at Central Hall Westminster, on January 27, 2015. (AP/Chris Jackson)

United Kingdom Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has warned it could become “unviable” for Jews to live in Northern Ireland due to an upcoming ban on the imports of chilled meats from Britain, as part of the country’s Brexit agreement with the European Union.

The ban does not include an exemption for kosher meat, which the religious head of Northern Ireland’s Jewish community warned could cause the community “to completely die,” the BBC reported Friday.

In the deal under which the UK left the EU, Northern Ireland must continue to adhere to the bloc’s product standards, including a ban on the import of chilled meats, such as sausage or ground meat from non-member states such as the UK.

The ban had been set to take effect on June 30, but its implementation was postponed until the end of September.

While the community of fewer than 100 Jews can import kosher chilled meat from EU member Ireland, they say it is too expensive to do so, according to the broadcaster. Meanwhile the ban will prevent them from acquiring the meat from elsewhere in the UK, due to the trade barrier created with Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal.

The report quoted a statement from the chief rabbi describing the situation as “inadvertent collateral damage arising out of current trade differences between Britain and the EU.” He called for a solution for “this precious and historic Jewish community, enabling them to bring in essential food provisions and items required for the observance of festivals.”

He added: “These are existential concerns, because there is a growing risk of communal life becoming unviable.”

Illustrative: A photo of the old Belfast synagogue. (Northern Ireland Friends of Israel via JTA)

The rabbi also expressed appreciation for the UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis for pledging to work with the EU on finding a solution.

David Kale, the religious leader for Northern Ireland’s Jewish community, said he was worried about the future, and called for a religious exemption to the ban allowing kosher meat from non-EU states to be imported.

“Our religion requires us to eat kosher and, unfortunately, nobody can live without eating,” he told the BBC.

Kale also said members of the Jewish community living in senior living homes or who are hospitalized rely on kosher meals on wheels that come from Britain — England, Scotland and Wales.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the ban’s effect on importing kosher meat from Britain could cause an “exodus” of Jews from Northern Ireland.

“We want to do everything that we can to avoid that,” he said, while acknowledging the matter was “far from fixed.”

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