When Anonymous activists met for talks with someone wearing a fur shtreimel, less than a month before the chickens in Mea Shearim brace themselves for the big hit, it suddenly seemed there is a future for dialogue between the different Israeli sectors.
Coming up on the High Holidays, activists from Anonymous and the SPCA met with representatives from the religious and haredi communities to discuss animal rights.
Animal rights activists called on the haredi public to stop using chickens as part of customary atonement rituals, and to increase in the recognition that harming animals was religiously prohibited, not just morally. So the customs of atonement do not stop, but it seems from Yom Kippur 5774 there will be other changes.
Rabbi Pappenheim: This is desecration
The talks centered on animal rights in Judaism, and were held last week at the Museum on the Seam, in Jerusalem. Among the prominent speakers representing the haredim were Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim, who called on the community to choose synthetic shtreimel for their hats instead. Shtreimel is made from the fur on the tail of a fox, stripped while it is alive, since skin removed after death causes a loss of luster in fur.
”When the kids wanted to buy me a new shtreimel, I told them, ‘No! Only synthetic!’” said the rabbi. "Synthetic shtreimel costs one third the price, and is not very nice.”
To those who objected to the initiative, he replied, "We do not have to be more devout than the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples, who wore shtreimel" and added that he did not believe the shtreimel they wore was made by flaying a live fox.
“Today we live in a very strict period in which they make noise all over the world for animal welfare," he said. "This is a desecration. We're not talking about a crime, or about not doing a mitzva, we are simply saying that the shtreimel will be synthetic and not from an animal.”
Uniting with secular society
Yehuda Shain, founder of Compassion (Haredi Volunteers for Animals) also expressed support for this position and spoke for the need of Orthodox Judaism to get involved in the fight against cruelty to animals, and the need to unite on the issue with the secular community.
Attorney Yossi Wolfson from the group Let the Animals Live and founder of Anonymous, told Ynet, "Prohibition of cruelty to animals was revolutionary when Judaism established it in the ancient world. This meeting proved that the value continues to exist, and that the animals, and those who stand behind them, have true and passionate allies in the haredi world.
"The secular and haredi societies are facing a huge challenge – we live in a historical period which brought with it record cruelty to animals – the fur industry, factory farms, and more. It was exciting to see Rabbi Pappenheim speaking out against this cruelty, calling for the dissemination of information – and expressing his hope and belief that people would change their choices in favor of synthetic shtreimel, ecologic food, or a vegetarian diet."
"When I turned to Rabbi Shlomo Pappenheim (Shmuel Pappenheim's grandfather), and asked him to join the event, there was great doubt in my mind if the rabbi, who is leader of the haredi community, would agree to participate in it," said David Amichai from the Museum on the Seam. "There were those who advised we speak with more 'moderate' rabbis, or those whose views on the subject had been well known and were often interviewed on it. Luckily I did not listen, and he also participated in the conference.”
“My phone call to the rabbi broke down a lot of the stigmas I held – I found him to be a sympathetic ear and realized that the subject really was close to his heart," Amichai explained. "The rabbi quoted halachic sources regarding cruelty to animals, and said it was a shame that this issue has been abandoned recently by Judaism, which had first engaged in it in biblical times, long before the issue gained popularity around the world."
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