Monday, November 29, 2010

Amnon Yitzchak and the music ban

I'm not sure if you have been following this story, but for the past many months Amnon Yitzchak, through his 'Rabbinical advisory board' has been lambasting just about every Jewish musician and calling all Jewish music not kosher (it is a good thing I try very hard not to listen to Jewish music - saves a lot of problems). He produces a colourful multi-page parsha sheet each week, and at least one full page, and sometimes two, have been dedicated to pushing the agenda against Jewish music. He published photos of those singers and musicians who he doesn't approve of (which is basically everyone), he published 'ask the rabbi' pages dedicated to boycotting Jewish music, and he had 'haskamos' from Gedolim encouraging his ban (including Rav Elyashiv's signature, despite the fact that Rav Elyashiv doesn't actually support Amnon Yitzchak).

When someone gets this crazy about something, it is clear (unfortunately) that there is a money angle somewhere. I have been waiting each week for the 'kickback'. Well, this week all was explained.

He has launched his own 'hechsher' for music. If you agree to abide by their impossible conditions (literally impossible - you have to agree to listen to whatever they say, even if they say that right is left and left is right) and not have anything to do with any non-kosher musicians, and live a Jewish life, and submit all lyrics and music to their committee for checking, and many other conditions - then they will give you a hechsher for your music. - Oh, did I forget to mention that you also have to give them a 15,000 shekel deposit which they will keep in the event that you don't fulfil any of their conditions.

You can read the terms and conditions here (on page 7) if you read Hebrew.

(The link seems to be unavailable at the moment. I'm not sure if they have removed it from the website, or if they are just updating the website)

If you just want to look at some more photos of forbidden musicians have a look on page 6 for a 'rogues gallery' of 15 singers (including someone called "Klippy Shmeltzer" - perhaps he is related to Flipper).

Unfortunately the best way for Chareidim to make money is to ban something, then charge for the kosher alternative. We have seen this so many times over the past few years, it is quite sickening. Still, at least they don't have to leave Yeshiva and get a job!

The only question remaining, is whether anyone will pay any attention to this hechsher at all. Will it cover the costs of any libel suits if any of the 'banned' singers decide to try to stop his campaign?

As we learnt from the New Zealand anti-shechita campaign - always look for the money. That always explains the real truth behind things.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Shechita in New Zealand

The New Zealand Minister of Agriculture, David Carter (not to be confused with the rugby player All Black Dan Carter - who is now the highest scoring rugby player in the history of Test Matches) had banned ritual Jewish slaughter in New Zealand. This was done against the advice of his own advisory team, and against the advice of his legal team. He ruled that only meat which had been pre-stunned would be acceptable. He claimed that this was done solely for animal welfare purposes. Of course pre-stunning animals is not acceptable for kosher shechita, so in effect he was banning shechita in NZ. Futhermore, because of risk of diseases etc it is forbidden to import chicken into New Zealand, so he was claiming that animal welfare took priority over kosher chicken soup.

The Jewish community objected, and had a temporary reprieve until the case was heard in the high court, which was supposed to take place tomorrow (Monday). On Friday, unexpectedly, the minister backed down, realising that he was going to lose the case. He has permitted slaugter of chickens, and shechita of lambs will remain permitted until a later date when it will be discussed again.

Today (Sunday) it turns out that not only was he acting against all legal advice, but that he was breaking governmental rules by acting based on personal financial gain, rather than for the best interests of New Zealand.

Jonathan Shenken, a member of the Auckland Jewish Community, has been following the money trail, and discovered that Carter is a major shareholder in two companies which export to Saudi Arabia. It was 'suggested' to him that trade would be more lucrative if he would require pre-stunning also for kosher meat, because the Halal market has been questioning why it is permitted for Jews and forbidden for Muslims.

According to the article in the New Zealand Herald:

An allegation of conflict of interest has been made because of that - he holds shares in a company which exports meat and met with senior managers who wanted a ban on shechita to protect their interests.

Carter was pulled back into line after lawyers told him he was allowed to consider only animal welfare issues. He had been advised trade with Muslim countries might suffer if it emerged kosher meat was allowed to be produced here while restrictions were placed on halal slaughter.

All I can say is that I hope he loses his job for his underhand behaviour, and that my father was right, because he said all along it was based on pressure from the Muslim market! Note to self: Dad is always right!