Published Fall 2012
The Community and Its Shechita
One of the most basic features of a functional Jewish community, no matter the size, has historically been the shochet. Rabbis are a necessity, but were not always available; access to kosher meat is indispensable. The original American Jewish community of twenty-three Dutch Jews from Brazil, who landed in New Amsterdam (later, New York) in 1654, was led by the celebrated Asser Levy, who was also the shochet. Well before the first ordained rabbi, Rabbi Abraham Rice, arrived in 1840, shochtim served the needs of American Jews.
In the more established kehilos of Europe, the shochet was also deemed critical. An intrepid shochet, who risked his life in the early 1930s to provide kosher meat to Jews in Soviet Russia, remarked during an interview: