The tone of the editorial is hard to guess. It seems to us that there is no recognition in the article that the old Kashruth law of NYS was blatantly unconstitutional. It was in defiance of a number of specific Constitutional issues. That the law lasted as long as it did was rather amazing. We may or may not like the butchers in Comack, but the fact is that everyone knew the old law was on wobbly legs. It was just a matter of time until someone properly brought a law suit.

The old law established a standard for Kashruth in NYS that was not constitutionally enforceable. Acording to the editorial, the current law suit alleges: “‘The interpretation of Jewish law was and remains a religious issue…. The state has no right to intrude upon or second guess a certifier’s interpretation of Jewish law.'” Of course, they are correct. We recall a story concerning a mashgiach of a meat store who found out that the NYS law of deveining a tongue was in conflict to that which he had been trained-and certified- in Israel (His certification was from Rav Soltis, OBM, who was then the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.) The State inspector found the rabbi’s standard of deveining the tongue to be unacceptable to the “Orthodox Hebrew standards” of which the old law spoke. No amount of arguing with the old Kosher Law Enforcement Agency helped. The State inspector (a man whose own butcher store had gone under) placed all the tongues in quarantine. It took a sit down meeting with the NYS Attorney General to work it all out. In truth, the situation was way out of line. The State totally surpassed its legal authority. Another time, an inspector quarantined a bag of bakery malt claiming that it was dairy because it came from Wisconsin Dairy Company. The inspector declared that the malt was therefore dairy and the bread was not acceptable as baked. The bag had a huge P on it. The inspector said the bag of malt was KP! Hello, this is planet earth; have we met?
For that and many other reasons, the old law had to go. The un-named “kashrus authorities” mentioned in the article is simply a blind and probably a case of disinformation.

For constitutional reasons, the NYS law and the New Jersey law had to be written as consumer based laws. The disclosure statement is required to hang in plain sight, leaving it up to the consumer to decide if s/he trusts the store and if the standards are acceptable. We may not like that law and find it too lacking in the force of the old law, but it puts the onus on the consumer where it belongs.

The end of the editorial leaves us totally confused: “To totally rely on the merchants and manufacturers to represent the quality or worthiness of a product is undemocratic and certainly not in fitting with our system of government to protect innocent consumers from fraud. ” Can someone please explain that to us? Undemocratic? Huh? What does that mean? Could anything be any more democratic than allowing the consumer to decide if s/he wants to shop some where?

As long as the rules of every day kashruth have devolved into non shulchan aruch based laws, there will be problems in kashruth. According to the halacha, Brillo pads are fine for using on kosher utensils. What happens when some inspector disagrees? Whom do we follow- the State employee or the rabbi who is an expert in these matters (and who quotes the relevant halacha)?

Posted on March 21, 2008 at 12:05 am by Rabbi Jeffrey Rappoport · Permalink
In: General Topics, Uncategorized

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