Chief Rabbi Warns Of Widespread Kosher Food Fraud If New Opinion By Israel’s AG Is Followed
Shmarya Rosenberg •

The official Ashkenazi (haredi) Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau warned of danger to kosher consumers if a new proposal by Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is adopted, Arutz Sheva reported.

“The decision to allow ‘alternative’ kashrut certificates is an erroneous one that will only worsen fraud in the kosher food industry. Kashrut must remain under the supervision of the [official state Chief] Rabbinate in order to protect religious consumers,” Lau said.

But the AG disagrees, and today he said a restaurant or other food establishment could legally market itself as kosher, even if its kosher supervision was not officially recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.

Weinstein made that ruling in response to a lawsuit in the High Court of Justice filed by two Jerusalem restaurants the State of Israel. The restaurants are demanding the right to call themselves kosher, even though the Chief Rabbinate withdrew kosher supervision approval from them, rescinded their certificates of kosher approval, and fined them.

The restaurants are demanding that the Chief Rabbinate remove those fines. They claim the Chief Rabbinate’s demands – including mandating the restaurants use only purportedly “bug-free” specially grown and rabbinically supervised raw leafy green vegetables (vegetables the previous Sefardi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar ruled were dangerous to people’s health and should not be eaten) – are excessive .

Both restaurants are reportedly willing to allow kosher supervision – if that supervision is less demanding than the Chief Rabbinate’s.

Lau says allowing these restaurants to hire a private rabbi to provide kosher supervision is dangerous

“As is well-known, anyone can call himself a ‘rabbi,’” Lau reportedly said. “Unlike the case with ‘lawyer’ or ‘doctor,’ the term ‘rabbi’ is not protected by law with specific standards. Under this decision, anyone can call himself a ‘rabbi’ and grant a kashrut certificate, deceiving the public which will not be aware of who the granting party is. We will work with the new government to ensure that this deception is nipped in the bud.”

For the past 67 years, Israel has by law required that all kosher supervision be done through the official state Chief Rabbinate. But over the past four decades, the Chief Rabbinate and the state have essentially looked the other way as haredi private kosher supervision companies have proliferated, including one founded by former Sefardi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel Ovadia Yosef.

But at the same time, the Chief Rabbinate has tried to crack down on smaller – and often nonprofit – kosher supervisions.

So when a big and seemingly illegal haredi kosher supervision company puts its seal on a restaurant or food product, the state and the Chief Rabbinate looks the other way, sometimes by employing a legal fiction. The restaurant or food manufacturer pays for official state kosher supervision and the product or restaurant carries the official seal. But along side that official kosher seal is the kosher seal of a private haredi kosher supervision company. Consumers understand it is that seal that determines the level of stringency the food is produced under, and see the official seal as insignificant or even as a detriment to their purchase. But in many cases, especially with restaurants in heavily haredi areas of the country like Jerusalem, restaurants operate with only private haredi kosher supervision, and the Chief Rabbinate has done nothing to try to stop them.

On the other hand, if a restaurant wants to chuck official state kosher supervision and use only the private supervision of a Modern Orthodox rabbi or of a liberal haredi rabbi who is an immigrant from the West and who is not well connected politically, the Chief Rabbinate uses the power of the kosher fraud law to stop it.

That dichotomy in enforcement – what many see as corruption – could easily lead to the High Court ruling against the Chief Rabbinate, either by striking the kosher fraud law down, or by mandating that private haredi kosher supervisions be closed, or by mandating that all enforcement be equal no matter who the private kosher supervision rabbi or company is.
Bottom line? The rabbanut sees independent kosher supervision as a threat to their hegemony and a potential loss of money!

Posted on May 19, 2015 at 12:04 am by Rabbi Jeffrey Rappoport · Permalink
In: General Topics, Kosher News, Uncategorized

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