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High Court: Kashrut Credibility is Not Judged by Jewish Law

Supreme Court rules that Rabbinate may not negate kashrut authorization merely because the restaurant owner belongs to a Jesus-believing cult.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/18/2009, 5:36 PM / Last Update: 11/18/2009, 5:44 PM

Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch has ruled that the Rabbinate of Ashdod may not negate the kashrut authorization of a restaurant merely because the restaurant owner belongs to a Jesus-believing cult of Jews.

She thus reaffirmed an earlier Supreme Court ruling, denying a request for a re-hearing.

The ruling states that the Halakhic [Jewish legal] standards that measure when one’s personal kashrut claims may be believed are not part of the “hard core” of kashrut laws to which the State of Israel is obligated. Therefore, the fact that the rabbinate does not "trust" the owner is not sufficient reason to withhold the kashrut certification. The certification must be issued immediately, Beinisch ruled, and if not, the city's Chief Rabbi will be fined.
Judge Beinisch: “The trustworthiness of a restaurant owner must be measured according to standards of general law, and not according to Halakhic standards.”
Beinisch acknowledges that the messianic beliefs of the owner may well lead to “difficulties” in terms of the rabbi’s trust in his kashrut practices – but “the trustworthiness of a restaurant owner must be measured according to standards of general law, and not according to Halakhic standards.”

The rabbinate had demanded that a kashrut supervisor receive keys to the establishment and that he be the one to open and close it each morning and night. However, Judge Beinisch ruled that this demand was unreasonable and harmed the owner’s basic rights.

Yad L'Achim Calls for Urgent Meeting
The anti-missionary Yad L’Achim organization responded with outrage to the ruling, saying that missionaries will now be able to open restaurants featuring kashrut authorization accompanying their missionary activities.

“It is unprecedented and grave,” Yad L’Achim announced, “that the local Chief Rabbinate is not authorized to remove the kashrut certification from an establishment that identifies clearly with the Jewish Messianic missionary cult and cannot be trusted to keep the laws of kashrut.”

Yad L’Achim Director Rabbi Shalom Dov Lifshitz has asked the Chief Rabbis to call an urgent meeting of rabbis to discuss the matter. He has also called upon religious Knesset Members to work to change the legislation in order to prevent this from happening. “This must be done immediately,” he said, “even if it causes a coalition crisis. Otherwise, missionaries, armed with official kashrut certifications, will be able to entice religious people into their waiting arms.”