'Privatizing kashrut certification will lead to lower standards'

Supreme Court to rule on petition to allow other bodies besides Rabbinate to grant kashrut certification.

Yoel Domb,

Rabbi Micha Halevi(left)
Rabbi Micha Halevi(left)
Shlomi Shalmoni

The Supreme Court is discussing a petition which would allow other bodies besides the Chief Rabbinate to award Kashrut certification to businesses.

Representatives of the Hotels Association, the Restaurant Union, and the Neemanei Torah Va'Avoda organization joined the petition submitted by the Reform movement against the Chief Rabbinate, the Religious Affairs Ministry, and the Jerusalem Religious Council.

Petah Tikva Chief Rabbi Micha Halevi said in advance of the hearing that "the State of Israel is a Jewish state and religion and state go hand in hand. Therefore all commercial foods presented to consumers around the country must be kosher. Kosher food is not a need of those who consume kosher food, it is an essential aspect of a state called the State of Israel.

"Most of the people in Israel are careful to maintain basic standards of kashrut. People want to find kosher food and not to inadvertently eat non-kosher food. For this reason kashrut is a public and national requirement and not a private need. The national kashrut service provides people with what they truly want as Jews," said Rabbi Halevi.

He added that "the national kashrut service administered by the Chief Rabbinate and local rabbinic authorities has succeeded for decades in ensuring that commercial foods sold in Israel will generally be at least at a basic level of kashrut. This is an incredible achievement for the kashrut establishment of the national rabbinate.

"Even the private bodies involved in maintaining a higher level of kashrut agree that without the supervision of the Rabbinate over the whole kashrut industry, they would not be able to maintain the additional standards of kashrut."

Rabbi Halevi warned that "privatization will cause the sale of non-kosher food all over the country and the secular public will inadvertently eat it. The level of basic kashrut will also fall dramatically. The demand to privatize kashrut does not stem from a national perspective but rather from a narrow consumer's perspective.

Rabbi Halevi concluded by saying: "All this does not mean that there is nothing to fix in the present kashrut establishment of the Rabbinate and this is why the Rabbinate itself has been diligently involved in producing a report and guidelines which will improve and make more efficient the Rabbinate's kashrut establishment. This is the correct way - to fix and not to tear down."

The Liba Center [Center for Jewish Centrality in Israeli Public arena] said: "we hope that the good of the State of Israel and the Jewish nation will be paramount to the Supreme Court and not the demands of interested parties which are attempting to dismantle the Rabbinate and weaken Israel's Jewish identity."

In an earlier interview with Army Radio it was reported that the Kashrut committee headed by Rabbi Halevi which has been active in the past few months and which has met with officials involved in awarding Kashrut certification on food items will present landmark conclusions on the topic

According to the report, the conclusions will recommend removing the requirement to receive Kashrut from the local rabbinate and allowing businesses to refer to the rabbi of their choice to obtain certification. The goal of this initiative would be to enable the creation of competition which would force local rabbinates to upgrade their Kashrut certifications.

Another recommendation of the committee is to place Kashrut supervisors under the auspices of the religious councils and not, as is presently the case, having them under the employ of the businesses they are supervising. This would reduce the possibility of corruption which stems from the supervisors being directly employed by the businesses.




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