The Chief Rabbinate
The Chief RabbinateFlash 90

In the wake of the Supreme courts' strong criticism of the Kashrut supervision system in Israel, the Chief Rabbinate is devising a new plan which promises to bring about substantial reforms. The plan calls for a privatization of Kashrut supervision, with the Rabbinate to relinquish its former total control over the industry in order to allow private Kashrut supervision companies to enter the market.

In the current state of affairs, the Rabbinate grants Kashrut certificates and enforces compliance with standards and the law. Thus the Rabbinate, an organ of state, essentially runs the entire Kashrut industry by itself. Under the proposed new plan, as reported today (Sunday) on 'Galei Tzahal', the Rabbinate would retreat into the role of regulator, establishing the standards and the laws, but not enforcing them or granting the actual certification itself. Private Kashrut companies would grant the certification and compete for the trust of the consumer, without being directly supervised by the Rabbinate.

This move is being proposed as a result of comments made by Supreme Court justices in the context of a ruling regarding the Rabbinate's authority over Kashrut matters. The Court ruled that under current laws the Rabbinate and local councils do indeed have total and exclusive authority in the Kashrut sphere, but offered severe censure of this status quo.

Among the criticisms leveled by the Supreme Court was was the conflict of interest inherent in the current system. Kashrut supervisors are often paid their salaries by the owners of the very same establishments which they are supervising, creating an incentive to make sure the business succeeds, regardless of actual compliance with Kashrut standards. Under a privatized system, the supervisors would be paid by the private Kashrut companies, mitigating this conflict of interest.

The committee currently working on the new plan was appointed by Chief Rabbi David Lau and includes Rabbinate Director-General Moshe Dagan and Rabbinate legal adviser Attorney Harel Goldberg. The plan to drastically reduce the Rabbinate's role is thus being proposed by senior official within the Rabbinate itself, not being imposed on it from external sources.

The current plan contains elements from various previous reform proposals.

The Rabbinate stated in reply to 'Galei Tzahal' that several alternatives for the reform of the Kashrut system are currently being examined. Rabbinate representatives also wish to emphasize that all plans and provisions are still under deliberation.      

Update: Chief Rabbi's spokesman Pinchas Tennenbaum has released a statement in which he wished to emphasize that the committee was assembled before the Supreme Court decision, and therefore wasn't acting in response to it. He also said in his statement that the committee is examining many different proposals, has yet to take a definitive stance on adopting any of them, and expects to still take several more months to arrive at a final recommendation.