Food (illustration)
Food (illustration)Flash90

The organization Chotam, a coalition of activists supporting the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and opposing the establishment of alternative Kashrut certification agencies, released a lengthy Facebook post earlier this week calling on the public to refrain from patronizing the Petah Tikva branch of the restaurant “Pasta Basta”, after the restaurant announced that they were now being supervised by the alternative kashrut supervision of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization.

The post quickly went viral, but the vast majority of responses backed the restaurant, ironically expressing thanks to Chotam for the “free publicity” they gave the restaurant and said that they would now actively seek out a meal at the eatery.

“Your branch in Petah Tikva was a a meeting place for many religious youth. But now you have chosen to throw sand in the eyes of this community. In an instant you kicked out the Rabbinate’s kashrut and brought in that of Tzohar,” the Chotam post read.

“As if your efforts in Jerusalem weren’t enough [referencing the Jerusalem branch’s choice to embrace an alternative kashrut], you are once again choosing to betray the Rabbinate and those who seek kashrut observance for whom it’s important to continue to embrace the official kashrut,” the post continued. “Once again you have chosen to go alongside those organizations who receive praise from the Reform and criticism from many great and distinguished rabbis.”

As mentioned, many readers sided with the eatery and openly attacked Chotam’s position. “This is an insulting and demeaning post that only leads me to open Google and find where the closest branch of the eatery is located,” wrote reader Ben Gabizon.

Another reader, Ayelet Birak Levi, wrote of the official kashrut supervision, “Enough with this money pit supported by the Rabbinate.” Another reader wrote, “The Tzohar kashrut is great! Both kosher and free of politics and extortion.”

The Pasta Basta chain responded to the Chotam post and the resulting support saying, “Thank you to all of our customers and great people that support this direction we’ve taken. It’s important to make clear that we have no interest in fighting with anyone. We didn’t decide to work with Tzohar to irritate or anger anyone but simply because we believed this was the proper direction."

"The Tzohar staff has undergone extensive courses how to deal with every vegetable and how to firmly assure our customers that they are receiving truly kosher food in a way that we think they deserve. We sincerely hope that the Rabbinate will appreciate that competition isn’t a bad thing but rather a means that will only positively contribute to the best interests of the community,” the Pasta Basta statement added.

In response, Chotam released a statement saying. “Any business that chooses to give up on the Rabbinate’s supervision in favor of an alternative supervision is clearly doing it for one of the following reasons: Either to promote an agenda to destroy the Rabbinate and the Jewish identity of the state - as was stated among the wave of support that came from various non-orthodox forces when the new initiative was announced. Or that they don’t want to abide by the standards of the Rabbinate. Either way this doesn’t smell good- and when it comes to the food industry smell is an important factor. We are pleased that our post has encouraged public debate and conversation and hope that our work will succeed in improving kashrut supervision for the people of Israel- without expanding past the body which is entrusted with this purpose since the nation’s founding- the Israeli Rabbinate.”

Tzohar later issued a response to Chotam, saying, “We have received overwhelming support from the Israeli public - both amongst halachic kashrut observers and those who might not yet observe but recognize the importance of supervision as an important Jewish value. We are proud to see that the demand from restaurants seeking our supervision is on the constant rise. Twenty years ago, we brought about a revolution in halachic marriage in Israel and we are now amidst a new revolution on behalf of promoting our nation’s Jewish identity through this initiative. We recognize that there will be challenges but we will address and overcome each one because we know this is for the betterment of our people and nation.”