SmotrichFlash 90

MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) responded today to the Tzohar rabbinical organization’s attack on his bill for reform in the chief rabbinate with respect to kashrut supervision.

Speaking at a conference for municipal rabbis yesterday, Smotrich had accused Tzohar of being being responsible for the rejection of his bill.

“A half a year ago, I submitted a bill that sought to qualify the chief rabbinate to establish uniform and transparent criteria for the state kashrut supervision system of the chief rabbinate. The bill was submitted with the support of the two chief rabbis and all the religious factions in the Knesset, and was intended to make the kashrut supervision system more efficient and improve its public image,” he said.

“Surprisingly, the finance ministry opposed the bill despite dealing with the central component defining the monopoly which the finance ministry says exists in the kashrut field and therefore, from a professional perspective, the ministry should have been the first to support it.”

“When I tried to clarify who was responsible for torpedoing the bill, I found out that officials in the Tzohar organization were doing it through [Kulanu] MKs Roy Folkman and Rachel Azaria. I cannot detract from Tzohar’s positive activities, but in this matter they acted irresponsibly only in order to harm the chief rabbinate rather than allowing it to become more efficient, so that they could explain later why the kashrut field needs to be confiscated from the rabbinate and justify their kashrut initiative - which, practically speaking, mostly overlaps with the bill I proposed.”

“You can’t shout about improving the system on the one hand, while preventing improvement in the rabbinate on the other.”

Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, who heads Tzohar’s alternative kashrut supervision initiative, responded this morning, Wednesday, telling Arutz Sheva, “Tzohar is proud that it torpedoed Smotrich’s bad and harmful kashrut law, because Tzohar demanded as a condition for its support that the chief rabbis would commit to maintaining [the halakhic leniency enabling work on plots in the land of Israel during the Sabbatical year] heter mechira so that it would not get pushed to the sidelines but rather would be perceived as part of the mehadrin kashrut of the chief rabbinate. We also demanded that the rabbinate not be stringent on kashrut criteria, out of concern for the general Jewish public.”

“I am sorry that Jewish Home MKs and MK Smotrich are not participants in this process. We demand a basic kashrut package. There are many traditional and religious people who don’t want to eat mehadrin. It cannot be that the chief rabbinate, which is controlled by the haredim, makes maximal demands.”

“We did not receive any commitment of that nature, so Tozhar is proud that it torpedoed this bad bill which would have made kashrut elitist, closed and haredi, instead of being open to the general Jewish public,” he said.

Smotrich fired back that “Rabbi Feuerstein and the Tzohar organization know well of the rabbinate’s document committing not to be stringent in kashrut conditions, and they are not speaking the truth.”

“To the best of my knowledge, this claim was never raised by them during the discussions on the law, neither in writing nor orally, and it is being claimed retroactively,” he wrote.

“The fear of more stringent conditions of kashrut was raised by the Hotel and Restaurant Association and in response Rabbi Lau wrote a letter of clarification. Following the letter, the hotels and restaurants removed their objections and supported the law. Only the Tzohar organization remained opposed and incited MK Azaria to block the law through the veto power of the finance minister in the ministerial committee on legislation.

“Moreover, in a telephone conversation that Rabbi Stav [of Tzohar] held with MK Roy Folkman six months ago in my presence, Rabbi Stav demanded ‘in return’ for removing their opposition to the law to open kashrut registration centers, and did not bring up any claim about a fear of more stringent standards or the fate of heter mechira.

“Third, my bill overlaps with most of Tzohar's alternative kashrut program. According to them as well, uniform standards should be set for kashrut, and according to their opinion, the chief rabbinate should determine them. They only ask that the supervision and implementation be carried out by private bodies like them, and hold the important amendment of transparent and uniform standards ‘hostage’ in their struggle.

“Not everything is ‘kosher’ in the war against the rabbinate. Out of honor for Torah scholars, I will not continue. It is sad that we have gotten to this place.”

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