Baking trouble?
Baking trouble? Israel news photo (Creative Commons)

An anti-missionary group’s revelation that an Ashdod bakery owner was actively involved in missionary activity prompted the local rabbinate to pull the establishment’s kashrut certificate. A subsequent High Court ruling demanding that the kashrut certificate be reinstated was rebuffed by rabbis.

Three weeks ago, a panel of three High Court judges decided in favor of a motion by Penina Comforti, a messianic Jew and active missionary, and ruled that the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbi of Ashdod must rescind their refusal to grant kashrut certification to the 'Penina' pie bakery that she owns.

Rabbi Yosef Sheinin, Ashdod’s Chief Rabbi, subsequently sent a letter to Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Beit El, asking how to proceed after the High Court ruling.

'Be prepared to sacrifice'

In a response which was also sent to Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman and religious parliamentarians, Rabbi Melamed said that the High Court ruling came as no surprise. “High Court rulings are driven by a non-Jewish outlook, and undoubtedly judges who share a religious viewpoint would decide completely differently,” the rabbi wrote.

“In my opinion, there is no halachic (Jewish legal) dispensation to grant kashrut [kosher certification] to the above premises, and one should stand by this even after the High Court’s decision. All rabbis must stand firm as a wall against the attempt to interfere with halachic matters. This is a principle that one must embrace without compromise,” Rabbi Melamed continued, adding that “one must be prepared to sacrifice his life – even more so one’s entire assets – for such coercion.”

Rabbi Melamed also urged that the law be changed as soon as possible to only grant kashrut certificates in accordance with Jewish law and without court intervention. He called for all religious parliamentarians and religious parties to act to change the law.

The anti-missionary Yad L’Achim organization is distributing flyers throughout Ashdod, telling residents to stay clear of the missionary bakery.

'Kashrut is nothing to them'

Yad L’Achim’s Rabbi Shalom Dov Lipschitz explained that a kashrut supervisor could only certify the food of an establishment if there was a relationship of trust with the establishment. The chairman of the veteran anti-missionary organization explained to Israel National News that the missionaries' petition is an act of deception. “Why do missionaries need this? In order to ‘prove’ that they are just as Jewish as everyone else," he said. "If they lack credibility, kashrut is nothing to them.”

He also stated that the High Court has overstepped the bounds of its jurisdiction. “The High Court thinks that kashrut is merely a technical issue. But they must know that it’s impossible to interfere with the Rabbinate, and the Rabbinate didn’t invent the issue.”

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