Senior officials in the Chief Rabbinate sharply criticized the new kashrut authority established by the Tzohar Rabbinical organization, after its ties to the Hashgacha Pratit organization (lit. "Private Supervision", the Hebrew term also denotes "Divine Providence"), were revealed, effectively placing the organization under Tzohar's auspices.
Tzohar, an Orthodox organization which provides religious services for those seeking an alternative to the state-run Rabbinate, has been criticized in the past by the Rabbinate for allegedly undermining the Rabbinate's uniform standards.
"The Tzohar Rabbinical organization is fast becoming like the Conservative movement," senior Rabbinate officials said, "and it would be good for the public to understand that the struggle for the kashrut system is not between the Rabbinate and Tzohar, but between the Rabbinate and the Conservative movement, which has taken over Tzohar.
"Hashgacha Pratit is an organization whose leaders and management are self-declared Conservatives, and the organization is heavily funded by charities such as the Schusterman Foundation and the Leichtag Foundation, who perpetually fund Conservative and LGBT organizations.
"It is also important to remember that in the past, Hashgacha Pratit was promoted an organization to advance 'pluralistic Judaism' in Israel, and this phrase was removed from their name after it they realized it damaged the organization's image as a kashrut provider."
On Tuesday, Arutz Sheva published a letter sent by Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, one of the Tzohar heads, to all the organization's rabbis, in which he described the goals of the new kashrut system.
"With a heavy heart, and after much deliberation, we decided to set out. I will reiterate once more: We are not warring against the Rabbinate, we are disciples of Rabbi Kook," said Rabbi Feuerstein, founder of the modern Rabbinate in Israel, "and we seek only to honor and glorify the Rabbinate.
"But we cannot remain silent in face of the prevailing desecration of G-d in how the public perceives kashrut. Therefore we made our decision in consultation with the Council of Tzohar Rabbis, most of whom supported the process of establishing a non-profit subsidiary of Tzohar which would provide halakhic supervision, subject to and within the framework of the Supreme Court's decision on the matter."
Rabbi Feuerstein explained that the goal is not to attack or to discredit state kashrut. "Our goal is to sanctify the name of G-d and endear Judaism throughout the nation. We want the Chief Rabbinate to be the regulator that directs the various kashrut providers.
"Our main goal is to add to the circle of kosher restaurants and businesses that are not kosher today, and to increase [observance of] kashrut in Israel," he explained.
Rabbi Feuerstein detailed some of the basic principles of the new halachic supervision system: "Inspectors (male and female) who have undergone a special certification course; meticulous monitoring of tithes (trumot u'ma'asrot); inspectors receiving practical experience in the supervised bodies; certification to be given only after a trial period; strict supervision of the inspectors (using technological means)."
In addition, all profits, if any, will be returned to the businesses. "The purpose of the project is not to fill Tzohar's coffers," said Rabbi Feuerstein, "and of course, severance of the employer-employee relationship between the inspected and the inspector.
"Above all this, we will act with Hashem's help in a transparent manner, and we will expose ourselves to substantive criticism in order to improve the level of kashrut and service as much as possible. Rabbi Oren Duvdevani is designated head of the kashrut program, with many years of supervision in Israel and abroad."
At the end of his speech, Rabbi Feuerstein emphasized, "Our goal is to increase light and holiness, not strife and criticism. We believe that just as the marriage initiative led to a significant improvement in the registration of marriages in the religious councils, the kashrut project will also bring about the desired change. Our hope and prayer is that the day will come when we will be able to abolish the system, when the desired change happens, if G-d wills it.
"Just as we have received Divine assistance in the marriage initiative that our way is being adopted today by many religious councils and in Rabbinate registration, we hope, with G-d's help, something similar will happen in kashrut, and all those involved in kashrut will reach this common norm."