Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein
Rabbi Rafi FeuersteinEliran Aharon

Tzohar Rabbinical Association's Kashrut Project head Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein responds today to MK Bezalel Smotrich's charge that the Tzohar rabbis violated the kashrut improvement law.

"Tzohar is proud it torpedoed MK Smotrich's bad and harmful law," explains Rabbi Feuerstein to Arutz Sheva, "because Tzohar demanded the Chief Rabbis pledge to preserve the Heter Mechirah leniency so it won't be marginalized and then can still be considered part of the Chief Rabbinate's Mehadrin kashrut. We also demanded the Rabbinate not tighten kashrut requirements out of concern for the Jewish People.

"I'm sorry Jewish Home Knesset members and MK Smotrich aren't partners in this process. We demand there be a basic kashrut package. There are many traditional and religious people who don't want to eat mehadrin. It's inconceivable that the Chief Rabbinate, controlled by the haredim, will issue maximalist demands.

"We haven't received such a commitment, and therefore Tzohar is proud to have torpedoed this bad law that would have turned kashrut into something elitist, closed, and haredi, instead of being open to all of Israel," declares Rabbi Feuerstein.

According to him, Tzohar rabbis are the ones most concerned of damage to the Chief Rabbinate's position. "We're warning of a problem that affects the Chief Rabbinate, and we're afraid that the Rabbinate has become a monopoly. It both supervises and employs kashrut workers. Lack of competition breeds corruption. We demanded the Chief Rabbinate be the regulator, set the rules, and enforce them - but the Kashrut bodies should be someone else.

"After decades of the Chief Rabbinate, we've seen a very serious deterioration in the state of kashrut in recent years. We see the (haredi) Badatzim have become the main kashrut factor. It's true the law requires them to supplement the Chief Rabbinate, but in the end they set the tone. The Chief Rabbinate must regain composure and examine itself. After all, they did a house inspection in the wake of the Supreme Court and cut the relationship between the overseer and the overseen. We're not here to throw sand into the works," he adds.

And he also has personal criticism of MK Smotrich. "This is a law designed to perpetuate a situation. Where was MK Smotrich when it was reported there was nepotism in the Chief Rabbinate, why don't I hear him speak out against corruption? Why couldn't his voice be heard? I sense a symbiotic relationship between the haredim and the national haredim (hardalim), and not out of a desire to protect the Chief Rabbinate. Genuine invulnerability requires genuine vision that sees the failures and seeks to correct them to protect the honor of the Chief Rabbinate.

"We're the true defenders of the Chief Rabbinate and we call on it to change its ways so as to maintain its status in the public," concludes Rabbi Feuerstein.

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