On Wednesday, dozens of rabbis from across Israel, headed by the two Chief Rabbis, held a conference in Jerusalem to discuss the government’s proposed reforms to the kashrut industry, decrying the intention of Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) to strip the Chief Rabbinate of virtually all its authority in the area of kosher supervision.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, said that Kahana’s reforms would lead to “anarchy.”
“Rabbis from all over the country have come here today because we believe that the proposed reforms to kosher supervision will cause great harm,” Rabbi Eliyahu said. “Anyone who knows anything about kashrut understands this. If we compare what Kahana wants to do with any other industry or sector, it becomes obvious how much damage this would inflict. Imagine if, for example, instead of having one committee for industrial standards for manufacturing vehicles, any three inspectors could form their own committee and set their own standards. Or, imagine that instead of having one Chief of Staff in the IDF, any three generals could get together and decide on military strategy.”
“Kosher supervision needs to be centralized with one body for making decisions,” he stressed. “This is true no less for kashrut than for any other area that is not up for dispute.”
Rabbi Eliyahu concluded that, “What Matan Kahana and the government want to do is nothing less than dismantle the entire institution of the Chief Rabbinate. They want to remove the authority of the Rabbinate from marriages, from conversions, and from kashrut too. Today, on the yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing - ed.) of Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook, they want to destroy the Chief Rabbinate. We won’t be a part of their plans.”
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, the Rabbi of the Samaria region, told Arutz Sheva that, “It’s clear to everyone that the kosher supervision system needs to be repaired. We’ve known that for years, but the question is how to do that without destroying the institution in the process. The first thing that needs to be stressed is to maintain the status of the Chief Rabbinate as well as its overriding authority. Alongside that, we need to fix the problems within the system.”
The conference was held a day after dozens of rabbis from the “Torani” (semi-haredi) stream of Religious Zionism published a letter of protest against the new government. In their letter, the rabbis wrote that, “In opposition to the wishes of the majority of the country as was shown in all previous rounds of elections, an anti-Jewish and anti-national government was formed” in Israel.
The rabbis stressed their “grave concern regarding legislation that would pose a great threat to Judaism in the areas of kosher supervision, the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, the sanctity of the Jewish family, conversion procedures which have no basis in Jewish law, and public observance of Shabbat. They also seek to harm those who study Torah and their families, and to desecrate the Kotel Hama’aravi (Western Wall) with the ‘prayer services’ of the Reform movement…”
“All these are issues that affect the very essence and continued existence of the State of Israel,” they added.
With regard to reform of the kosher supervision process, the rabbis wrote, “It is clear from examining the nature of the proposed reforms that the real intention behind them is to dismantle the Chief Rabbinate and create breaches in the system of kosher supervision. There is no doubt that these reforms will lead to many people [unintentionally] eating non-kosher food, and all this is being done under the guise of ‘concern for the general public.’”
The rabbis asserted that, “The intention is to introduce post-modernism and create a ‘state of all its citizens,’ a state that will oppose family values as well as the Jewish-national character of the State.”
Despite the grave dangers they foresee, the rabbis stressed that, “We are not calling for anarchy, but it has to be made absolutely clear that this government was established on a rotten foundation, and that the situation cannot be improved by joining it, G-d forbid. Rather, the government must be completely invalidated and overthrown … Therefore, it is a mitzvah (Torah commandment - ed.) to do everything possible to bring about the downfall of this government using all legitimate means at our disposal.”
Among the signatories to the letter were: Rabbi Dov Lior, Rabbi Tzvi Yisrael Tau, Rabbi David Hai Hakohen, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, and Rabbi Yigal Kaminetsky. Dozens of other rabbis and yeshiva heads added their signatures as well.