Court: Only Rabbinate May Use Term ‘Kosher’

The building of the Religious Council and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90
The building of the Religious Council and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Yerushalayim. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

In a blow to reform groups that had filed the petition, the High Court ruled that the term “kosher” when applied to restaurants and institutions or manufacturers involved in the food business is exclusive to the Chief Rabbinate. The Rabbinate is the only group authorized to use the term “kosher,” and only food supervised by the Rabbinate or those it gives its blessing to (such as various Badatzim) can use the term to describe the food they sell or prepare.

The ruling was a blow to the various alternative kashrus services that have sprung up in recent years. The common denominator of these services has been that the businesses are “self-supervising,” meaning that they declare that they are kosher, or that the supervision is limited to the food itself – leading to the anomaly of a business that claims to serve kosher food but is, chalilah, open on Shabbos.

Such businesses and supervision services can use any other term to describe themselves, the court ruled, but they cannot use the term kosher, as doing so would be a violation of consumer protection rules. The public has come to understand the term to be associated with specific standards, and changing those standards would violate the public trust, the court ruled.

As a result, United Torah Judaism and Shas are likely to shelve planned legislation that would have bolstered the Rabbinate as the only official body to grant kashrus certificates, NRG reported. The law has already been approved by the Knesset Law Committee, and had the court ruled otherwise, the parties were planning to introduce the legislation for its first Knesset vote, where it was expected to pass easily. It’s not clear, however, if the government would have backed the bill – thus avoiding a possible coalition crisis.