Report: Rabbinate to License Independent Kashrus Agencies

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)

The Chief Rabbinate is considering outsourcing kashrus supervision services to private organizations, Army Radio reported Sunday. The move would turn the Rabbinate from a body that provides kashrus supervision to a regulatory body that would supervise the organizations that are licensed to provide supervision services.

Earlier in June, the High Court ruled that under current regulations, the Rabbinate was the only body that had the right to deem a product or place of business “kosher.” 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 open on Shabbos.

Within that decision, however, was a warning that the Rabbinate needed to find ways to satisfy the demands of basic laws on work and labor, which allow free trade and the opportunity to anyone to engage in business. While the court said that it understood the need for kashrus standards, the Rabbinate needed to open its criteria to expand the opportunity for businesses in the food business.

The new plan is apparently the Rabbinate’s response to that criticism, Army Radio said. The report said that Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau has appointed a committee to develop a plan that would establish criteria for private organizations to provide kashrus supervision services. The Rabbinate would act as a regulator, ensuring that the private organizations observed regulations. The Rabbinate would remain empowered to fine or rescind licenses of organizations that failed to fulfill their obligations.

The plan would solve two major issues that have plagued kashrus supervision since the Rabbinate began offering supervision services, according to sources in the Rabbinate quoted in the report: One, it would eliminate the inherent conflict of interest in non-Badatz supervision where the mashgiach is paid directly by the business – which some claim compromises the commitment of mashgichim to confront their employers on kashrus issues; and two, it would relieve the financial burden for businesses that, by law, are required to pay Rabbinate supervisors, and by choice hire Badatz mashgichim for mehadrin supervision services. Instead, supervisors would be employed and paid by private organizations, which would contract with the hashgachah service for supervision, thus eliminating the dependence of the supervisor on the business he is supervising.

The Rabbinate said in a statement to Army Radio that the reported plan was one of several under consideration.