Rabbinate Supervisors Not on Board With Kashrus Supervision Reform

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)

A proposed reform in the kashrus supervision system is not finding favor in the eyes of Rabbinate supervisors in Yerushalayim, a report said Sunday. After word of the changes that would see the Chief Rabbinate give up its exclusive right to hand out certificates attesting to the kashrus of an establishment, a senior member of the supervision staff called it an “attack by a missile.”

A report on Army Radio said that the Rabbinate was considering outsourcing kashrus supervision services to private organizations. 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 for 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 Ashkenazic 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 its obligations.

Kashrus supervisors currently on the job are employees of the Rabbinate, and are members of the Histadrut labor union. The union has not yet responded to the prospect of hundreds of supervisors presumably losing their jobs. In social media groups, supervisors have been expressing dissatisfaction with the plan, with one likening it to a missile attack. “If this is true it is like the firing of a [Rabbi] Lau missile directly on a crowd,” wrote one.