Knesset Committee: Kosher-Keeping Public in Haifa Is Being Misled

YERUSHALAYIM -
Mashgiachei kashrus at work in the field. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90, Illustrative)

During Monday’s meeting of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee to discuss a report published by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel on failures in the Kashrut supervision system in Haifa, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Yemina) said “This is corruption in the most criminal sense. People should not eat in Haifa today. Whoever eats there is eating non-kosher.”

The request to hold the meeting, which was submitted by MKs Tehila Freidman (Blue and White) and Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid-Telem), states that “Kashrut supervisors make large sums of money without being present at places of business,” and notes the “forging of kashrut certifications.” The request further says, “There is no permanent head of the Kashrut Division in the city. There is a temporary fill-in. Members of the Unit for Enforcing the Prohibition of Fraud in Kashrut visited a number of businesses. The reality on the ground shows that supervision is weak to nonexistent. Kashrut certificates are forged and the kosher-keeping public is being misled.”

The meeting was chaired by Acting Committee Chairperson MK Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh (Yesh Atid-Telem). MK Smotrich lauded the Chief Rabbinate for releasing the report, but, turning to former Chief Rabbinate Director General Rabbi Moshe Dagan, who will soon be appointed head of the Haifa Religious Council, he said “What are you doing at the Chief Rabbinate? How are the police not investigating? You are supposed to make sure that whoever wants to eat kosher and enters [an establishment that sells food] and has a kashrut certificate, will in fact eat kosher. How is it that this has been going on for over two years? You have known about what goes on there for more than two years.

MK Stern said, “In Haifa a situation has been created where the Chief Rabbinate serves the kashrut supervisors rather than the kosher-keeping public.” People who keep kosher, he said, “cannot trust the Rabbinate’s certification.”

MK Freidman said, “I am here to represent the needs of the consumers of kashrut. The goal is that people will be able to eat kosher. There is no argument about the fact that the problems in Haifa are profound. The idea of transferring the religious services to the municipalities should be examined.” She noted that eight kashrut supervisors who resigned have yet to be replaced.

Rabbi Dagan said the Rabbinate “lacks the tools and the enforcement capability,” adding “we tried to initiate legislation that would create this capability when dealing with the local rabbinates. Apart from publishing the report and trying to cooperate, there is not much that can be done. In Haifa there has not been a religious council head for the past eight years. In a place where there is no supervision, the kashrut supervisors apparently did not have a sense of commitment, but it is wrong to generalize. The report discusses a very unique case.”