Chief Rabbinate Declares Opposition to Coalition Kashrus Reforms

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Bennett-Lapid government ran into a major obstacle to its proposals for kashrus reform on Tuesday as the Chief Rabbinate it will not cooperate with the plan, which it condemned as a danger to kashrus and Judaism in Israel in general.

Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) announced last month a set of reforms which would allow independent kashrut authorities to operate under the overall supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Kahana introduced his proposals without consulting with the chief rabbis or those officials currently responsible for maintaining kashrus standards in the country, though he has obtained the backing of coalition members, including Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, a leading foe of the religious establishment.

But with the Rabbinate, which appears to be integral to the plan, now officially opposing it, implementation might not be possible unless Kahana revises the structure.

“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate declares that according to Jewish law it is forbidden for a rabbi to give kashrus [certification] or deal with kashrus issues outside of his [municipal] boundaries in a place where another rabbi is serving,” The Jerusalem Post quoted the council in its decision on Monday, referring to key provision of the plan, which does not require locally-based supervision.

“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate was established (by law) in order to give instructions in Jewish law to the people, and will not cooperate with the decision to turn it [the Chief Rabbinate] into a council which accepts dictates in order to implement political policies which contravene Jewish law. Principles of Jewish law are not up for negotiation, the Torah of Israel cannot be changed.”

Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau said voiced support the for the council decision, saying in a letter to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef that religiously traditional Israelis (“masorati”) and tourists would be harmed by the reforms, since they would not know how to discern between reliable and unreliable kashrus certifiers.

He criticized Kahana’s mode of operation, not consulting with a committee of the Chief Rabbinate which had been established to examine options to improve the quality of kashrus supervision in the country.

Furthermore, Rabbi Lau noted, those who are welcoming the proposals are among those who “harm the Jewish character of the State of Israel,” saying that this fact “proves the proposals are not designed to help Judaism.”