Controversial Kashrus Reform Approved by Knesset Committee

YERUSHALAYIM -
A view of the protest against the kashrus reform in Tel Aviv, Wednesday. (Campaign of the Struggle Against the Kashrus Reform)

The controversial plan pushed by the government to reform Israel’s kashrus system cleared its first major hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for a vote by the full Knesset.

On Wednesday morning, Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) announced that the Knesset’s Religious Services Committee has granted final approval to the plan – drawn up by Kahana – to open up the kashrus certification system to competition, ending the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over certification.

The bill will now be sent to the Knesset plenum for a vote.

Under the plan drawn up by Kahana, the Chief Rabbinate will no longer be the sole provider of kashrus certification, and will instead serve as a regulator for a number of independent kashrus organizations, which will provide certification to restaurants and products.

The Rabbinate will set the national standards for kashrus and head an oversight body that will determine the compliance with those standards of the various kashrus organizations.

According to the plan, a kosher corporation will be allowed to choose to meet a more basic standard than that set by the Rabbinate if the standard is approved by three municipal Rabbis.

“We are breaking the monopoly of the Rabbinate,” Committee chairwoman MK Yulia Malinovsky said.

The main points of the bill that was approved:

  • The kashrus market will be opened for full competition in about a year (by Jan. 1, 2023), so that private organizations will be able to award kashrus certification. The organizations will receive approval from the official in charge of kashrus at the Chief Rabbinate.
  • The organizations will be able to choose whether to operate according to a kashrus standard that will be determined by the Chief Rabbinate Council or according to a standard set by three rabbis.
  • In about two months (by Jan. 1, 2022), religious councils will be able to award kashrus certification anywhere in Israel, not only in the cities to which they belong.
  • The price of the kashrus certificate for businesses will not be uniform, and will be set by each kashrus corporation and religious council.
  • All the bodies mentioned above, with the exception of religious councils, will be able to grant kashrus certification for imported goods.

Spontaneous protests were held in Tel Aviv, on Ibn Gvirol Street, agaiMK Rabbi Uri Maklev (UTJ), a member of the Religious Services Committee, said after the approval of the reform: “Today is a dark day for Israel. You may think that you have ended the battle here, but we are just starting the war, we will inform every child in the country that the new kashrus is a total fake.”nst Kahana and the kashrus reform. “This is a kosher destruction reform. Thousands of people will be fired as a result of the reform that will take place,” the protestors, many of them mashgichei kashrus, said.

MK Rabbi Yaakov Asher (UTJ) said that “the 100 hours of committee discussions in which we participated proved beyond any doubt that this is a reform that has nothing to do with lowering prices. On the contrary, Yamina and Yisrael Beyteinu are proposing a targeted assassination of the state rabbinical institution established by Rav Kook during the British Mandate. This is ludicrous. What the [British Mandate] understood, unfortunately, is not understood today in the Israeli government.”

In a statement, the United Torah Judaism faction said: “The kashrus reform approved today by the Religious Services Committee constitutes a complete value collapse carried out by Bennett-Lapid-Liberman-Kahana’s malicious coalition against tradition and against shomrei kashrus in Israel. This is in line with the persecutors of the religion and those who seek to destroy the institution of the Rabbinate.”

The Shas faction said: “Today is a sad day for the people of Israel, when a large stone in the wall of the Jewish State falls. The public space in Israel is about to become non-kosher. Minister Matan Kahana is the executor of Liberman and Malinovsky on the way to destroying the status quo and severely damaging the Chief Rabbinate.”