Kashrut ‘revolution’ legislation becomes law

Dramatic reforms to the provision of kashrut services were signed into law after the Budget Arrangements Act was passed in the Knesset on Thursday.

The legislation is likely to have a historical impact on the provision of kashrut supervision and influence future changes in other religious services.

The legislation, promoted by Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, will abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on kashrut supervision and open the market to competition by allowing independent kashrut authorities to legally provide oversight services.

The kashrut services provided by the Chief Rabbinate and his local branches have suffered numerous forms of corruption over the years and have been criticized by state agencies and NGOs for not providing an adequate service.

Under the new law, the Chief Rabbinate will establish two levels of kashrut standards, basic and strict, and a body within the Rabbinate will be tasked with ensuring that independent authorities adhere to those standards.

THE BUILDING of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem. (credit: NATI SHOCHAT / FLASH 90)

To ensure that the Chief Rabbinate will not thwart the establishment of independent kashrut authorities through overly strict standards, a panel of three rabbis with specific qualifications may, if they choose, establish a separate set of standards.

This particular provision will mean that the Rabbinate will no longer have exclusive control over the provision of kashrut in the country.

Another important reform of the law allows independent authorities to grant kashrut authorization for food products from abroad, something that could reduce the costs of imported food.

The law will take effect on January 1, 2023.

But on January 1, 2022, the current geographic districts in which only local rabbi branches can operate will be abolished, meaning that a chief municipal or regional rabbi anywhere in Israel could oversee elsewhere.

This is a boon for the kashrut service run by the moderate Zionist religious organization Tzohar, which already operates a kashrut oversight service, through the loopholes of previous laws.

Although until now, Tzohar and any other independent kashrut authority could not legally issue kashrut certificates for restaurants and food businesses declaring that they are kosher in writing; the abolition of geographic districts will mean that such certificates will be legal.

This step will immediately boost competition in kashrut supervision before the full law goes into effect.


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