Food in Israel: How is Private Supervision Different from Rabbinic?

Nili (not her real name) owns a small hotel downtown. Last week, after almost two years of the pandemic without tourists, I was happy to receive a reservation for a group of six tourists for a week-long stay in the Holy City.

Although the group, Christians from South America, only ordered breakfast, Nili discovered that in order to maintain his kashrut certificate from the Jerusalem Rabbinate, he had to organize the mashgiah (kashrut supervisor) and his wife for Shabbat before the arrival of the Christian. tourists, and provide them with lunch and dinner, at their expense. Frustrated, angry, but helpless, Nili had no choice but to welcome the couple.

This kind of story, which has happened more than once, illustrates why so many clients, whether private or business owners, feel so tired of the Rabbinate and his rules. Nili’s small hotel still has the official Rabbinate kashrut certificate as it is within walking distance of the Old City and the Kotel and most of its guests are religious and Haredim so you can’t risk giving it up. .

But in recent years, more and more Jerusalem restaurants have moved to alternative kashrut service that provides strictly kosher service, but outside of the Rabbinate and its conditions, of which many had grown weary.

Dramatic changes are taking place in the Rabbinate’s kashrut services these days, as the new Minister of Religious Affairs, Matan Kahana, has presented a revolutionary kashrut plan.

Under that plan, the kosher market will open up to competition. Kosher corporations that meet the halachic criteria established by the Chief Rabbinate and can demonstrate their economic and administrative affiliation will be able to obtain kosher certificates.

In addition, private training organizations will employ and supervise training supervisors. At the head of a private kosher body will be a “Mira Datra” (someone with the necessary knowledge), with the ability to be a rabbinate supervisor of the city. The Kashrut bodies will publish the halachic standard (established by the Chief Rabbinate) to which they agree to adhere.

A supreme supervisory body of the Chief Rabbinate will be established to oversee private kashrut bodies and ensure that they comply with halachic standards. Last but not least, a kosher corporation wishing to do so may choose to adhere to a more basic standard than that set by the rabbinate, as long as it is approved by three city rabbis.

Avivit Ravia, the first female kosher supervisor in the country, felt that she had no other way of working as a mashgiach but in an alternative kashrut structure.

“I took this course, but I soon understood that the Rabbinate would not let me pass the test in the end and would not allow me to get a job as a woman,” Ravia said. “It was a challenge that I had to respond to in some way. While I was still considering my next step, I was introduced to Rabbi Aharon Leibovitch, who pitched the idea of ​​alternative kashrut, which he called Hashgaha Pratit, and to me, it goes without saying that it was a sign from heaven that it was the right thing to do. thing to do and join him. “

Following a 2013 petition filed with the High Court of Justice by the women’s religious organization Emuna, the new Chief Rabbi, Rabbi David Lau, ruled that women should be allowed to practice the profession. Ravia was already beyond, but it opened the doors for many more women.

However, even before that, a group of Jerusalem residents who were concerned about kashrut but felt totally alienated by the Rabbinate’s rules decided to do something.

Haya Gilboa, Nassimi Naim-Naor, Avivit Ravia, Yonatan Vadai and of course Leibovitch, the first rabbinical authority who supported his initiative and gave him personal support, were the men and women who decided in 2012 to break the Rabbinate’s monopoly and offer a different approach to kashrut.

Hashgaha Pratit withdrew in 2018 after they gained the support of the highest authority on kashrut matters in Israel, Rabbi Oren Duvdevani, and from there it was only a matter of (short) time until the entire initiative was taken over by the Rabbinical Association. Tzohar. .

While among the haredi and a large part of the religious sectors there are cries of rupture and threats of destruction of the halachic practice, among the Jerusalem people who started the issue a few years ago you can hear emotion and satisfaction and even cheers for victory.

Yonatan Vadai, one of the first to join the initiative, went one step further, as he decided to open the Bab al-Yemen restaurant / bar on Azza Road, which is open on Shabbat without any Shabbat desecration. His popular cafe, Carousela, is covered in alternative kashrut, and Vadai says he feels great satisfaction on a personal level.

“Hopefully, the new bodies will be backed by religious figures the public knows and trusts,” he said. “If not, the reform will fail and the Rabbinate will continue to have a monopoly. As we demand and suggest, the Rabbinate would remain a regulator, which is a tremendous achievement. “

How is private supervision different from rabbinical supervision? In the first phase, training is given to all cafeteria staff, both kitchen and waiters, who can discuss the project with customers. After the training, a loyalty agreement is signed between the company and the community. The third stage is the maintenance of the training, which is carried out through visits by volunteers and a field coordinator (for a fee).

The Kashrut supervisors, by the way, are all women. This is one of the principles that is kept under private supervision to create the alternative. Since Leibovitch began his revolution, an increasing number of Jerusalem restaurants have renounced the Chief Rabbinate’s kosher certificate, fed up with the financial and halachic behavior and demands of kosher supervisors.

Alternative kosher certificates have been hung on the wall in more than 10 businesses and restaurants in Jerusalem. Although the certificates indicate that the company is kosher, they bear the title of “allegiance alliance”, but if you look for the word “kosher” in them, you will not find it, since the owners run the risk of violating the law that prohibits fraud in kashrut.

That is perhaps one of the first things that will change following the new rules issued by Kahana.

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