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December 06, 2012

Restaurant Owners Sue Haredi-Controlled Rabbinate

Vegetables“The restaurant owners are definitely on the front line [in the battle against haredi religious coercion],” Jerusalem City Council member [and religious freedom and women’s rights activist] Rachel Azaria [herself a Modern Orthodox Jew] said, “and as pioneers in this battle they are exposed to the risks.”

Vegetables

The Religion News Service reports:

Five Jerusalem restaurant owners have filed suit against the city’s [haredi-controlled, state-funded] Chief Rabbinate, saying the rules for kosher certification are expensive, onerous and inconsistent.…

The restaurants are among almost a dozen establishments that recently severed their ties with the Rabbinate’s kosher supervisors, who are charged with ensuring that the food being prepared meets strict Jewish dietary laws.…

“The restaurant owners are definitely on the front line [in the battle against haredi religious coercion],” Jerusalem City Council member [and religious freedom and women’s rights activist] Rachel Azaria [herself a Modern Orthodox Jew] told the Times of Israel, “and as pioneers in this battle they are exposed to the risks.”

The restaurateurs decided to go to court after the Rabbinate issued fines of between $270 and $525 for marketing themselves as [“]kosher without the rabbis’ approval.[“] Some restaurant owners have hired private kosher inspectors.…

In their suit, which is being funded by a social action organization, the owners say the Rabbinate operates as a monopoly. A Rabbinate spokesman did not respond to phone calls.…

Modern-Orthodox Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who is spearheading a training program for volunteer kosher supervisors, said the Rabbinate’s oversight of its supervisors is inconsistent.

“Owners complain (the supervisors) come very seldom,” he said. “Some complain they show up only for their paycheck.”

Restaurateurs also complained that supervisors demand unreasonably high kosher standards.

To ensure that fresh produce contains no insects, which would render it non-kosher, “they require us to purchase lettuce and other vegetables from specific vendors who use strong pesticides,” Vadai said. “It’s just not necessary. I can’t wash off the pesticide and I won’t serve them to my customers.”

The supervisors appear to be acting on their own, Vadai said, since Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recently announced that “insects can be removed by washing, the way it has been done for generations.”

Actually, Amar issued a detailed ruling that was dozens of pages long. In it he documented the fact that these "mehadrin" "bug free" vegetable growers are using banned pesticides and illegally high doses of legal pesticides. He documented the medical dangers of eating these heavily treated vegetables, and he argued that Jewish law views dangers to life and health much more seriously than it views basic Jewish laws like kosher. Therefore, eating these "bug free" vegetables is really strongly forbidden under Jewish law. He urged Jews to buy ronly regular vegetables, wash them and check them the way Jews have done for generations.

So the Rabbinate's kosher inspectors are actually trying to force restarant owners to violate Jewish law.

Comments

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Why don't they get a less expensive less stringent hashgacha. There is no way a government agency will tell how hashgacha should be performed.

The country is filled with many bearded rabbis looking for work. Why not get one of them to be the mashgiach and pay them. Maybe they can double as a guard to the business as well?

Why don't they get a less expensive less stringent hashgacha. There is no way a government agency will tell how hashgacha should be performed.

In Israel, the law is that the official state rabbinate is the only allowable kosher supervisor.


In Israel, the law is that the official state rabbinate is the only allowable kosher supervisor.

Posted by: Shmarya | December 06, 2012 at 02:00 PM

So the government of Israel is in the hechsher business. Oh brother! Make that "Big Brother".

It wasn't that long ago that you either trusted or didn't trust the cook.

I wonder if the kosher food police are as vigilant in trying to protect Jews with celiac disease from accidently eating food containing gluten.

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