Lawsuit challenges Georgia kosher law
By Bill Rankin and Christopher Quinn • The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A Cobb County rabbi is seeking to declare Georgia’s Kosher Food Labeling Act unconstitutional on grounds it de-legitimizes interpretations of “kosher” by different Jewish communities.
Shalom Lewis, rabbi of Congregation Etz Chaim, filed suit Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court. He is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia and Atlanta law firm King & Spalding.
The Kosher Food Labeling Act, enacted in 1980, mandates that any food sold as kosher must meet “orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements.”
Lewis, a conservative Jew, said he cannot fulfill his rabinical duties because his theological interpretation of the state’s kosher laws differs from that of Orthodox Judaism. He said he violates state law when he approves some foods as kosher that are not kosher under Orthodox definitions.
According to the lawsuit, for example, there are disagreements between the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities as to whether swordfish and sturgeon may be eaten under dietary laws. The same is true for many dairy products and wines, the suit said.
Lewis also said the state should not endorse one religious group’s beliefs over another. “It’s an intrusion into the separation of church and state clause.”
A state Attorney General’s Office spokesman declined comment.
Orthodox are among the more traditional Jews. Conservative Jews are more open to change than Orthodoxy. About one in three American Jews belong to a Conservative synagogue, according to the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey. About one in five are Orthodox.
[Hat Tip: Seymour.]