The Jerusalem Post
The Chief Rabbinate has declared it will not cooperate with the government’s proposed reforms to the kashrut supervision system, describing them as “dangerous” and “the destruction of kashrut and Judaism in Israel.”
Following a meeting on Monday of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate, the organization’s executive arm, it issued a decision stating that any rabbi utilizing the proposed reforms would violate Jewish law, adding that it would not accept the dictates of the Religious Services Ministry on the issue.
The decision was signed by council head Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and the 11 other members of the council, while Chief Rabbi David Lau applauded the decision.
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last month, Kahana announced a program that would allow independent kashrut authorities headed by a Chief Rabbinate-qualified rabbi to provide kashrut supervision, with the Chief Rabbinate establishing standards and functioning as a regulator, including operating an inspection authority to oversee the work of the independent kashrut authorities.
Additionally, if independent authorities seek to operate under alternative standards, a municipal chief rabbi together with two other rabbis with qualifications to serve as municipal chief rabbis could establish their own kashrut authority under their own guidelines, which would still be subject to the Chief Rabbinate’s inspection authority.
These measures would abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut licensing, which has been described by state comptroller’s reports as suffering from severe deficiencies and corruption.
“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate declares that according to Jewish law it is forbidden for a rabbi to give kashrut [certification] or deal with kashrut issues outside of his [municipal] boundaries in a place where another rabbi is serving,” wrote the council in its decision on Monday.
The council was referencing the requirements of the proposed reforms in which the new independent kashrut authorities must be headed by a rabbi with qualifications from the Chief Rabbinate to serve as a municipal chief rabbi.
That authority will be able to provide kashrut licensing and supervision anywhere in the country, as opposed to the current system in which only the local municipal chief rabbi and rabbinate can grant a kashrut license.
“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate was established [by law] in order to give instructions in Jewish law to the people, and will not cooperate with the decision to turn it [the Chief Rabbinate] into a council that accepts dictates in order to implement political policies that contravene Jewish law,” it said. “Principles of Jewish law are not up for negotiation; the Torah of Israel cannot be changed.”
Lau backed the council’s decision, and also denounced the reforms. The Ashkenazi chief rabbi delineated his opposition to the reforms in a letter to his Sephardi counterpart, welcoming the Council of the Chief Rabbinate’s opposition to the proposals on Monday.
In his letter, Lau claimed that religiously traditional Israelis and tourists would suffer from the reforms, which are now part of the state budget’s arrangements law, since they would not know how to discern between reliable and unreliable kashrut authorities.
He also attacked the central notion of the reforms, which creates competition between kashrut authorities, saying such competition would harm the level of kashrut.
Lau also criticized Kahana’s proposals, without mentioning him explicitly, for not consulting with a committee of the Chief Rabbinate established to examine options to improve the quality of kashrut supervision in the country.
The committee was established in March 2016 and made modest proposals for reform, which were never implemented by the rabbinate.
Lau also attacked the “three-rabbis” alternative track for establishing a kashrut authority, saying such rabbis would lack experience in kashrut supervision, and compared the track to an alternative health ministry run by three coronavirus-denying doctors.
Lau also alleged that those who were happy with the proposals were among those who “harm the Jewish character of the State of Israel,” saying that this fact “proves the proposals are not designed to help Judaism.”
He said he hoped the Council of the Chief Rabbinate would convene shortly “to discuss how Israel’s rabbis should act on this issue,” as well as how to react to upcoming reforms to the conversion process that Kahana also plans to introduce.