burgers - Emil Salman - December 9 2011
Skullcap-wearing workers at the Burger Bar in Jerusalem. Photo by Emil Salman
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In some kosher Jerusalem restaurants, even male employees who are not observant Jews must wear a kippa. In some cases restaurant managers cite a desire to show respect for their customers, while in others the request or directive apparently comes from the on-site kashrut inspector, or mashgiah.

Ran Bassa, a lawyer who works in Jerusalem's Givat Shaul industrial zone, says he noticed a few months ago that workers at the Bar Burger hamburger joint near his office were all wearing kippot. "That made me suspicious, because all the kippot were identical and placed at an unnatural manner, as if temporary. I asked and the cashier admitted they all had to wear them because of kashrut," Bassa said. "It's very annoying, I see it as an insult. I have no problem with the kashrut certification, but I don't understand; is the food more pure if it's prepared by someone with a kippa? The place serves the entire population, and when you force a religious facade on such a place it's infuriating," Bassa said.

Burger Bar's kashrut certification, or hekhsher, is from Rabbi Avraham Rubin of Rehovot. Although this hekhsher is known to be strict and acceptable to large portions of the ultra-Orthodox community, in recent years Rubin has faced accusations of laxness from rivals, mainly from the Eda Haredit organization.

Rubin's on-site kashrut inspectors tell the managers of restaurants under their supervision that only observant, kippa-wearing Jews are permitted to place food on the grill. In the case of Burger Bar, where the grill is in sight of the customers and all employees work the grill, everyone is asked to wear a kippa.

According to Rabbi Yitzchak Weinberg, one of the heads of Rubin's certification agency, the agency does not get involved with employee apparel issues, which is left up to the owner "who wants to respect his religious and Haredi customers." Weinberg adds, however, that anyone who places food over a flame must at least observe the Jewish Sabbath. "It's not a question of clothing, it's Jewish law," Weinberg says. "Not the servers, though."

The on-site inspector, however, speaking to Haaretz on condition of anonymity, said that anyone working at the restaurant has to wear a kippa; "it's important for the public," he said.