Israeli Chief Rabbi Says Female Kosher Supervisors Will Cause Sexual Immorality

The latest comments by Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef follow remarks in which he described Israel's core curriculum of secular subjects as 'nonsense'

Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol
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Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak YosefCredit: Marc Israel Sellem
Sam Sokol
Sam Sokol

The proposed Israeli government plan to break the state’s monopoly on kosher certification will not only harm religious standards but also lead to an increase in sexual immorality, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef declared last week, in another ultra-Orthodox broadside against the initiative.

Private certifiers of kashrut, Yosef claimed, could use female inspectors, leading to "licentiousness and a lack of modesty,” according to the ultra-Orthodox Hebrew-language website Kikar Hashabbat. “If they privatize kosher food, I don't know how people will be able to eat at all places,” he reportedly added, in comments to a group of rabbis.

Last week, Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana, who is affiliated with the religious Zionist stream of Orthodox Judaism, unveiled the plan to privatize the system of certification of kosher food in the country, sparking outrage at the Chief Rabbinate and among ultra-Orthodox politicians. The dramatic step would create a system of competition among private companies that would provide kashrut supervision and certification.

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The Chief Rabbinate would continue to be able to provide kashrut supervision services of its own, but its monopoly would be broken, although the private organizations would be subject to oversight by the Rabbinate. Currently, businesses can only call themselves kosher if they are certified by the Chief Rabbinate. 

Proponents of the new plan contend that it would reduce the prospect of corruption and that the competition would lower costs due to new competition in the system. Its detractors say it would undermine kashrut standards and sow confusion among consumers.

“I believe that women can provide supervision which is much better than what is given today through the Chief Rabbinate,” Rabbi David Stav, the head of the religious Zionist Orthodox Tzohar organization, told Haaretz,

Stav added that he had “no clue” why Yosef would assert that the use of female supervisors would lead to an increase in inappropriate sexual relationships. Tzohar currently provides kosher certification services outside the framework of the Rabbinate, but its certificates cannot legally use the term "kosher." 

For his part, Rabbi Seth Farber, whose Itim organization works to help Israelis navigate their country’s religious bureaucracy, said Yosef’s comment “highlights the gulf that exists between the Chief Rabbinate and the public.”

A falafel restaurant in Jerusalem displays its kashrut certificate.Credit: Emil Salman

“The rabbinate itself employs women who serve as kashrut supervisors and the courts in Israel have ratified this,” Farber told Haaretz. Noting that new chief rabbis will be selected in 2023, Farber added that "one can only hope that in the future, the rabbinate will be more connected to the needs of the Israeli body politic.”

A spokesman for Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana declined to comment.

Last month, Yosef, who has a history of making controversial comments, called on ultra-Orthodox youth to shun secular education, declaring that the Education Ministry’s core curriculum of math, science, English and other subjects was “nonsense.” Yosef boasted that he had never graduated from high school.

“I myself, did I study the core curriculum? Did I finish school? To this day, I don't have a diploma, no matriculation certificate and no diploma. Did I miss out on anything? That's nonsense. The main thing is our Torah,” he declared.

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