High Court Orders Overhaul of Kashrut Inspection

Rabbinate given deadline to end system requiring businesses to pay salaries of inspectors

A kashrut certificate on display.
Emil Salman

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday ordered the Chief Rabbinate to overhaul the state kashrut inspection system by September, 2018. Specifically, the court demanded an end to one of the glaring irregularities of the system — the fact that kashrut inspectors get paid by the businesses they supervise, leading to conflicts of interest.

the Chief Rabbinate must have a system in place that severs this connection.

The order, issued by Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, follows years of court cases, official auditors’ reports and research studies that aimed at halting the practice. Now, the High Court has stepped in and demanded that this connection be severed and a new system be put in place by September of next year.

The ruling comes shortly after the Chief Rabbinate Council adopted the recommendations of an internal committee and declared a “revolution” in kashrut services. Under that plan, to be spearheaded by Chief Rabbi David Lau, kashrut inspectors will not be paid by business owners, but by the local religious council. Businesses will in turn pay a fee to the religious council for this service to cover the inspectors’ salaries. It wasn’t clear, though, when the Rabbinate would put the reform into effect, since it requires legislative amendments and confronting the kashrut inspectors’ union, which vehemently opposes the reform.

The High Court, however, has now put its weight behind the change and has set a deadline. “By the end of June 2018, the preparations must end and the alternate system must be ready, so that it will be fully operational, after a run-up period, by September 1, 2018,” the order states.

Sources in the Rabbinate expressed satisfaction with the ruling, which strengthens the chances of the reform being carried out. But Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz, founder of the Hashgacha Pratit organization, an Orthodox group that provides alternative kashrut inspection, says the development demonstrates the court’s lack of faith in the Rabbinate’s ability to reform itself.

“If the High Court believed that the Rabbinate intended to implement the reform it had declared, it wouldn’t have set such a tight deadline for carrying it out,” Leibowitz said. “It’s not new, but it’s sad to see that once again we need the court’s threat to make the Rabbinate do what should be self-understood.”