Israel's Chief Rabbinate Signals It May Allow Competition in Kashrut Supervision

Business owners could soon be allowed to choose which rabbi they want to employ for kashrut supervision.

A kashrut certificate on display.
Emil Salman

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is signaling it may agree to increased competition in the kashrut supervision market. In advance of the rehearing of a petition to the High Court of Justice on the matter, the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut committee, which has been meeting for the past few months, has reached the conclusion that business owners could be allowed to choose which rabbi they want to employ for kashrut supervision.

The committee recommended changing one of the most criticized parts of the kashrut supervision system over the past few decades: The employment of the supervisor by the business under supervision, Army Radio reported on Tuesday. After the introduction of reforms in kashrut supervision, the supervisors would be employed not by the businesses but by the local religious councils, in order to preserve their independence.

For now this is nothing but a statement of intentions, with the road to implementing such reforms very long. But the Rabbinate is feeling great pressure before the High Court rehears the case, particularly out of fear the court might give a far-reaching new interpretation to the laws granting the Rabbinate authority over kashrut supervision.

A report from State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on the kashrut supervision system is expected to be released soon.

In June 2016, a three-judge panel of the High Court ruled against the petition saying that businesses couldn’t describe their food as kosher unless they had a kashrut certificate from the Rabbinate, even if they avoid the actual word “kosher” by using different phraseology. The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) filed the petition along with two restaurant owners. The case is now being reheard.

During the court rehearing, the seven Supreme Court justices on the expanded panel were told the two restaurant owners had withdrawn their request to use the word “Kosher,” and would now like to be allowed to use other words such as “supervision” in a limited manner.

Before the hearing, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit came out in opposition to the stance of his predecessor, Yehuda Weinstein, and supported maintaining the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly on issuing kashrut certificates.