Haredi Leaders Issue Bold Call to Resist Israeli Kashrut Reform

Four leading rabbis threaten to revoke the kashrut authority of municipal rabbis who cooperate with a gov't plan that aims to take away the rabbinate's monopoly on kosher certification

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
Religious Services Matan Kahana at a conference in Jerusalem, August.
Religious Services Matan Kahana at a conference in Jerusalem, August. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

The leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community are launching a campaign against new kashrut reforms led by Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana that went into effect on Sunday, calling on municipal rabbis not to cooperate with it and threatening to boycott rabbis who do.

The campaign aims to strike at a key part of the reform measures whereby municipal rabbis can certify kashrut in other cities as well.

In an open letter, Hacham Shalom Cohen, president of the Shas rabbinical council; Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky and Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the leaders of the Litvak community; and Rabbi Shimon Baadani called on municipal rabbis not only to resist the kashrut reform but plans for conversion reform as well.

The measures amount to “destruction and devastation in the walls and sanctity of kashrut,” the rabbis said. “Their sole desire is to sow divisions among the rabbis of Israel by tempting rabbis to give kashrut certification in places other than where they reside, causing jealousy and a contest of the one against his fellow, which will lead to complete destruction of the entire system of kashrut in Israel, whose end none can foretell.”

On the issue of conversions, the rabbis dubbed ministers and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett “the destroyers of religion, who have risen in evil to commit iniquities, attempt to uproot the foundations of faith in the Land of Israel and permit the conversion of hundreds of thousands of gentiles against the way of the holy Torah, to harm the vineyard of the House of Israel and the sanctity of lineage by severe and horrible assimilation leading to extinction.”

The Haredi leaders instructed municipal and district rabbis not to cooperate with the government “both on the matter of conversions, heaven forbid, and on kashrut matters" They emphasized that those violating their edict would have their own kashrut-granting authority banned anywhere else “as it is proof that they wish to trespass and destroy kashrut.”

Kahana’s reforms allow any private body to grant a kashrut certificate through one of two tracks – one managed by the rabbinate that offers light, medium and strict standards and a second requiring oversight by three rabbis who can determine their own halakhic standard. The certificate must say who issued them. The oversight body operated by the rabbinate will only be able to determine if these organizations meet the required standards. Each body must be headed by a rabbinate-certified rabbi.

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