Restaurant Fined for Alternative Kosher Certification, Despite High Court Ruling

Chief Rabbinate imposes penalty on Jerusalem pasta restaurant, even though court decision says businesses can present a declaration of kashrut observance

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A cafe employee puts up an alternative kashrut certification, September 26, 2017.
A cafe employee puts up an alternative kashrut certification, September 26, 2017.Credit: None

The Chief Rabbinate fined a Jerusalem restaurant Tuesday for illegally presenting itself as kosher, despite a High Court of Justice ruling that recognized the legality of other types of kashrut certificates.

Pasta Basta in the capital’s Mahane Yehuda market was fined 2,000 shekels ($567) for presenting a kashrut certificate issued by the alternative kashrut organization Hashgacha Pratit. The organization’s kashrut certificate was recently been reworded in accordance with the High Court decision, which said that business owners could present a true declaration of the standards and supervision of their kosher observance. Pasta Basta's kashrut document outlines that it strictly observes closure on the Sabbath, its meat comes from a kosher butcher and the alcoholic beverages it serves have been examined, among other aspects. It states that the restaurant is supervised by Rabbi Oren Duvdevani of Hashgacha Pratit and that it does not have a kashrut certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate, a declaration required by the High Court ruling.

Nevertheless, the Chief Rabbinate fined the restaurant after the supervisor of the unit for enforcement of the law prohibiting kashrut fraud informed it that “it is forbidden to present a business as kosher by such a presentation of kashrut.” The Rabbinate’s statement concluded that the unit ”would continue to take steps according to law to prevent fraud in kashrut.”

In response, Hashgacha Pratit said: “At first the Rabbinate ignored us, then they took us lightly, now they’re fighting us and soon we’ll win. The Chief Rabbinate is beginning to sense that its monopoly on kashrut is coming to an end. The group said its new certificate was precisely in keeping with the High Court ruling. It was formulated with close legal consultation and we will be happy to defend it before a judge.”

“I think it’s just a matter of time before more kashrut organizations begin to operate and give certificates to replace those of the Rabbinate," said the organization's founder, Rabbi Aharon Liebovitz. "This competition will help lower prices and will increase the level of service and most important, will improve the quality of kashrut.”

Hashgacha Pratit said that before the High Court ruling, around five establishments per week approached it for kashrut certification but that number rose to 60 after the decision and now includes businesses throughout the country. In addition, some 10 women are expected to take part in a kashrut supervisors’ course that will begin after the Sukkot holiday.