Two Jerusalem restaurateurs asked the High Court of Justice on Monday to strike down a law prohibiting restaurants from describing themselves in writing as kosher establishments unless they are certified kosher by the local rabbinate.
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The two restaurants, Carousela and Topolino, are among the leaders of a trend in Jerusalem of restaurants that say they keep kosher but do not have an official kashrut certificate.
In the petition, which was submitted with the help of the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center, the restaurants seek to cancel fines they had received and to strike down the section of the Kosher Fraud Law under which they had been fined. Section 3 states that “The owner of an eatery may not state in writing that his eatery is kosher unless it has been granted a kashrut certificate.”
Ricki Shapira Rosenberg, the Religious Action Center lawyer who submitted the petition, argued that the section contravenes the Basic Law on the Freedom of Occupation, adding that there was no fraud because the restaurant owners have been honest with their customers.
“In our case, the petitioners made very clear to their patrons that they do not have a kashrut certificate from the Chief Rabbinate, and therefore there was no deception or fraud, so in any case they didn’t violate the Kosher Fraud Law,” she said.
The Chief Rabbinate said the law is intended to protect consumers and has already withstood previous legal challenges.
“This is a consumer law, not a religious law,” the rabbinate said. “The right that the law defends is the right to consume food that is kosher according to Jewish law.”
Both restaurants had previously had kashrut supervision from the Jerusalem Rabbinate but chose to drop it.
Shai Gini, the owner of Topolino, did so because the rabbinate insisted he only use specially grown “bugless” leafy vegetables, which are generally more heavily sprayed with pesticides than regular vegetables.
Jonathan Vadei, the owner of Carousela, dropped the supervision after he was asked to pay 600 shekels ($163) a month for a kashrut supervisor. “The supervisor generally came for a few minutes during the week to taste the cookies, and left,” he stated in the petition.
Both restaurant owners claim that despite the lack of supervision, the restaurants continue to observe the religious laws of kashrut. Both eateries recently joined an alternative Jerusalem kashrut organization called Hashgacha Pratit.
The restaurants said religious Jews have continued to eat at both restaurants even after the certificates were pulled.