Against Rabbis Advice, Knesset Committee Approves Kashrut Reform

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MK Yulia Malinovsky (3L) from Yisrael Beiteinu party, during a faction meeting at the Knesset. Jerusalem, Oct 18, 2021. Photo by Shalev Shalom/TPS
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 27 October, 2021

Jerusalem, 27 October, 2021 (TPS) — After dozens of hours of debate, the Committee on Special National Infrastructure Projects and Jewish Religious Services voted on Wednesday to approve the “Increasing Efficiency of Kashrut System,” Chapter 20 of the Economic Plan Bill, for its second and third readings and final vote at the Knesset plenum.

The committee rejected thousands of reservations but accepted several raised by the opposition that were approved with the coalition’s consent.

The reform, led By Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana, is being promoted despite the vigorous opposition of the vast majority of rabbis in Israel, who have warned that reform will break the system rather than improve it, and will lead to the widespread consumption of non-kosher foods.

The main points of the bill stipulate that the Kashrut market will be opened for full competition so that private organizations will be able to award Kashrut certification. The organizations will receive approval from the official in charge of Kashrut at the Chief Rabbinate.

The organizations will be able to choose whether to operate according to a Kashrut standard that will be determined by the Chief Rabbinate Council or according to a standard set by three rabbis, possibly leading to low and problematic Kashrut standards.

Local religious councils will continue to be able to award Kashrut certifications, but will not be limited to the cities to which they belong.

The price of the Kashrut certificate for businesses will not be uniform and will be set by each Kashrut corporation and religious council, supposedly opening the market to competition that will lower the price of foods with a kashrut certificate.

Kashrut supervisors will be required to be certified by the Chief Rabbinate.

Committee Chair MK Yulia Malinovsky, who is not religious, claimed that the reform “makes order in the religious councils. We broke the monopoly of the Rabbinate. What hurts them is their [loss of] control and the power to decide for us all”.

More amendments are yet come, she estimated.

“We made a revolution. We passed a reform in the committee that will increase the efficiency of the Kashrut system in Israel, reduce costs, lower the cost of living and benefit business owners, who until now have paid high prices for the Kashrut certificate,” she asserted.

However, religious MKs from several parties attacked the reform.

MK Avi Maoz, of the Religious Zionist party, said that “today is a sad day for the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. Today, the committee approved the kashrut reform, the only result of which will be the erasure of kosher food and the destruction of state-run kashrut, the kashrut on which the people rely.”

Maoz said Kahana “together with his senior partner Minister [of Finance Avigdor] Liberman, and together with the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, will be registered in Jewish history as those who destroyed the Chief Rabbinate of Israel established by the late Rabbi Kook, and as those who destroyed the state kashrut system in Israel.”

MK Shlomo Karhi, of the Likud party, lamented the vote as “a black day for Israel.”

“From today, the citizens of Israel will be forced to carefully examine every certificate, so that they do not accidentally enter the place where the supervision is fabricated by the Malinovsky and Kahana Committee.”

“Will the Chief Rabbinate set the standard? Will there be a supervisory body? Lies and falsehood!! Yesterday we proposed withdrawing all reservations on the condition that the rabbinate could monitor kosher standards and they rejected it,” he charged.

MK Yaakov Asher, of the United Torah Judaism party, protested the approval of the plan and said that “the 100 hours of committee discussions in which we participated proved beyond any doubt that this is a reform that has nothing to do with lowering prices. On the contrary. Yemina and Yisrael Beiteinu are proposing a targeted assassination of the state rabbinical institution established by Rabbi Kook during the British Mandate. This is blasphemy. What the Gentiles [British Mandate] understood, unfortunately, is not understood today in the Israeli government.”

MK Uri Maklev of Torah Judaism warned that “Kosher consumers will not have the confidence and confidence in the kashrut system. People went hungry for bread to keep kosher.

To the committee, he said that “you have not seen before your eyes neither the civil rights nor the religious rights in the Land of Israel. The law may have passed, but we’re just starting the war. We will reach every child in the country so that he knows that your kashrut is an absolute fake,” he declared.

The reform still faces several legislative hurdles before it becomes law.

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