Home News Israel Tzohar Rabbis Launch Kosher Certification Body to Challenge Chief Rabbinate

Tzohar Rabbis Launch Kosher Certification Body to Challenge Chief Rabbinate

Tzohar Rabbis Launch Kosher Certification Body to Challenge Chief Rabbinate

Tzohar Rabbis Launch Kosher Certification Body to Challenge Chief Rabbinate

Written by Andrew Friedman/TPS on February 26, 2018



The Tzohar rabbinic organization announced Monday that the group would launch an independent oversight body to offer kosher food certification to restaurants and hotels around the country.

At a press conference in Tel Aviv, the organization said that the project was not aimed at replacing the existing kashrut oversight apparatus operated by the Chief Rabbinate, but rather at improving service for both consumers and restaurant owners.

“This program is intended to create competition in a sector where until now there existed a monopoly,” said Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, a founder of Tzohar. “The Rabbinate will continue to serve as regulator of kashrut but we need to have competition which will enhance the service and reduce pricing. This will not replace the current structure, but rather improve it.”

The new certification will avoid the word “kosher” in accordance with Israeli law, which limits the use of the word to the Chief Rabbinate. Instead, the certificate only lists the halachic (Jewish law) requirements guiding Tzohar inspectors, and affirms that those standards have been met.

The supervision is worded in line with that law to describe that all aspects which make an institution kosher are being strictly abided by.  But because of those legal limitations, the word kosher is not included in the document which will be shown in restaurants.

Still, the launch is a clear challenge to the rabbinate’s monopoly over the lucrative kashrut certification business. Rabbi Aaron Leibovitch, the founder of the Jerusalem-based Hashgacha Pratit organization, welcomed the addition of another alternative certification body to the national stage as another blow to the Rabbinate’s stranglehold over the industry.

“Five years ago, Hashgacha Pratit began to crack the Rabbinate’s monopoly. With time, the crack widened and eventually became a hole. We haven’t been fighting for ourselves; we have been fighting for the public, with a belief that other organizations would follow in our footsteps,” Leibovitch said. “Tzohar’s entry onto this stage is a declaration of victory and a sign that the fight has succeeded. From here forward, things will only get better.”

Predictably, establishment rabbis and Orthodox groups blasted the announcement, saying the move to remove the Rabbinate’s exclusivity over kashrut supervision would weaken the quality of kosher standards country-wide. In coordination with the Tzohar press conference, a group of 23 city rabbis from around the country including Rabbis Dov Lior (Kiryat Arba), Aryeh Stern (Jerusalem), Shmuel Eliyahu (Tzfat) and others called on Tzohar to rescind the decision to challenge the Rabbinate’s standing.

“The Chief Rabbinate is the public body charged with the great responsibility of overseeing and guarding religious apparatuses in Israel. Any blow to the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly will in practice cause irreversible damage to the religious establishment in Israel… We must not allow ourselves to be seduced by voices wanting to establish separate oversight bodies, for kashrut or for any other religious services in Israel,” the group said in a statement.

Ophir Sofer, a spokesman for the National Union political party, a faction of the Jewish Home Knesset faction, added that the party would fight any group that tried to “destroy” the Chief Rabbinate.

“The attempt by Tzohar rabbis to build a kashrut oversight body is fraught with danger, both with respect to the relationship between money and kosher supervision that will be created, and with respect to regulatory control and law enforcement,” Sofer said.



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