Kosher Restaurant Revolt Brews in Jerusalem

Rebellion Grows Against Rabbinate's Certification Monopoly

Eatery Anger: Restaurateurs are fuming at the Israeli state rabbinate’s monopoly on kosher certification.
courtesy of jerusalem movement
Eatery Anger: Restaurateurs are fuming at the Israeli state rabbinate’s monopoly on kosher certification.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published November 11, 2012, issue of November 16, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A restaurateurs’ rebellion is under way in Jerusalem.

A dozen eateries in the holy city are brazenly claiming kosher credentials without the state rabbinate’s say-so. They are shifting the perennial controversy over state and religion in Israel from well-worn subjects, like Orthodoxy’s monopoly over marriage and divorce, to the rights over this single word, kosher.

According to Israeli law, only businesses supervised by the state rabbinate can be described as kosher. But in a public nose thumbing at this stricture, in October a Jerusalem activist set up a Facebook page of “kosher but unsupervised” restaurants in the holy city.

The restaurants listed received prompt visits from the rabbinate, threatening them with fines — even though at their premises most of them call themselves kosher verbally only, not in writing. Amid this defiant mood, the Jerusalem Movement, a group that advocates for a more pluralistic city, resolved to run a full-fledged campaign to fight back. It launched the campaign at a high-profile party November 2 at one of the restaurants, attended by 150 people.

“You cannot have a franchise on a religious word,” said Asaf Ziderman, the Jerusalem Movement activist heading the campaign. His efforts have the support of an influential Orthodox rabbi, Aaron Leibowitz, head of the Sulam Yaakov Yeshiva. Leibowitz has called the law “unjust.”

But Yehoshua Yishai, director of the rabbinate in Jerusalem, told the Forward that he considers the notion of a kosher claim without certification to be absurd. He said it is akin to skipping a service on a car and “say[ing] to the police: ‘Here, the car is checked, but I checked it myself.’”

The rebellion began in the summer, after a small Indian vegan restaurant in the city center, Ichikidana, objected to new limitations imposed by the local rabbinate on where it could source its produce. There have long been rumors of corruption in Israel’s kashrut establishment, and restaurant owner Lahava Silliman believed that the demand on her to patronize only a small number of suppliers was intended to give certain businesses favored by the rabbinate extra trade. “It was very transparent to me,” she said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.