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.
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Yishai said that the limitation stemmed from purely practical concerns. The supervisor in a restaurant needs the establishment to restrict the source of produce to shops whose own supervisor can liaise with him to verify the origins of all ingredients in the restaurant. The rabbinate requires this liaison because special religious laws apply to produce grown in Israel, which means that it cannot automatically be presumed kosher as it is in the Diaspora.

The rabbinate-Ichikidana dispute caused Silliman to give up her supervision, led to the establishment of the Facebook group and prompted the current campaign. Half the restaurants involved used to be supervised, and they have severed connections to the rabbinate.

They argue that the supervision they received from the rabbinate was so minimal that customers were left reliant on only their integrity as restaurant owners, and they are simply asking customers to eat on the same basis now, without what they consider the facade of a kashrut certificate. “It wasn’t really supervision — we could do whatever we wanted to do,” said Yona Sasson, owner of the formerly supervised restaurant Topolino.

Sasson claims that when he was supervised, he received from his supervisor, or mashgiac, just a half-hour visit every two or three days. Silliman said that she paid a salary of 1,200 shekels a month ($300) plus benefits, and the inspector spent about 15 minutes a week on her premises.

Supervisors are assigned by the rabbinate but paid by restaurants. According to a formula for recommended salaries, explained to the Forward by Yishai, the supervisors at Sasson and Silliman’s restaurants should have been present for about two and three hours a day, respectively.

The rebel restaurants mostly say that they enforce kashrut in their kitchens on their own without any rabbis or inspectors — though Leibowitz is starting to develop an alternative certificate which some are expected to sign up to. It will be based on a combination of kitchens that are open to all customers to inspect and checked regularly on a volunteer basis by rabbinical students at his yeshiva.


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