June 11, 2012

Chief Rabbinate Shows Muscle But Confuses Kosher Shoppers

TEL AVIV -- Almost from the day it was founded, the State of Israel recognized that kashrus was to be the responsibility of the Chief Rabbinate. But over time, the Chief Rabbinate was deemed by many as falling short of being “the higher authority.” 

The rapidly growing charedi sector had its own kashrus institutions that its followers adhered to with the Badatz of the Aida Hacharedit emerging as the ultimate heksher. Yet, technically and legally speaking no establishment could be deemed kosher unless the Chief Rabbinate said so. So it was when Ikea reopened a branch in Netanya that had been gutted by fire. It had become commonplace for many Orthodox Jews to enjoy the huge selection of home furnishing and the kosher café in each store.

To the surprise of many, the Chief Rabbinate yelled “not kosher” despite the fact that the store was under the hashgacha of Badatz Bet Yosef. The Chief Rabbinate did not rest there. It called the food served at Hadassah campuses in En Kerem and Mt. Scopus as “non-kosher” despite the fact that the hospital had its own hashgacha. The statement by the Chief Rabbinate indeed left many wondering whether there were indeed issues with the kashrus at these establishments. 

Some kashrus officials say that the Chief Rabbinate was simply trying to stop a runaway train” that was rapidly leaving them behind.  It was obvious that since the Chief Rabbinate had the law on their side, that the institutions would have to somehow negotiate with the Chief Rabbinate. As if the kosher scene in Israel wasn’t confusing enough, the latest show of strength by the Chief Rabbinate left the kosher consumer even more confused.