June 23, 2014

Controversy Surrounds Private Certifications in Jerusalem

Jerusalem — If negotiating kashrus in the capital was not difficult enough, add to that a group of eateries that are opting to self-certify. While not expected to confuse a dedicated kashrus observant Jew, it can create havoc for the occasional tourist who is looking for a kosher place to eat and observes a sign in the window that the establishment is kosher.  The restaurants are rebelling against the Jerusalem Rabbinate, who amongst other things will not certify  a restaurant that is open on Shabbat.

Perhaps rebel is the correct word for someone like Chaya Gilboa, who is a young, formerly observant Jerusalemite, who took the initiative to create an “independent certification.” Some observers say that the move by the restaurants is pointing to much needed enforcement by the Jerusalem rabbinate. For example, they say, that the Rabbinate requires only that a mashgiach spend two hours at the restaurant three times a week, depending on what the managing supervisor decides, and what type of kashrus is required. 

According to the Chief Rabbinate, 100,000 businesses hold kosher certificates based on these criteria. To many Orthodox (Charedi) Jews, the Rabbinate certification is far from adequate, which is why they will seek out certifications in eateries, for example, that are mehadrin and have a full-time mashgiach. In the meantime, the Chief Rabbinate, under its new Chief Rabbi David Lau, is promising reform in the coming months.