May 22, 2017

Some Israeli Rabbis Float Privatization of Kashrus as Response to Devastating State Comptroller Report

Tel Aviv- by Menachem Lubinsky- Kashrus officials, most notably the Chief Rabbinate, are reeling in the aftermath of a damming report by State Comptroller Joseph Shapira that was released on the eve of Israel 69th anniversary. In his report, Mr. Shapira was critical of the kashrus system and accused it of corruption and conflicts of interest in the government’s kashrut-supervision system. This has led several rabbis to suggest privatizing the kashrus system in much the way it is in the US, for example. But senior officials in the Chief Rabbinate said that “kashrus was entrusted to the Chief Rabbinate since the founding of the state and is not likely to change.” The comptroller said “the heart of the system was a conflict of interest in which business owners wanted to minimize the costs and bother of kashrut, and mashgichim sought to maximize their pay.”  Responding to the pressure and a court order, the Chief Rabbinate two weeks ago issued a draft proposal by a committee that aims to cut costs and eliminate conflicts of interest by giving businesses the option of installing cameras in their kitchens to enable remote inspections and by ending the practice of businesses paying their mashgichim. American tourists used to the American system of kashrus are often confused by the various levels of kashrus in Israel. One New York tourist said that he found the “kosher certificate posted in restaurants to be confusing and ambiguous as to the standard of kashrus.” He added that he was not sure what standard was applied when the term “Mehadrin” was used.