August 6, 2012

New York Opts for Stiffer Penalties for Kosher Violators but Still No Enforcers

ALBANY, NY — If Rabbi Luzer Weiss catches you with any type of fraud against kosher consumers be prepared to pay stiffer penalties for a first offense by $1,000 to $2,500, and by $2,000 to $7,500 for a second offense. The new penalties were signed into law last week by Governor Andrew Cuomo. But Rabbi Weiss, who is the Director of the Kosher Law Enforcement Division of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, has no inspectors to enforce the laws. 

His inspection team was decimated in 2011 by budget cuts. Recognizing the lack of enforcement, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal’s authored a law that “will crack down on violators of New York’s kosher law, whose unscrupulous actions do untold harm to New Yorkers’ closely held religious beliefs by increasing the penalties associated with fraudulent packaging, sale and certification of kosher food.” One rabbi said, 'I am looking for the right words to describe what the state has done to the rabbi; he’s either the Lone Ranger, an Indian Chief without Indians or a General without infantry.” 

Many rabbis say that despite being the largest kosher market outside of Israel, New York has not upheld its responsibility to protect an estimated one million kosher consumers. Observers told KosherToday that State health inspectors who were to pick up some of the void left behind by the dismissed kosher law enforcement inspectors are no replacement for the trained kosher inspectors.