May 10, 2010

Travelers Find Kashrus in Israel Confusing

New York…With the Summer travel season looming, leading kashrus officials in this country are preparing to respond to inquiries from travelers about kashrus overseas. While generally being familiar with symbols and organizations here, many vacationers find it hard to negotiate the standards and symbols overseas. What is fascinating, say kashrus officials, is that Israel is the most confusing. While the majority of Israel’s food establishments have certification by either the Chief Rabbinate or the local Rabbinate, the standards may vary from case to case. It is particularly perplexing to travelers who covet glatt kosher. Some establishments routinely interchange Glatt with Mehadrin, adding to the confusion. Then there is Bet Yosef glatt which is not always accepted by many Orthodox Jews. The certification by the Orthodox Union (OU) of some establishments (hotels and restaurants) in recent years has given American travelers and Americans living in Israel “a level of comfort.” One observer noted that at such high-end restaurants as Papagaio and Red Heifer, English was the language spoken. “It’s like you closed your eyes and imagined you were at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan.” It is also important to such popular hotels as the Ramada and Plaza in Jerusalem who attract American Orthodox Jews.

A leading kashrus official in Israel told KosherToday that American tourists seeking the highest standard of glatt are aware of rabbis and agencies that meet their standards. He mentioned Rabbi Moshe Landau of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Avrohom Rubin of Rehovot and the Eda Hachreidit as examples of some of “the more acceptable certifications.” The rabbi acknowledged that certificates hanging in food establishments can be confusing, especially to tourists with limited command of the Hebrew language.