July 21, 2014

Violation of the Shabbos a No-No With Kashrus Agencies but Subject of Debate in Israel

JERUSALEM — Kashrus agencies across the globe are unanimous in their policy not to grant kosher certification to food establishments that are open on Shabbos. But in Israel, a proposal has been submitted that would grant limited kashrus certification to restaurants and cafes that are open on Shabbos. For example, these establishments would be granted the certification for the balance of the week and not for Shabbos. Kashrus officials say that such an arrangement would be untenable and almost impossible to police. 

They point to the fact that the kitchen and storage areas would be open on Shabbos without any rabbinical supervision. One suggested that the kitchen would have to be koshered every Sunday. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel has vehemently opposed such an arrangement. Israel’s former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar told Kosher Today in 2011 that he would never support a kosher symbol for an establishment that is open on Shabbos. He recounted that when he first became Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, he discovered that certifications were given “for six days” which allowed establishments to close on another day of the week and be open on Shabbos. 

In light of some scandals in recent years, kashrus agencies have been moving in the direction of forcing food establishments to have full-time mashgichim and to put kitchens under the control of the kosher supervisors. Having those kitchens open on Shabbos would go counter to the policy of the kosher agencies. Several kashrus officials noted that establishments that violate the Shabbos are in effect “mocking the very same Torah that gave us the kashrus laws.” 

The proposal to grant limited kashrus certification to those who violate the Shabbos was endorsed by the coalition and is likely to become the latest point of contention between the Rabbinate and the government.