Jerusalem…Sam, a father of 5 from New Jersey, planned his first family trip to Israel last summer but even after doing his “due diligence” was very confused by the kashrus standards in Israel. He found that unlike the US where most of the products bear a symbol of an organization that certifies the products, in Israel he found many intricacies of kashrus standards that he did not anticipate. For example, while he knew that the Rabbinate in Israel was the dominant kashrus certifier, he was not prepared for deciphering the national rabbinate standards vs. the regional ones with a cousin arguing that some of the locals were better than others. Almost every city in Israel has its own local rabbinate. He was also not very educated about the differences of Rabbanut Kosher vs. Rabbanut Mehadrin. Then, of course, there were the many other certifications such as Badatz, Chatam Sofer and Bet Yosef. “I almost felt like utilizing my lawyerly skills to interrogate every restaurant maitre d and owner,” said Sam. The increased presence of the Orthodox Union (OU) in Israel is proving to be somewhat comforting to puzzled American tourists.
Unbeknownst to Sam, there is often a great deal of friction between the certifications in Israel. For example, in recent weeks the Chief Rabbinate inspectors for knives of kosher slaughter clashed with other certifiers. Sam was stunned when he found that there was no mashgiach (kosher supervisor) in a restaurant that featured a huge sign that it was Mehadrin or glatt kosher. “I never imagined that following kosher in Israel would be such a problem,” he noted. One prominent American rabbi told Kosher Today, “to coin a new phrase, In Israel an educated customer is the best kosher customer.”