Kashrut fees raised ‘because business partner was Russian’

Business owners from a tea shop in the city center have claimed that a rabbinate inspector told them the cost of their supervision was rising because one of the new business partners was Russian.

August 29, 2017 20:00
2 minute read.
A Kashrut certificate

A Kashrut certificate hangs at the entrance to a bakery in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda market. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

In the latest scandal to beset the already ruinous reputation of the Jerusalem Rabbinate’s kashrut system, business owners from a tea shop in the city center have claimed that a rabbinate inspector told them the cost of their supervision was rising because one of the new business partners was Russian.

The Halitatea tea shop recently moved one door down from its former premises on 5 Hillel Street to 6 Hillel Street, and was subsequently told by the kashrut inspector in charge of their restaurant that the cost of the monthly payments for their kashrut license would have to rise.

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When the business owner Garbiel Piamenta asked why, the inspector gave a variety of reasons, including that the new premises were bigger; the establishment would be making more money; the restaurant is now using professional cooks; and noted that Piamenta’s new business partner, Leon Schwartz, is an immigrant from Russia.

He added that Halitatea was also employing a “kushit,” a derogatory term for a black person, as a dishwasher in the kitchen.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Schwartz said that the implication of the inspector was that since he is a Russian immigrant his commitment to kashrut cannot be trusted and would need to be supervised.

Schwartz said that the irony of the claims regarding the need for extra supervision in the new premises was that their current kashrut supervisor comes once a month to pick up his pay check, and never actually carried out any supervisory activities.

According to Schwartz, not only did the inspector say the fees would have to go up, he said that they would be raised incrementally but would not say what the final level of the fee would be.

Schwartz said that, having had experience with the rabbinate’s kashrut system in two other restaurants he was no longer surprised by their behavior or upset by the apparent stereotyping of rabbinate personnel.

Halitatea is however now considering dropping its rabbinate kashrut license and adopting the kashrut supervision of Hashgacha Pratit, an independent kashrut authority that has grown in popularity in recent years due to the severe problems with the rabbinate’s system.

In May this year, the State Comptroller released a report detailing kashrut supervisors who claim payment for more than 24 hours of work a day, nepotistic allocation of work hours by local rabbinates to supervisors, and the hiring of close family members by senior local rabbinate officials, among other deficiencies.

The Religious Services Ministry responded for the Jerusalem Rabbinate, stating that Halitatea’s new premises were significantly larger than their previous place and that the amount of food and drink was also larger, requiring higher fees.

“The connection between these changes the business made and the claims that they have raised through cynical use of the media are distorted and outrageous, and a vain attempt to win favor with certain communities,” the ministry said.

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