Broadside by pro-rabbinate group in Kashrut wars backfires

A Facebook post by a National Religious group slamming Pasta Basta ended up backfiring completely.

Kosher certificates (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Kosher certificates
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
In the increasingly fierce kashrut wars that have broken out in recent months, pro-rabbinate forces scored something of an own goal this week as they unwittingly bolstered support for independent kashrut supervision through a hostile attack on a restaurant chain that has abandoned the rabbinate’s supervision.
The conservative National Religious group Hotam put up a post on its Facebook page on Monday condemning the Pasta Basta chain for its decision that its Petah Tikva branch dispense with the rabbinate’s kashrut and adopt the independent kashrut supervision services of the Tzohar National Religious group.
However, the post backfired badly as hundreds of Facebook users criticized Hotam and praised the notion of independent kashrut supervision and competition for the rabbinate, saying that they would now go for a meal at Pasta Basta in response to the attack against it.
“Pasta Bummer” wrote Hotam at the beginning of its post – punning on the chain’s name and the Hebrew word for bummer. It went on to accuse the chain of deceiving its customers by having taken on Tzohar’s kashrut service, known as Tzohar – Food Supervision
“You have again decided to betray the rabbinate and the kashrut-observant community for whom it is important to remain faithful to the establishment kashrut,” wrote Hotam. “You have again chosen to go with the caprices of Kashrut organizations which receive praise from Reform [Judaism] and heavy criticism from great and important rabbis.”
Several senior National Religious rabbis have been critical of Tzohar’s kashrut service, alleging that it undermines the Chief Rabbinate and say it could lead to less reputable organizations opening their own, untrustworthy supervision services that could mislead the public.
“We are voting with our feet. Whoever wants to eat kosher, don’t go into Pasta Basta under Tzohar’s supervision. We want to eat kosher!” declared Hotam in its final flourish.
But the organization’s post generated scathing criticism from many who censured Hotam for their boycott and promised to patronize Pasta Basta restaurants.
“I don’t really love pasta, but after this post, I’m ready to visit every [Pasta Basta] branch,” wrote one man.
“Well done, good work. Get the rabbinate out of our lives,” wrote another.
“Where are they, I would be happy to visit there, well done for the courage in stopping the extortion of the institution of the rabbinate,” responded another Facebook user. 
“They upgraded their kashrut from the rabbinate to Tzohar?” wrote one person sardonically. “Thanks for the update.”
Hotam’s post has garnered more than 3,600 comments, overwhelmingly critical of the rabbinate and its kashrut service, as well as Hotam’s criticism, and supportive of Tzohar’s kashrut service.
Tzohar co-chairman Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein said that the response to Hotam’s post demonstrates how much the public supports Tzohar’s independent kashrut service, and “the public’s thirst for Orthodox Judaism with integrity, and specifically for kashrut which is trustworthy and provides a good product for the customer.”
Feuerstein added that the fact that Hotam clearly expected a much different response demonstrates that the organization and those opposing independent kashrut supervision are out of touch with the mood of the public.
“They need to rethink where the public is and what it wants, and should instead direct their energy to[ward] fixing the rabbinate’s kashrut service,” said the rabbi. “We are not against the rabbinate but we think we need to shake up the rabbinate’s system, in order that it improve its own service which is so important to people in Israel and around the world.”
Feuerstein said that Tzohar has been inundated by requests from hundreds of restaurants and other food businesses for its supervision services since announcing its inception in February, including many restaurants that have not previously been kosher, and said that the organization was struggling to deal with the number of applications it has received.
So far, several dozen restaurants and businesses have completed the acceptance process and received their certificates that they are under Tzohar – Food Inspection’s kashrut supervision.