(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Council of the Chief Rabbinate accepted in full on Wednesday recommendations to reform the rabbinate’s kashrut licensing and supervision system made by a special advisory committee and published by Chief Rabbi David Lau last week.
The reforms could reduce corruption and costs within the current system and increase the reliability of the rabbinate’s kashrut service, although critics have argued that only a repeal of the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over the industry will have a real and lasting impact.
The most crucial part of the proposed reforms proposal is a reform whereby kashrut supervisors would no longer be employed by the restaurant or business under supervision, as happens today, but would instead be employed by the local rabbinate.
The supervision models would also change, with restaurants and food businesses able to choose either to be monitored remotely by installing cameras in their kitchens, or to appoint a member of staff as a kashrut trustee who would be responsible for ensuring the kitchen is run in a kosher manner, with kashrut supervisors conducting random inspections of the premises to ensure kashrut standards are being maintained.
Universal kashrut standards will also be implemented around the country to make it easier for national businesses to operate without having to contend with the variegated requirements of different local rabbinates, as is currently the case.
Following approval of the recommendations, a steering committee was established, headed by council member and chairman of the rabbinate’ kashrut committee Rabbi Yosef Glicksberg, to implement the recommendations in cooperation with the Religious Services Ministry.
“The reforms will provide a solution for rectifying the failures and deficiencies that exist today, will increase the level of kashrut and will significantly reduce costs for business owners,” said Lau during the meeting.
Critics of the rabbinate’s kashrut system were, however, more circumspect.
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, founder of the Hashgacha Pratit independent Orthodox kashrut licensing authority that has challenged the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly by using legal loopholes to provide kashrut supervision, expressed doubt that the reforms would be implemented.
“I hope that this time I will be proved wrong and the rabbinate will fix the severe problems in their kashrut system, but it is important to remember that the approved proposal does not address the problem which is the foundation of all the failures, the absence of competition,” said Leibowitz.
“Without real competition, the rabbinate has no interest to improve, and whoever is afraid of competition in kashrut ostensibly does not believe in the quality of his supervision,” he continued.
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