Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Arye Stern at Independence Day dinner, April 22, 2015.
(photo credit: SHLOMI COHEN)
Aryeh Stern has begun a campaign of surprise inspections of kosher restaurants in the city as part of efforts to improve the reliability and quality of kashrut supervision services.
Stern has identified as a particular problem the way in which kashrut supervisors are paid directly by the restaurants they supervise, representing a conflict of interests.
Complaints have frequently surfaced in the industry, nationwide, that some supervisors do not provide the requisite supervision services and only go to the restaurant to collect their monthly paycheck from the owner.
Since taking office, Stern has conducted several spot checks on different restaurants to investigate whether the supervisors are fulfilling their duties.
Last week, two kashrut supervisors were replaced at the restaurants they were supervising, including one of the main cafe chains, since Stern deemed them to be not in compliance with the standards required for reliable supervision.
In one case, Stern found that the supervisor would only visit the restaurant once a week since he said the workers were religious and he therefore did not need to inspect the site more often.
Regulations stipulate that a supervisor must visit a restaurant or business under his supervision at least once a day.
Yehoshua Yishai, chairman of the Jerusalem Religious Council, which oversees kashrut supervision in the city, said infraction of the regulations for kashrut supervision would not be tolerated.
“Happily, these incidents are the exception, but we continue to conduct surprise inspections to prove to the public that the Jerusalem Rabbinate deserves the trust it has earned,” said Yishai.
In an interview earlier this month, Stern said one of his main goals at the beginning of his tenure was to increase public trust in Jerusalem’s kashrut supervision by insisting on the full compliance of supervisors with the guidelines established by the local religious council and the chief rabbi of the city.
Stern intends to implement a pilot program whereby an independent body will be set up to employ and pay kashrut supervisors who are then assigned to restaurants and other food-based businesses, thereby disconnecting the direct relationship between the supervisor from the business.
The pilot program is expected to be launched in the coming weeks.
These developments come against the background of a recent legal victory for an independent kashrut supervision initiative in Jerusalem.
In a decision at the beginning of May, the attorney-general said restaurants could not be fined for displaying certification of kashrut supervision from a supervision authority other than a local rabbinate subject to the Chief Rabbinate.
The decision has been heavily criticized by the Chief Rabbinate, which will contest it when the issue is brought before the High Court of Justice later this year.