Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Arye Stern at Independence Day dinner, April 22, 2015.
(photo credit: SHLOMI COHEN)
An all-out war has erupted between Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern and the head of the Jerusalem Religious Council, Yehoshua Yishai, over the management of religious services in the city.
Stern was elected the city’s Ashkenazi chief rabbi in October. Since then, he has sought to reform the provision of religious services in the capital, which he told The Jerusalem Post have suffered from a lack of proper oversight and management.
He particularly focused on kashrut, which is known throughout the country as a field open to corruption.
Stern and his staff have conducted surprise inspections of restaurants to check whether supervisors are working in accordance with the required standards, as well as investigating more serious concerns of impropriety.
Stern’s staff discovered that two cousins of Yishai’s were working as kashrut supervisors, as were brothers of the head of the council’s kashrut department, David Malka.
Guidelines of the Religious Services Ministry ostensibly prohibit the appointment of relatives by council members.
In addition, not only is Malka the head of the kashrut department, but he also acts as a kashrut supervisor, an apparent conflict of interests.
Stern’s staff found that Malka was the appointed supervisor for a branch of one of the large supermarket chains in Jerusalem, but that he has not visited the premises of the store since Passover.
Stern’s staff found various kashrut problems at the site, such as raw liver stored for longer than 24hrs, which renders the liver non-kosher according to Jewish law.
In light of the troubling findings, Jerusalem City Council member Elad Malka (Hitorerut) submitted complaints to both the police and the State Comptroller’s Office over the various infractions.
As a result, Yishai allegedly demanded that Stern fire a senior member of staff and threatened that he would not cooperate with Stern if he does not comply.
Yishai denied the allegations and said that he believes his relatives were appointed as kashrut supervisors before he became chairman of the council, and that as they are distant cousins it does not contravene ministry guidelines.
He said he would not reveal the content of his discussions with Stern regarding reports that he had demanded the rabbi fire his chief of staff.
David Malka also stated that some of his relatives were appointed to be kashrut supervisors before he was a member of the council, while others were appointed before he became head of the kashrut department.
He added that he was unaware of any conflict of interests in managing the kashrut department while also being a kashrut supervisor.