(photo credit: REUTERS)
Some of the most senior National Religious rabbis in the country, including rabbis Haim Druckman and Yaakov Ariel, have called on the Tzohar rabbinical association to shut down its independent kashrut authority, saying it would damage kashrut standards in Israel and harm the Chief Rabbinate.
The demand was made by a forum of National Religious rabbinic leaders, including rabbis Zalman Melamed, Tzfaniah Drori, Haim Steiner and Isser Kolanski, as well as Druckman and Ariel.
In their statement they said that they had attempted to bridge between Tzohar and the Chief Rabbinate and formulate a compromise, but that their efforts had not succeeded.
“In light of this, the rabbinical committee appealed to the heads of Tzohar and informed them that it views their initiative with great severity,” wrote the rabbis.
“It will lower the level of kashrut, will contribute to harming kashrut in the State of Israel, and in addition represents severe damage to the Chief Rabbinate.”
They reminded Tzohar that the Chief Rabbinate was founded by the founding father of religious Zionism, Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook, out of a desire to concentrate all religious issues under one rabbinic authority, “and this obligates the entire population of the country, without other groups acting independently without central authorization.”
Druckman and Ariel are perhaps the two most senior and respected rabbis of the mainstream National Religious community, and their opposition to Tzohar’s new kashrut authority is a strong statement and potentially serious problem for the organization, given the weight of these rabbis’ authority.
Rabbis Melamed and Drori are also highly respected, while Steiner and Kolanski are from the strongly conservative wing of the National Religious community.
Mainstream National Religious rabbis, and those of the conservative wing, are fiercely protective of the standing of the Chief Rabbinate, seeing it in ideological terms and as a crucial aspect of rabbinic and halachic unity.
Tzohar and other more liberal National Religious groups and individuals have objected to alleged corruption in the Chief Rabbinate, particularly in the field of kashrut, and standards on issues such as conversion which it believes are overly severe and contrary to the National Religious ethos and ideology.
Tzohar said in response to the rabbinical committee’s statement that during its meeting with the rabbis, it had not been asked to shut down its kashrut authority but only to cooperate with the Chief Rabbinate.
Tzohar said that many rabbis, community leaders, and yeshivot support its new kashrut authority, and added that many businesses that have come under its kashrut supervision were not kosher in the past and were open on Shabbat.
“In Tzohar’s merit, they became kosher and [now] close on Shabbat,” Tzohar pointed out.
“Increasing kashrut in Israel is our path, and we are committed to it for the sake of Heaven. We hope the efforts of our teachers and rabbis [the rabbis of the rabbinical committee] will bring about fruitful cooperation with the Chief Rabbinate, because this is our intention.”