Manpower firms seen as solutionto kashrut conflicts of interest

Increase of at least 60 percent in cost of kashrut supervision to restaurants and food producers expected.

October 29, 2006 22:13
1 minute read.
Manpower firms seen as solutionto kashrut conflicts of interest

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Manpower companies will be used to eliminate conflicts of interest in the Chief Rabbinate's kashrut supervision apparatus, according to an interministerial committee's report completed at the end of September. The committee's conclusions were presented to the Supreme Court last week in answer to a petition presented by the Movement for Fairness in Government, a public advocacy group that focuses on religious issues. The conflicts of interest are the result of procedural distortion, said the committee. Kashrut supervisors, who are responsible for making sure that restaurants and food producers adhere to Jewish dietary laws, receive their salaries from the businesses that are under their supervision. As a result, the supervisors are under pressure to turn a blind eye to their employers' violations of Halacha, especially when the restaurant or food producer stands to lose large sums of money if forced to adhere to Jewish law. The committee, consisting of several rabbinate officials and chaired by Amnon De Hartuch of the Justice Ministry, recommended setting up manpower companies to employ the supervisors. These companies, under the direction of the rabbinate, would provide kashrut supervision services to restaurants and food producers. Supervisors will be required to receive training and authorization from the rabbinate. The manpower companies will be obliged to provide the supervisors with basic pension rights. Sources familiar with the process expect the reform to increase the cost of kashrut supervision to restaurants and food producers by at least 60 percent. Local rabbinates will be obligated to adopt unified kashrut criteria. Shimon Ulman, legal adviser to the rabbinate and a member of the committee, said that he did not know when the committee's recommendations would be implemented. Attorney Mordechai Eisenberg, who first petitioned the Supreme Court four years ago, said that he had hoped for more radical reforms. "I would have recommended transforming the rabbinate into a regulatory body that supervised private kashrut supervision entities that competed in a free market," he said. However, Rafi Ochai, head of the rabbinate's fraud investigation department, said that the Chief Rabbinate lacked the workforce needed to regulate kashrut throughout the nation. "As long as the Treasury refuses to increase our budget, we can't be expected to regulate the entire country," said Ochai.

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