When Carmi Horowitz sat down to dinner at the Shakespeare Restaurant in Talpiot, he assumed that the venue would be in possession of a valid kashrut certificate, as indicated on the store's sign. He even called ahead to verify that the trendy eatery was, indeed, under kosher supervision. But when Horowitz asked to see the certificate, he got an unpleasant surprise. "When I asked to see the certificate, the manager told me he had 'sent it for framing,'" said Horowitz. "They then proceeded to show me a photocopy of a certificate from two-and-a-half years ago." Finally, after a rigamarole that led to the owner's admitting that the venue did, indeed, have its supervision temporarily suspended, Horowitz got up, together with the rest of his party of 13, and left the restaurant. "It's quite shocking," he said. The owner, when asked for his side of the story, was indignant. He relates how he was stuck late at night with no lettuce and was forced to purchase from a local grocer, rather than use the Gush Katif lettuce that is certified to be free from insects. "We soaked the lettuce in saltwater, like they do in the army, but that wasn't enough for them." Rabbi Ya'acov Ruhamkin, who is the kashrut supervisor for the area, entered the kitchen on a surprise visit, and, seeing the unauthorized lettuce, promptly removed the certificate. Lior, the manager, was furious about what he called the "corruption" and "money-grubbing" in the rabbinate, and threatened that if the matter were not resolved he would cancel kashrut supervision altogether and rake in additional profits from opening on Friday evening and Saturday. Though Lior said that he personally kept Shabbat and put on tefillin, he demanded vociferously that the spotlight belonged not on "hardworking shopkeepers" but on the "extortion" they suffered at the hands of the rabbinate. In the end, the rabbi reported that he had reached an agreement with the owner, which included the signing of a bank guarantee regarding the upholding of kashrut standards in the future. The renewed kashrut certificate, said Ruhamkin, would be forthcoming shortly. Rafi Yochai, who heads the Chief Rabbinate's Fraud Division, said that such occurrences were common in the kashrut business. "Sometimes an establishment will show insufficient regard for kashrut standards and will need to be reprimanded. The temporary removal of the kashrut certificate is often enough to induce proper compliance," he said. "Although the establishment would be technically required to remove all signage indicating it as kosher, the Fraud Division, which is besieged by innumerable complaints, rarely goes after all but the most egregious violations."

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