Grapevine: Freeze! It’s the kosher police

The rabbinate is hitting back – not necessarily at the rebels – but at every food enterprise that claims to be kosher.

Kosher restaurant (photo credit: REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)
Kosher restaurant
(photo credit: REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov)
IT’S NOT all that long ago that restaurant proprietors in Jerusalem revolted against the slapdash, money gouging methods of so-called kashrut supervision by the rabbinate and decided to remain kosher but without certification. Now the rabbinate is hitting back – not necessarily at the rebels – but at every food enterprise that claims to be kosher. In an attempt to broaden and strengthen its authority, it is now on the verge of establishing something in the nature of a kashrut police force which will have the right to enter all food establishments displaying kosher certification which has expired, remove such certification, confiscate food items which do not conform to kashrut standards and to question managers and proprietors of such enterprises. Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan has proposed a bill to this effect, with the aim of making kashrut claims by food processing companies and restaurants more reliable, and is supported in this ambition by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau. Ben- Dahan, a Jerusalemite, was for many years the director of the Chief Rabbi’s Office and of the Rabbinical Courts. An ordained rabbi himself, he also has secular education and holds a BA in business administration from Touro College in New York and an MA in public policy from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He also served in the army, and completed his service with the rank of major. He is best known for tracking down the husbands of agunot and persuading them to give their wives a bill of divorce. He has also managed to find proof of the Jewishness of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union who knew they were Jewish, but had no documents to substantiate their claims.
BELIEVE IT or not, there was a century-old jetsetter in Jerusalem this week. Pastor Margaret Blackwell, who since 1975 has been bringing Christian pilgrims and tourists to Israel, flying in at least three times a year, decided to celebrate her 100th birthday in the Holy Land. The founder of the Way of Faith Assembly of God Church in Fairfax, Virginia, Blackwell came to Israel with family and friends, and on Monday celebrated her centenary at Kibbutz Ramat Rahel, where guests included Amir Halevi, the director-general of the Tourism Ministry, who presented Blackwell with a silverbound Bible in appreciation of her impressive contribution to tourism to Israel. Blackwell did not originally set out to be a pastor. She studied business administration and took up Bible studies while working in her profession. At one stage she became seriously ill, and her recovery resulted in a life changing decision. She felt that she had been spared for a purpose. This strengthened her sense of mission and her desire to help others. For the next 25 years, Blackwell served as pastor to an Evangelical church in the southwest of the United States, gradually extending her work to the Washington area.
The church that she founded included training facilities, centers of learning and preschools for local Christians, as well as a convalescence center. Blackwell also established a convalescence center for Evangelical Christians in Israel. She has no intention of retiring from the church or her public activities. She does not consider a triple-digit age sufficient cause for retirement.