Chief Rabbinate partly backs kashrut reforms ahead of High Court deadline

The Chief Rabbinate would prefer that kashrut supervisors be employed by local religious councils, the public bodies running religious services in municipal jurisdictions, and not by manpower.

kashrut certification (photo credit: REUTERS)
kashrut certification
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Chief Rabbinate has endorsed in theory a new model of kashrut supervision whereby kashrut supervisors will no longer be employed by restaurant and business owners, but by manpower companies.
It failed, however, to fully adopt a comprehensive reform proposal, due to internal opposition, and will be extremely hard pressed to implement the new model it did adopt by the time a High Court deadline passes in September.
Disconnecting the kashrut supervisor-business relationship was one of the critical demands made by the High Court of Justice in May last year, and it set the Chief Rabbinate a deadline for the end of June 2018 to propose a model whereby the supervisor is not employed by the business owner, and September 2018 for its implementation.
The reality in which kashrut supervisors in the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut supervision service are directly employed by the restaurants and businesses they supervise has been flagged by several State Comptroller reports and the High Court as a prime cause of corruption in the system.
A special committee of the Chief Rabbinate has been drafting comprehensive reforms for its kashrut supervision service ever since the High Court issued its deadline, and on Monday, owing to the pressure of the High Court’s deadline, the Council of the Chief Rabbinate approved only a small section of the reform pertaining to overturning the kashrut supervisor-business owner relationship.
It did not, however, adopt the wider reform proposals, as several rabbis on the council declined to support it.
In addition, the council’s decision on Monday included a large caveat, since the Chief Rabbinate would much prefer that kashrut supervisors be employed by local religious councils, the public bodies that run religious services in municipal jurisdictions, and not by manpower companies.
The Finance Ministry is, however, adamantly opposed to this idea, since it would add several thousand people to the public payroll who would also need to be given state benefits, which would be highly expensive for the public purse.
The decision taken by the council stated therefore that a tender would be published shortly for manpower companies to take over the employment of kashrut supervisors, but that the Chief Rabbinate would continue efforts to convince the ministry to have the supervisors employed by the local religious councils.
Should those efforts succeed, the proposal for using manpower companies and the tenders will be scrapped.
One serious obstacle to the implementation reform adopted on Monday is that the full version of the kashrut reforms proposed by the special committee states explicitly that legislation will need to be approved in order to enforce the employment of supervisors through the manpower companies.
However, with the Knesset summer session set to end on July 19 and reconvene in October, there is no way that such legislation can be drafted and approved before the High Court’s September deadline.
A spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate conceded that it is likely that a request for an extension from the High Court would be sought.
The reason that the council voted on Tuesday for the supervisor-business reform was likely to show the High Court that there is at least a plan, although the failure to adopt the comprehensive set of reforms and the caveat regarding employment of supervisors through a manpower company may not be viewed favorably by the court.
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah organization, which has proposed opening up the kashrut market to competition, said that as long as the rabbinate does not do so, the root problems of its kashrut supervision system will not be fixed.
“We call on the religious services minister and the Chief Rabbinate to adopt the principles of our kashrut model, which is based on giving licenses to kashrut corporations and turning the rabbinate into a regulator,” the organization said in a statement to the press. “Complete this process and advance competition that will improve the quality of kashrut for kashrut consumers in Israel and for the good of the institution of kashrut.”