Chief Rabbinate says new Hashgacha Pratit certificates illegal, ready to issue fines

In a decision earlier this month, the High Court of Justice ruled that a legal loophole allowing restaurants to present themselves as being kosher without using the word “kosher” was unlawful.

Kosher certificates (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Kosher certificates
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New supervision certificates issued by the independent kashrut authority Hashgacha Pratit are illegal, the Chief Rabbinate says.
A spokesman for the rabbinate told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that restaurants using the certificate will be issued fines, although he declined to say when.
On June 6, the High Court of Justice ruled that a legal loophole allowing restaurants to present themselves as being kosher without using the word “kosher” was unlawful, and that the Law Against Kashrut Fraud prohibited this practice.
Hashgacha Pratit had used this loophole to issue certificates to restaurants using its kashrut supervision services which did not include the word kosher but instead talked of “Jewish law relating to food ingredients and preparation.”
The references to Jewish law have been removed from the new certificate, as have various references to kashrut and Jewish law in the organization’s logo. The name Hashgacha Pratit is now absent from the document too, since the word Hashgacha is associated with kashrut.
The text of the certificate says that the business owners see the trust placed in them by Hashgacha Pratit founder Rabbi Aharon Leibowitz as something “sacred” and will do everything to fulfill the “conditions” set by the rabbi and his team so that the public can eat at the restaurant with peace of mind.
The Chief Rabbinate, however, rejected the legality of the revised document.
“The court has issued its verdict in a very clear manner; any presentation in writing that is designed to give the impression that an establishment is kosher is prohibited by law,” the rabbinate said in a statement to the press “Kashrut certificates are used only by the Chief Rabbinate and local rabbinates which are authorized to do so by law. Wording the certificate in an evasive way by elements that are not authorized will be considered as contravening the law and in contempt of court.”
Hashgacha Pratit said in response that it works “in accordance with Jewish law and uses male and female kashrut supervisors who frequently visit the business under supervision, instructing and inspecting them in order to ensure that food preparation and everything connected to is done in accordance with Jewish law, and the public can eat their with peace of mind.”
It said, however, that “Hashgacha Pratit does not issue kashrut certificates,” and insisted that the new formulation of its certificates did not contravene the law or the High Court’s ruling.
The organization added that it believed the Chief Rabbinate’s claims that it was breaking the law “stem from a real concern that the jobs factory, the shady practices, and the monopoly which the rabbinate preserves in the field of kashrut is disappearing from the world.”