Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Amar allegedly blocks measure to reduce corruption in kashrut supervision

Severe questions have been raised about the integrity and reliability of the kashrut supervision provided by the Jerusalem rabbinate in recent months.

Chief rabbis of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Arye Stern  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Chief rabbis of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Arye Stern
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Shlomo Amar has recently refused to implement a proposal designed to reduce corruption in the arena of kashrut supervision in the capital, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Severe questions have been raised about the integrity and reliability of the kashrut supervision provided by the Jerusalem rabbinate in recent months, with concerns that some kashrut supervisors do not properly execute their supervisory duties.
One problem in particular is a phenomenon in which supervisors are awarded supervision over more restaurants and food businesses than they can physically supervise in one day.
Kashrut supervisors get paid either directly by the businesses they supervise, or in some instances by a manpower organization that provides the supervisors to the different businesses.
The more establishments a supervisor is responsible for, the more money he is able to make.
However, regulations of the Ministry of Religious Services stipulate that a supervisor spend at least one hour, and many cases two or three hours, in each restaurant, supermarket, catering company or other food business they supervise, per day.
According to sources within the Jerusalem rabbinate, there are several supervisors within the Jerusalem religious council’s kashrut department who are registered to supervise more than 10 businesses each.
It appears unlikely that a supervisor could maintain this workload and at the same time comply with the stipulations of the Religious Services Ministry for a supervisor to be present for at least one hour in every supervised establishment.
Allegations of possible corruption in the Jerusalem Religious Council were reported to the police earlier this year.
During a hearing of the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee on July 29, Supt.
Isaac Simon of the Jerusalem fraud squad said that an examination was being made of the requirement to hold an investigation.
In recent months severe deficiencies have been found by staff in the office of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern, including supervisors who did not turn up to the establishments under their supervision and serious kashrut issues at some restaurants and businesses with kashrut certificates from the Jerusalem rabbinate.
In one of the restaurants, a wellknown cafe in central Jerusalem, it was discovered that the designated supervisor visited the site approximately once a week. The establishment in question requires three hours of supervision a day.
At the cafe, Stern’s staff discovered that the flour used for baking bread and other products was not generally sifted and that there were insects present in the flour, which would be a clear violation of kashrut laws.
In order to try and tackle these issues, Stern recently proposed that, as is common practice in many other major cities, the names of each supervisor should be printed on the kashrut certificate that is displayed in restaurants and businesses in Jerusalem with kashrut supervision.
This would help prevent abuses, since if a supervisor would have more businesses to supervise than is feasible in one day such a situation would be readily apparent.
Amar, however, refused to implement such a system. Although local religious councils have administrative authority over such policies, municipal chief rabbis sign kashrut certificates and could theoretically refuse to sign if certain policies are not implemented.
The secretary of the Kashrut Department of the Jerusalem Religious Council, David Malka, said in response: “The Kashrut Department and the Office of the Chief Rabbi do not conduct Jerusalem’s kashrut policy through the press or media. This is how we have acted for years and how we will continue to act.
“Despite the fact that in the current quarter the names of supervisors do not appear on kashrut certificates, the kashrut certificates are signed by both municipal chief rabbis.”
Kashrut certificates are issued four times a year, but Stern has refused to sign more than 100 certificates, out of the approximately 1,500 certificates issued to kosher establishments in Jerusalem, for the latest quarter. Some of these certificates are currently on display with only Amar’s signature.
Stern is insisting on interviewing the supervisors of the establishments in question, primarily supermarkets, before appending his signature to their certificates.