Kashrut ‘revolution’ legislation passes into law

The legislation abolishes the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over kashrut supervision.

Kashrut certificate in Jerusalem, July 21, 2021.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Kashrut certificate in Jerusalem, July 21, 2021.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Dramatic reforms to the provision of kashrut services have passed into law after the Budget Arrangements Law was passed in the Knesset on Thursday.

The legislation will likely have a historic impact on the provision of kashrut supervision, and influence further changes to other religious services in the future.

The legislation, advanced by Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana, will abolish the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over kashrut supervision and open the market to competition by allowing independent kashrut authorities to legally provide supervision services.

The kashrut services provided by the Chief Rabbinate and its local branches has for years suffered from numerous forms of corruption and has been castigated by state bodies and NGOs for failing to provide an adequate service.

Under the new law, the Chief Rabbinate will establish two levels of kashrut standards, basic and stringent, and a body within the Rabbinate will be tasked with ensuring the independent authorities comply with those standards.

THE BUILDING of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem. (credit: NATI SHOCHAT/FLASH 90)THE BUILDING of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in Jerusalem. (credit: NATI SHOCHAT/FLASH 90)

To ensure the establishment of independent kashrut authorities will not be thwarted by the Chief Rabbinate through overly stringent standards, a panel of three rabbis with specific qualifications will be able to, if they so wish, establish a separate set of standards.

This provision in particular will mean that the Rabbinate will no longer have exclusive control over the provision of kashrut in the country.

One other major reform in the law allows the independent authorities to give kashrut authorization for food products from abroad, something that could reduce costs for imported food.

The law will go into effect on January 1, 2023.

But on January 1, 2022, the current geographical districts in which only local rabbinate branches can operate will be abolished, meaning a chief municipal or regional rabbi anywhere in Israel could provide supervision anywhere else.

This is a boon for the kashrut service run by the moderate religious-Zionist Tzohar organization, which already operates a kashrut supervision service, through loopholes from earlier laws.

Although until now, Tzohar and any other independent kashrut authority could not legally issue kashrut certificates for restaurants and food businesses stating that they are kosher in writing; the abolition of the geographic districts will mean that such certificates will be legal.

This step will immediately boost competition in kashrut supervision before the full law takes effect.