MK Tal calls on Minister Kahana to open kashrut to Reform, Conservative rabbis

Blue and White MK says excluding non-Orthodox rabbis from new kashrut system is ‘insulting’ and spits in the face of Reform and Conservative Jews.

 Prof. Alon Tal: Keeping us cleaner (photo credit: ELAD MALKA)
Prof. Alon Tal: Keeping us cleaner
(photo credit: ELAD MALKA)

Blue and White MK Alon Tal has called on Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) to amend his reforms and open up the kashrut supervision market to Reform and Conservative authorities.

Tal said it was insulting that the Religious Services Ministry’s director-general had said there was no place for Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel’s kashrut system during a committee hearing on the legislation on Thursday.

Kahana and the government are advancing legislation through the budget arrangements bill that would abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut. It would allow independent kashrut supervision authorities to provide their services to food businesses, while the Chief Rabbinate would act as a regulator of the system.

To establish a kashrut authority, however, it must be headed by a rabbi with qualifications from the Chief Rabbinate to serve as a municipal chief rabbi who has written approval from the Council of the Chief Rabbinate attesting to this qualification.

This would in practice exclude Reform and Conservative rabbis from establishing such kashrut authorities.

Tal is proposing an amendment to Kahana’s bill that would remove the condition in the legislation stating that the rabbi seeking to establish a kashrut authority must have written approval from the Council of the Chief Rabbinate. In addition, his amendment proposes to add in the legislation a “Liberal Kashrut” standard to allow non-Orthodox rabbis to issue kashrut certificates.

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

“I’m proud to be part of this coalition, which is creating the kashrut reform, because the best answer to corruption is to create competition,” Tal said. “But it still perpetuates the Orthodox monopoly. As someone who grew up as a Conservative Jew, as someone who takes kashrut seriously, I find it insulting that the director-general of the Religious Services Ministry says there is no place for Reform and Conservative rabbis in the kashrut system in Israel. It spits in my face and the face of all Reform and Conservative Jews around the world.”

Tal said he “salutes” Kahana and his “bold and courageous reform” and knows it was not an easy step for him to take. “But once he took on responsibility as Religious Services minister, he did so for all Jews in Israel, and he has a responsibility to be inclusive,” he said.

Conservative kashrut authorities in the US were “every bit as sensitive as Orthodox ones,” Tal said.

Anyone who does not want to use the services of a Reform or Conservative kashrut authority would not need to do so, he said.

If the goal of the current coalition was to create a more harmonious society, then it should be done by respecting all communities, Tal said.

“We need to recognize that Judaism has always been a mosaic,” he said. “The dismissal of non-Orthodox Judaism is a cancer on the Jewish people and is causing alienation from Israel.”

Kahana did not respond to a request for comment.