Court cancels Metzger's appointments

J'lem Labor Court judge asks rabbinate to rehire two kashrut supervisors.

yona metzger 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
yona metzger 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A Jerusalem labor court on Thursday overturned a decision by Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger to replace two kashrut supervisors, stating that the personnel changes seemed motivated by "non-professional, impertinent considerations." Judge Dita Peroginin of the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court ordered the Chief Rabbinate to reinstate Moshe Salomom and Yosef Sherman, who she said were fired unjustly without being given a hearing. Peroginin also ordered the immediate firings of Rabbis Yosef Minsky and Shneur Zalman Revach, who were chosen by Metzger to replace Salomon and Sherman. Both Revach and Minsky have close ties to the two chief rabbis. Minsky was an aide to Metzger while Revach worked with Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar via his Institute for the Study of Commandments of the Land of Israel, which Amar guided for many years. In her decision, Peroginin stated: "The Rabbinate failed to prove the firings were justified…In contrast to the Rabbinate's claims that Salomom and Sherman were incompetent, the testimony of Rabbi Ya'acov Sabag, Director of Kashrut Supervision in the Rabbinate, was nothing less than tremendous praise for the two men." Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, the former head of the Rabbinate's Industrial Kashrut Supervision department, also testified before the court on behalf of Sherman and Salomon. The Labor Court judge said in her decision that Rabbi Meir Rosenthal, head of Metzger's office, failed to prove there were substantive complaints against Salomon and Sherman. Salomon and Sherman were represented by attorneys Yeshayahu Avraham and Moshe Ben-David. Avraham said that Rosenthal contradicted himself during the trial. In an affidavit, Rosenthal claimed that the firings were not made by the Rabbinate or by Metzger, but by an independent employment agency. However, Avraham produced a document signed by Rosenthal that ordered the firings and explained the reason for them. Rosenthal refused to comment on the court's decision and said he needed time to study it. Metzger, currently in Britain for a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, could not be reached. However, Shimon Ulman, the Chief Rabbinate's legal adviser, said in reaction that the personnel changes were made by Metzger after the chief rabbi received complaints against Sherman and Salomon. "Israeli Arabs complained that Sherman and Salomon treated them badly," said Ulman. "The judge did not take into consideration these complaints." Ulman said that he and the state attorney would discuss the possibility of appealing the Labor Court decision. Minsky said in response: "I will respect the court decision." The personnel changes were made in a body called the National Kashrut Rabbinate, established in 1998 to provide kashrut supervision in places that lack a local rabbinate such as Arab villages or on cruise ships sailing in international waters. The National Kashrut Rabbinate also provides kashrut supervision at Ben-Gurion Airport, which has a quasi-extraterritorial standing. Technically, workers at the National Kashrut Rabbinate are employed by an independent employment agency. The agency is a go-between which is supposed to protect kashrut supervisors from business interests. Normally supervisors are employed directly by the restaurants or food producers. Since kashrut supervisors are dependent on the restaurants and factories for their salaries, they are often put under economic pressure to bend the kashrut rules. But according to anonymous sources close to kashrut supervision, the establishment of the National Kashrut Rabbinate did not protect the rabbinate from economic pressures. Under Minsky and Revach, the sources said, the National Kashrut Rabbinate agreed to more lenient kosher supervision rules than their predecessors. The most well known was the granting of a kashrut certificate to businesses open on Shabat. The certificate was in effect only between Sunday and Thursday. The luxury cruise ship Magic One and other cruise ship operators were granted such a certificate, as were restaurants in the new Ben-Gurion airport terminal. The Chief Rabbinate's Governing Council ruled over a year ago that it was prohibited to issue a kashrut certificate to businesses open on Shabbat. However, rabbis such as Shalom Levi, Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Kiryat Shmona, continue to issue the certificates for Sunday through Thursday, arguing that they help minimize the amount of non-kosher food eaten by secular Jews.