High Court: Jew for Jesus baker must apply for new kashrut certificate

High Court Jew for Jesu

The High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the Jew for Jesus owner of a bakery in Ashdod to apply for a new kashrut certificate instead of expecting the justices to immediately find the rabbinate in contempt of court for failing to implement a ruling issued in June. The case involves the Pnina Pie bakery, owned by Pnina Conforty, an Israeli-born woman who joined the Jews for Jesus community while working for an evangelical Christian family in the US. Conforty opened her bakery three years ago, after being forced to shut down one in Gan Yavne when locals learned she was a Jew for Jesus. Soon after she reopened, Ashdod Chief Rabbi Yosef Sheinin revoked her kashrut license on the grounds that she was not Jewish. After the two sides failed to reach a compromise, Conforty petitioned the High Court, which ruled in June that her religious beliefs were unrelated to the question of whether the bakery observed kashrut rules. It ordered Sheinin to issue a certificate to Conforty if she observed certain conditions handed down by the court. Since then, however, Conforty has not received the certificate. Her lawyer, Eliad Shraga, filed a contempt of court petition against the Chief Rabbinate and Sheinin. In its response, the Rabbinate argued that the certificate had to be renewed each year and, therefore, Conforty should submit a new application. But Shraga said that the Rabbinate's position was a ruse meant to buy time and avoid implementing the ruling. "It's obvious," he told Supreme Court Deputy President Eliezer Rivlin and Justices Ayala Procaccia and Salim Joubran, "that their claim that they are waiting for an application is empty. They have been waging an intifada [against Conforty] for the past three years. Their position [not to grant a certificate] appears on all the billboards in Ashdod. It's written. You can't just close your eyes and say it isn't. So they want to do things right. Okay, I want their response in one week. We are suffering heavy losses. The business is failing." The court, however, supported the Rabbinate's position. Procaccia told Shraga, "Submit a formal application including the promise to fulfill all the regular conditions and you will receive an answer. We will be able to adjudicate the case on the basis of that answer, if, indeed, there will be a need to." The attorneys for the Rabbinate would not promise to approve the application. Attorney Hani Ofek, representing the Chief Rabbinate, told the court that Conforty must apply to the Ashdod Rabbinate. If she were not satisfied with its response, she could appeal to the Chief Rabbinate. Her colleague, attorney Eyal Nun, demanded that the petitioners drop their action altogether. Rabbi Baruch Portnoy, spokesman for Sheinin, said that the decision was positive. "Rabbi Sheinin made it clear that no matter what the High Court decides he will never do anything against Halacha," said Portnoy. "Even if they hang the rabbi from a tree he will never transgress the Halacha. And according to Halacha there has to be a kosher supervisor on the premises at all times." Portnoy said that Sheinin consulted with all the major halachic authorities - Rabbi Yosef Elyashiv, Rabbi Haim Kanyevsky, Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef - and all of them told Sheinin that he could not provide Conforty with a kosher certificate unless a stringent level of supervision was maintained during all hours. Portnoy said that a Jew who had converted to another religion was less reliable than a non-Jew according to halachic criteria. Meanwhile, all three haredi dailies - Yated Ne'eman, Hamevaser and Hamodia - published a notice signed by more than 100 city, regional and settlement rabbis giving their full support to Sheinin against the High Court.