Petition demands Chief Rabbinate be held in contempt of court

Rabbi Metzger failed to abide by court decision to reinstate two kosher food supervisors who were fired unjustly.

metzger 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
metzger 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Chief Rabbinate should be held in contempt of court for failing to abide by a court decision handed down almost a year ago to reinstate two kosher food supervisors who were fired unjustly by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, according to a petition presented Wednesday to the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court. Attorney Yeshayahu Avraham, of the Ben-David, Avraham, Hakohen Law Office, who represents the two kosher food supervisors, argued in his petition that the Chief Rabbinate has been trying for almost a year to avoid rehiring the two men. "At first the Rabbinate agreed to return them to their positions as director-general and halachic authority of the National Kashrut Rabbinate," he wrote. "But later the Rabbinate backtracked and said the men would be hired as state employees, which would force them to quit their present jobs." However, attorney Shimon Ulman, who represents the Rabbinate, claimed that the two men did not want their old positions back. "We offered them their jobs but in the meantime they apparently found more lucrative positions," he said. In September 2006, Judge Dita Perogninin of the Jerusalem Regional Labor Court overturned a decision by Metzger's office to replace two kashrut supervisors. Perogninin stated that the personnel changes seemed motivated by "non-professional, impertinent considerations." The judge ordered the Chief Rabbinate to reinstate Moshe Salomon and Yosef Sherman, who she said were fired unjustly without being given a hearing. Perogninin also ordered the immediate firings of Rabbis Yosef Minsky and Shneur Zalman Revach, who were chosen by Metzger's office 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, Perogninin stated: "The Rabbinate failed to prove the firings were justified. In contrast to the Rabbinate's claims that Salomon 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 and present administrative head of the Conversion Authority, also testified before the court on behalf of Sherman and Salomon. Maimon is presently at odds with Amar over conversion policy and personnel changes in the authority. 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. Avraham said 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. Ulman said that Sherman and Salomon, both settlers who live in Kedumim and Yitzhar, respectively, were accused of treating badly the Arab food manufacturers that they supervised. 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.