Religious MKs join Chief Rabbinate in fight against Supreme Court

Religious MKs join Chief

In a battle pitting religion against state which seeks to redefine the balance of power between the sacred and the profane, religious legislators have joined rabbis to fight the Supreme Court. Religious forces in the Knesset and outside of it are seeking to pass legislation that would give the Chief Rabbinate total control over the issuing of kosher supervision certificates. The chief rabbis, religious MKs and ministers met Thursday at the Chief Rabbinate's headquarters in Jerusalem to protest what they called the court's blatant intervention in purely religious matters under rabbinic jurisdiction. The brunt of their criticism was directed against a court decision this summer that ruled that a bakery in Ashdod owned by a Jewish convert to Christianity could not be required by the local rabbi to implement inordinately stringent kosher supervision standards. The court differentiated between what it defined as "core" halachic issues and considerations not directly connected to Halacha. But rabbis and religious legislators are of the opinion that justices have no business adjudicating in religious issues such as the laws of kosher supervision. Legislation drafted by MK Ya'acov "Ketzele" Katz (National Union) would ensure that the Supreme Court will be blocked from interfering with kosher supervision criteria. Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that he would appeal to the attorney-general to improve Katz's proposed legislation to prevent any potential lacuna. In the meantime, until the new legislation is passed, the Chief Rabbinate has asked for an extension on the time it was given to implement the court's decision to provide the messianic Jew's bakery with kosher supervision. This would prevent a situation in which the Chief Rabbinate is accused of holding the court in contempt. Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi said that he would advance legislation in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, where he is a member. "We will meet the High Court's challenge and we will amend the law," said Margi. Other participants included Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Atias and other Shas MKs, MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), Deputy Health Minister Ya'acov Litzman (United Torah Judaism) along with other UTJ MKs. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger said that it was important to make it clear "once and for all that kosher supervision is a religious issue and not [a] legal [one]." Metzger added, "More than 60 percent of the nation's citizens want kosher products. We do not want there to be a rift in society nor do we want a rift between the High Court and the Chief Rabbinate. But when a person receives a kosher product he needs to know that it is possible to rely on the supervision and not have to worry about deception."