Kfar Saba butcher fined over kashrut

Anti-fraud unit: Serious indiscretions committed both by rabbinic officials and butcher.

jerusalem rabbinate 248.88 (photo credit: Knesset Channel)
jerusalem rabbinate 248.88
(photo credit: Knesset Channel)
A butcher shop in Kfar Saba under rabbinic supervision might have sold non-kosher meat to its clientele, according to a Chief Rabbinate report obtained by The Jerusalem Post Tuesday. On Monday at 5:30 p.m., an official from the Chief Rabbinate's Kashrut Supervision Unit discovered that the Tamar-Biton butcher in Kfar Saba had meat in refrigeration earmarked for retail sale that had not been properly koshered according to Jewish law. In the report entitled "Severe Stumbling Block - Tamar-Biton Butcher," Rabbi Rafi Ochai, head of the anti-fraud unit, wrote: "From the above findings it can be concluded that there were serious lapses and breaches in kashrut supervision directives that raise the possibility that the public was tricked into eating non-kosher meat." The business was fined NIS 1,000. The Kfar Saba Rabbinate was advised by the anti-fraud unit head to suspend Tamar-Biton's kashrut supervision certificate. Rabbi Yehuda Najati, head of the kashrut supervision department in the city, said he had consulted with Kfar Saba Chief Rabbi Avraham Chalouche, who signs off on the certificates. However, no decision had been made regarding suspension of Tamar-Biton's certificate. "We also have not decided yet whether or not to notify individuals who bought meat from Tamar-Biton in the past week to kasher the utensils they used to cook the meat," Najati said. If it is determined that if non-kosher meat was sold to unsuspecting clients who care about kashrut laws, they would have to submerge the utensils used to cook meat in boiling water. In certain cases, metal utensils might need to be blow-torched. Tamar-Biton only came under the supervision of Kfar Saba's Rabbinate last week. Previously, the shop sold meat that was not under supervision. The anti-fraud unit's Ochai told the Post by telephone he could not be certain that Tamar-Biton had sold non-kosher meat since it came under rabbinic supervision. "But there is no doubt that there were serious indiscretions committed both by rabbinic officials and the owner of the butcher," he said. Attorney Mordechai Eisenberg, head of the Movement for Fairness in Government, a nonprofit religious affairs watchdog, tipped off the Chief Rabbinate's anti-fraud unit after receiving inside information that non-kosher meat might be for sale at Tamar-Biton. The meat that was found by the anti-fraud unit contained fat (chelev) that, according to Halacha, is strictly forbidden to eat. The process of removing this prohibited fat, which is prominent on the hind quarters and around the internal organs, is complicated and labor-intensive. Chief Rabbinate directives dictate that meat containing this forbidden fat cannot be shipped to a city where there is no rabbi authorized by the local religious council to perform the fat removal procedure, known in Hebrew as nikur. Kfar Saba has no official nikur expert. Tamar Biton, the owner of the butcher shop, could not be contacted for comment. However, her husband, Yaish, who is involved in the management of the business, said he had done nothing wrong. Biton said that on Sunday, just a few days after the shop came under kashrut supervision, he met with Najati, head of the town's kosher supervision department. "Najati assured me an expert in the nikur procedure would arrive the following day to prepare the meat for marketing. "But he never showed up," said Biton. "So I did not sell it. I kept the meat in refrigeration." In addition to helping in the management of his wife's butcher shop, Yaish Biton is also the treasurer of Kfar Saba's religious council. He signs off on the paychecks of all religious council employees, including the chief rabbi's. Najati said in response that Biton had promised to add a nikur expert to the Kfar Saba religious council payroll. "As treasurer of the religious council, Biton is the man who controls financial issues here," said Najati. Ochai said the Kfar Saba case was "just the tip of the iceberg." He said that although he was not sure if this was the case in Kfar Saba, in many cities and towns the local chief rabbi was weak while religious council officials, often appointed for political reasons, have extensive powers. "As a result, economic interests often take precedence over religious strictures," he said. The Movement for Fairness in Government's Eisenberg said that in many religious councils there were "bullies" who did not respect the religious authority of the local rabbi. "Sometimes, like in Kfar Saba, there is an extreme case of conflict of interests," said Eisenberg. "It is not right that the manager of a butcher shop is also the one who gives orders to those who are supposed to supervise him," he said. "There is no doubt that such a state of conflict of interests disqualifies him from serving in a religious council and from being able to sign off on paychecks." The scope of the Tamar-Biton incident is not restricted to Kfar Saba. Rabbi Yehuda Taviv of the Tel Aviv Rabbinate broke Chief Rabbinate rules by authorizing the shipment of the meat from the Marbek Slaughterhouse in Be'er Tuviya to Tamar-Biton, according to the anti-fraud unit, and was verbally reprimanded. Ochai said that in the past, Taviv had been warned about shipping meat that contained forbidden fat to several cities that lacked Nikur experts, including Ashkelon, Bat Yam and Petah Tikva. Eisenberg said he would demand the immediate suspension of Taviv. He also said he would push for the suspension of Tamar-Biton's kashrut supervision certificate and for the local rabbinate to notify Kfar Saba residents that utensils used to cook Tamar-Biton meat should be kashered.