It’s the stuff, unfortunately, that late night comedy routines are made of: the Jerusalem Rabbinate demanding that a kosher restaurant expunge the word “bacon” from its menu.
That’s right, the popular Jerusalem eatery near Mahane Yehuda – Crave – was told recently by a kashrut inspector that it would have to rename its “Lamb Bacon” entry on the menu, which just happens to be one of the favorite toppings for its hamburgers and the star in its kosher BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato) sandwich.
Why? So that customers don’t somehow associate the lamb bacon in the kosher eatery with pork. Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon would have a ball with that type of material.
Crave is a kosher restaurant which for years has had a kashrut certificate from the Jerusalem Rabbinate. The Rabbinate is not saying the restaurant is not kosher, only that the word is.
But since when is the Rabbinate in the business of certifying words as kosher or not? Since when does the Rabbinate employ mashgiachei milim (word supervisors)?
Actually, over the last year, the Rabbinate has become inordinately interested in words and their power. For instance, in September the Chief Rabbinate was forced by a 2017 court decision to publish a kashrut directive stipulating that businesses who do not pay them for certification can display a certificate declaring the kashrut standards they observe as long as they do not use the word “kosher” for their eateries.
Why not? Because the Rabbinate uses the word “kosher” on the certificates it issues to restaurants, and does not want to let any other kashrut supervisory body use that powerful and emotive word – and possibly grab a slice of the lucrative business of issuing kashrut licenses that it has dominated for so long.
In other words, a restaurant with a kashrut certificate from the Tzohar religious-Zionist rabbinical organization might meet all the halachic requirements for kashrut, but can’t print the word “kosher” on its certificate. More material there for Fallon and Kimmel.
Once upon a time, restaurants received a kashrut certificate based on whether the food they served and the manner in which it was prepared met halachic dietary requirements.
Then the authority was expanded, and kashrut authorities could take away a kashrut certificate for restaurants open on Shabbat, or from hotels that held “Sylvester” parties on New Year’s Eve.
The recent intervention by the Rabbinate in what can be listed on Crave’s menu is just another step up the ladder.
The restaurant was compelled to change the entry from “Lamb Bacon’’ to “facon,” to indicate it was fake bacon and not a pork product. Co-owner Yoni Van Leeuwen was quoted as saying that the matter was raised just a week before the restaurant was to get its kashrut certification renewed, and it was “very clear that we didn’t have a choice” but to remove the offending word from the menu.
What’s next: kosher sushi restaurants serving “shrimp” rolls made out of faux shrimp being forced to change their menus? No more kosher cheeseburgers – made out of parve cheese – on the menus of a multitude of unique burger joints across the land who serve them?
And what is going to happen on Passover? Will the Chief Rabbinate nix the word “Pizza” on the menus of restaurants serving kosher-for-Passover food because pizza dough is generally made from leavened flour? No kosher for Passover hamburgers, because hamburgers are associated with buns made of bread?
The Jerusalem Rabbinate’s intervention in what is on Crave’s menu is an example of the rabbinical establishment’s overreach, and it is is an overreach that leaves both the restaurateur, as well as the Rabbinate, poorer.
Restaurateurs loses out because, in addition to all the other obstacles that need to be cleared in order to operate and run a thriving business, they now have to worry about losing their kashrut certificates if one of the names of their dishes does not get rabbinical approval.
And the Chief Rabbinate loses out because this just casts it in a silly light, making it look as if it is focusing on inconsequential trivialities, rather than on truly significant religious issues that it could and should be dealing with.