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Chief Rabbinate declares it will not cooperate with gov’t kashrut reforms

CM 03/08/2021

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The Chief Rabbinate has declared it will not cooperate with the government’s proposed reforms to the kashrut supervision system, describing them as “dangerous” and “the destruction of kashrut and Judaism in Israel.”
Following a meeting of the rabbis of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate on Monday, the organization’s executive arm, the body issued a decision stating that any rabbi utilizing the proposed reforms would violate Jewish law and said it would not accept the dictates of the religious services ministry on the issue. 
The decision was signed by head of the council Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and the 11 other members of the council, while Chief Rabbi David Yosef, applauded the decision. 
Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Last month, Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana announced a program of reform which would allow independent kashrut authorities headed by a Chief Rabbinate-qualified rabbi to provide kashrut supervision, with the Chief Rabbinate establishing standards and functioning as a regulator, including operating an inspection authority to oversee the work of the independent kashrut authorities. 
Additionally, if independent authorities seek to operate under alternative standards a municipal chief rabbi together with two other rabbis with qualifications to serve as municipal chief rabbis, could establish their own kashrut authority under their own guidelines, which would still be subject to the Chief Rabbinate’s inspection authority. 
These measures would abolish the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over kashrut licensing, which has been described by state comptroller’s reports as suffering from severe deficiencies and from corruption. 
“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate declares that according to Jewish law it is forbidden for a rabbi to give kashrut [certification] or deal with kashrut issues outside of his [municipal] boundaries in a place where another rabbi is serving,” wrote the council in its decision on Monday. 
The council was referencing the requirements of the proposed reforms in which the independent kashrut authorities which will be established must be headed by a rabbi with qualifications from the Chief Rabbinate to serve as a municipal chief rabbi. 
That authority will be able to provide kashrut licensing and supervision anywhere in the country, as opposed to the current system in which only the local municipal chief rabbi and rabbinate can grant a kashrut license. 
“The Council of the Chief Rabbinate was established (by law) in order to give instructions in Jewish law to the people, and will not cooperate with the decision to turn it [the Chief Rabbinate] to a council which accepts dictates in order to implement political policies which contravene Jewish law. Principles of Jewish law are not up for negotiation, the Torah of Israel cannot be changed.” 
CHIEF RABBI David Lau gave backing to the council’s decision, and also denounced the reforms.
Lau delineated his opposition to the reforms in a letter to his colleague Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef welcoming the Council of the Chief Rabbinate’s opposition to the proposals on Monday. 
In  his letter, Lau claimed that religiously traditional Israelis and tourists would suffer from the reforms, which are now part of the state budget’s arrangements law, since they would not know how to discern between reliable and unreliable kashrut authorities. 
He also attacked the central notion of the reforms of creating competition between kashrut authorities, saying such competition would harm the level of kashrut.
And he also criticized Kahana’s proposals, without mentioning him explicitly, for not consulting with a committee of the Chief Rabbinate established to examine options to improve the quality of kashrut supervision in the country. 
The committee was established back in March 2016 and it made modest proposals for reform which were never implemented by the Chief Rabbinate. 
And he attacked the “three rabbis” alternative track for establishing a kashrut authority, saying such rabbis would lack experience in kashrut supervision, and compared the track to an alternative health ministry run by three coronavirus denying doctors. 
Lau also alleged that those who were happy with the proposals were among those who “harm the Jewish character of the State of Israel,” saying that this fact “proves the proposals are not designed to help Judaism.”
He said he hoped the Council of the Chief Rabbinate would convene shortly “to discuss how Israel’s rabbis should act on this issue,” as well as how to react to coming reforms to the conversion process that Kahana also plans to introduce. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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