Posts Tagged With: Kashrut

Non-orthodox religious leaders: Israeli Hotels Refusing Torahs to Egalitarian Minyanim

Torah service at Moreshet Israel, a Masorti congregation in Jerusalem

The directors of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and The Masorti Movement  have sent a letter to the government complaining that hotels are refusing to allow egalitarian minyanim to use hotel rooms and Torahs for fear of losing their kashrut certificate.

The Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism and the Masorti Movement represent the interests and religious needs of non-orthodox religious Israeli Jews and Diaspora Jews visiting Israel. The letter was sent to both the ministry of Tourism and the ministry of Diaspora Affairs. According to Ynet, the letter concluded:

We ask that you find the proper public manner in which to make it clear that this is an invalid policy that is not compatible with the law, a policy that damages relations with Jews in the Diaspora and the image of the State of Israel as a Jewish democratic state.

The complaint follows an incident last month when a group of American high school students were refused a Torah for their Shabbat minyan. The hotel belonged to a non-religious kibbutz and advertized itself as a place that would meet all the needs of bar and bat mitzvahs. However, when the group asked for a Torah for their morning Shabbat service, the hotel religious supervisor informed them that they couldn’t have the Torah unless they agreed to a service with a mehitza where only boys read from the Torah.

The rabbinut denied that this was an official policy but did concede that local rabbinut may have different rules and that these may be responsible for the difficulties.

Loss of a kashrut certificate has severe economic implications for hotels. Hotels have little recourse when a local kashrut supervisor threatens to withdraw their kashrut certification.

At least two cases complaining against the policy of bundling non-food related behaviorial requirements with kashrut certification have gone before the Israeli Supreme Court.  The Kashrut (Prohibition of Deciet) law prohibits a food-service establishment from claiming it is kosher unless it receives a certificate from the state run rabbinut.

In the 1980’s the rabbinut tried to withhold kashrut certificates from establishments that allowed belly dancers on the premises.  In 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that it was not the intent of the Kashrut Law to empower a rabbi to force a business or its customers to act in compliance with religious law on non food related matters.    They could not use kashrut to prohibit belly dancers, New Year’s parties, or even Christmas parties.

In 2009, the Supreme Court found that a kashrut certificate could not be withheld from an Ashdod baker even though she believed Jesus was the Messiah.  The court ruled that “The Kashrut Law states clearly that only legal deliberations directly related to what makes the food kosher are relevant, not wider concerns unrelated to food preparation,” .

The bundling of rules about how a Torah may be used with kashrut certification is clearly against the Supreme Court ruling.   However fighting a loss of kashrut certification in the Supreme Court is a potentially lengthy process.   In the meantime the restaurant risks loss of revenue from kashrut observant clients.

Even with a successful suit, it may be difficult to get the relevant ministries to comply with the Supreme Court decision.   It is not uncommon for civil rights organizations to have to file additional Supreme Court suits when a ministry fails to follow through on an earlier Supreme Court decision.  Thus many establishments prefer to play by the local rabbinut’s rules regardless of their legal rights or the rights of their customers.

Related articles in Jacob’s Bones:

Categories: Building a Just Israel, Exclusion of Jews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

No Waitresses if you Want Badatz to Certify your Kashrut

A restaurant in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, Heimishe Esin ( ‘היימישע עסין’ ), was told that it could not hire waitresses on Thursday night if it wanted a Badatz kashrut certificate.  So he removed women from those shifts. Thursday is one of the busiest nights so it also means that women are excluded from a night where table tabs are high, customers frequent, and significant tips accumulate in the kitty.

Rehavia is a mixed religious neighborhood in the center of Jerusalem. It includes secular and religious Jews from many different streams of Judaism. The restaurant which serves classic Ashkenai home style meals attracts a lot of students from a nearby yeshiva but it also serves local secular and non-Haredi residents and has a large secular high school across the street.

A Badatz certificate increases the marketability of a restaurants food, especially in neighborhoods near Haredi insitutitions. The extra economic edge means that Bedatz can use economic incentives to encourage practices that are prejudicial against women employees.

Source: רוצים הכשר בדץ? אל תעסיקו מלצריות בחמישי, MyNet, 2012-03-08

Correction: The picture originally with this post incorrectly showed Badatz Edat Haredit.  The kashrut organization responsible is Badatz Agudat Israel.  The picture has been corrected.  Thank-you to commenter Daniel below for noting the oversight.

Categories: Extremism, Gender Segregation | Tags: , , | 19 Comments

Occupy Haagen-Dazs?

by Sid Slivko, cross-posted with permission from Got Talmud?

Two weeks ago, the Israel Rabbinate ruled that Haagen Dazs ice cream is no longer kosher. The reason: Haagen Dazs is made with real milk processed by non-Jews.  And while this may be kosher enough for the Orthodox Union (OU) which provides Haagen Dazs’ with its kashrut certification, it’s not sufficient for the Israel Rabbinate.

This is not the first time the Rabbinate has clashed with Diaspora rabbis in recent history .

In 2006, my wife, Michele Chabin, broke the story in the New York Jewish Week that the Israel Rabbinate would no longer automatically recognize Orthodox conversions from the Diaspora.  The Rabbinate demanded that Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora prove that they and their conversions met the criteria and standards set by the Rabbinate.  This unilateral decision, which took the Orthodox rabbis by surprise, meant that even those rabbis ordained by the most prestigious Orthodox institutions and respected in their communities, now needed the Israeli Rabbinate’s approval.

Two years later, after a series of frustrating negotiations, between the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and the Israeli Rabbinate, an arrangement was finally worked out which stipulated that  only those Orthodox conversions in the Diaspora that receive the official approval of  the Bet Din of America will be recognized by the Israel Rabbinate.  Furthermore, only those Diaspora rabbis on the Israel Rabbinate’s ‘short list’ would be authorized to do conversions. Those who were not could find their conversions disqualified by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel  – even retroactively – unless they could prove that their conversions met the standards set by the Rabbinate!

Why does this matter?  Because the Rabbinate is afraid that these Orthodox converts or their children will eventually come to,  and possibly seek to get married in, Israel — a very likely possibility.  And how can they possibly endorse a marriage when the bride or groom may not be Jewish according to their standards? (Remember, the Rabbinate has sole authority over Jewish weddings and divorces).

So, the Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora gave the Israel Rabbinate the keys to the kingdom.

Not everybody has been happy with this arrangement.   Even in Israel, the number of “dati” couples who turn to Itim and Tzohar – organizations that provide religious services and support outside the Rabbinate – is on the rise.  Today, in 2012, imposition of Israel Rabbinate standards on Diaspora communities, which the Rabbinate called “leShem Shamayim” – for the sake of heaven, has alienated a significant Jewish population and fragmented a global Jewish community that just cannot afford to be divided.

So what will be the Diaspora rabbis’ response to this ice cream freeze-out? Fight?  Give in?  Wait for the Israel Rabbinate to force its decision on Jewish communities around the world?  Occupy Haagen Dazs?

Talmudic tradition shows that these Israel/Diaspora rabbi wars go quite far back, and offers the following sound byte which seems aptly ironic:

אמר רבי אלעזר אמר רבי חנינא: תלמידי חכמים מרבים שלום בעולם, שנאמר כל בניך למודי ה’ ורב שלום בניך, אל תקרי בניך אלא בוניך. שלום רב לאהבי תורתך ואין למו מכשול; יהי שלום בחילך שלוה בארמנותיך; למען אחי ורעי אדברה נא שלום בך למען בית ה’ אלהינו אבקשה טוב לך;ה’ עז לעמו יתן ה’ יברך את עמו בשלום. (ברכות סד:א).

Rabbi Elazar said “Disciples of the Sages increase the peace in the world. As it says ‘All your children shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of your children [banayikh].  Do not read banayikh but bonayikh  [your builders]” – namely, rabbis.  (Berakhot 64a)

The Rabbi Elazar quoted here is Elazar ben Pedat, a Diaspora scholar who moved to Israel.  At first, his Diaspora behavior did not find favor among his colleagues in Tiberias, but he gained their respect and eventually became the head of the academy there.

Perhaps one day the Israel Rabbinate  will recognize that the their  Diaspora colleagues are no less learned than they are — maybe even in our generation —  and are responding legitimately and halakhically to a need the Israel Rabbinate just cannot appreciate.

Sid Slivko is an Orthodox Rabbi and Jewish educator living in Jerusalem, Israel. He studied and received ordination from Yeshiva University and the REITS rabbinical program

Categories: Diaspora and Israel, Exclusion of Jews | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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