web analytics
July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Probing Kashrut Pitfalls In Jerusalem: An Interview with Investigative Journalist Yechiel Spira


Yechiel Spira is part of a new breed of Internet-based Orthodox investigative journalist. The native New Yorker, who made aliyah in 1984, is on the front lines of Jerusalem’s “almost anything goes” kosher-food industry via his Jerusalem Kosher News website (www.jerusalemkoshernews.com).

In an interview with The Jewish Press, Spira spoke about why he started Jerusalem Kosher News and the effect his reporting has had on Israel’s kashrut industry.

The Jewish Press: Had you ever dabbled in journalism or kashrut before starting Jerusalem Kosher News?

Spira: I have a background in catering, the kosher meat industry and other food-related fields. I would like to stress that I am not a rabbi but a kashrut investigator/journalist. My goal is to bring readers accurate information, to permit people to make their own decision or provide them with sufficient information to probe a kashrut matter with a rav.

When and why did you start Jerusalem Kosher News?

I launched it about 30 months ago, with the hope of educating the public on the standards prevalent in the Israeli marketplace, as well as with the belief that an informed kosher consumer should make his or her own decisions based on knowledge, not false presumptions. I came to the realization that people, including my own family, haven’t a clue as to the kashrut pitfalls in Jerusalem.

Even residents of the religious neighborhoods like Har Nof are sometimes unaware of the problems. I decided to begin educating my children and my close friends and somehow that snowballed into creating JKN.

How many people in Israel and abroad read and/or subscribe?

Thousands subscribe – it’s free of charge, by the way – and the website continues to climb. We’re passing 170,000 monthly viewers, and JKN also features a newly-launched Facebook page.

I have also developed a working relationship with many kosher agencies abroad that regularly send me e-mails and call me with requests to probe matters of kashrut for them. I do my best to cooperate, time permitting. Remember, this is a volunteer effort. I must also make a parnassah in addition to my kosher reporting.

Does the Chief Rabbinate cooperate with you? What about other kashrut agencies?

The staff of the Chief Rabbinate are generally very cooperative, especially Rabbi Rafi Yochai, who heads the Kashrut Enforcement Division. Some of the private agencies, the so-called badatzim, are hesitant. Perhaps they fear my probing will tarnish their names.

The attitude in Israel is different from what it is in North America. While there should be transparency, I have difficulty getting rabbonim to give me their names on the phone. They’ll ask, “Why do you want to know?” They are seemingly unaccustomed to giving relevant information to a curious consumer.

I am working to get local residents into the habit of phoning kashrut agencies more frequently to demand explanations. At the end of the day, the many legitimate kashrut agencies are making a handsome living and, with very few exceptions, are not operating out of the goodness of their hearts.

Do the kashrut agencies respond to some aspects of your reporting?

Only when the attack is negative, and then they usually come out swinging. Once they see that my reports are supported by the facts, they calm down. But there have been some extremely uncomfortable moments, threats and shouts. But here I am, still doing my thing.

What are the biggest scandals or problems associated with kashrut you’ve found in Jerusalem?

The most common, and perhaps the most serious, involve stores advertising themselves as “kosher” or “kosher-mehadrin” while lacking legitimate kosher certification. Even more disturbing is the fact that some members of the religious community continue to patronize these establishments. Some people are unaware and some are unable to navigate the kashrut scene in Hebrew – and that includes tourists and new immigrants alike.

Is the Machane Yehuda market becoming a big kashrut problem?

It is not beginning to become a problem – it has always been a problem. It is a microcosm of the entire city. The difference is that the market is concentrated and home to hundreds of thousands of shoppers on a weekly basis. Thus, the problems are more painful since so many people fall prey to their own false kashrut assumptions.

The “shuk” is a difficult business community, one that the state kashrut enforcement people prefer to avoid.

What should American tourists look for when patronizing a falafel/pizza store or even a meat restaurant?

I don’t rate agencies, but my pocket kashrut guide and website list the acceptable hechsherim, as well as the growing list of unauthorized hechsherim as defined by the Chief Rabbinate.

One must discard the notion that everything in Israel – even Jerusalem – is kosher. It’s a noble dream – but simply not true. As is true in your home community, if you do not recognize a hechsher, turn around and walk out. Don’t make the assumption that it is OK even if you see frum-looking people eating there. They too may have been duped.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Probing Kashrut Pitfalls In Jerusalem: An Interview with Investigative Journalist Yechiel Spira”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.
Obama Trying to Make US Leftist Jews “Mainstream’
Latest Indepth Stories
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.

  A recent meeting between National Security Council officials and the left-wing Breaking the Silence group barely made headlines but was a significant move in President Barack Obama’s agenda to justify his view that Israel is an “occupier.” It was President Obama who succeeded in removing AIPAC as the default representative of what is called […]

peace in our time iran

Those who suggest further capitulation to Iran are wrongly harming the interests of the West.

Haneen Zoabi (L) and Basel Ghattas (R), Arab members of Israel's parliament, both participated in flotillas attempting to break Israel's legal naval blockade of the Gaza strip.

Few Arab Israelis found anything positive in the decision of its MKS to join any Gaza flotilla.

Obama was all smiles for Israel's Ambassador Oren when they met in the White House.

US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi

New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm

PM Netanyahu this week identified ISIS and Iran as Israel’s primary threat. It is a planetary threat that carries the promise of peace.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

More Articles from Steve K. Walz
: Israeli soldiers leave Gaza late Monday. A three-day cease-fire brokered by Egypt put an end, at least temporarily, to the fighting. See story, above.

As of Tuesday, all IDF forces operating in Gaza withdrew and redeployed to holding positions around Gaza.

Walz-080114-Map

The operation against the tunnels is a first and necessary step in the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip.

The sophisticated cement tunnels, which cost hundreds of millions of dollars, were reportedly built with Qatari government funds.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the nation on Tuesday afternoon that if the rocket fire did not stop by Tuesday evening, he would order “an even harsher” military response.

“They were abducted and murdered in cold blood by human animals,” Netanyahu said shortly after the bodies were found.

Awad had been released as part of the Gilad Shalit kidnapping deal. Mizrachi’s widow, Hadas, told Israeli reporters that she had opposed the release of murderers as part of any kidnapping deal, and that Awad “deserved the death penalty so he wouldn’t kill again.”

If the abductors’ goal was to force Israeli authorities to release long-serving Palestinian prisoners, the effort backfired as Israeli forces are quickly rolling up what was left of Hamas in the West Bank and are reportedly contemplating the overthrow of the Hamas leadership in Gaza should harm come to the three teenagers.

Netanyahu brushed aside Lapid’s political threats, saying that he was either too politically inexperienced or unaware of the true nature of the peace negotiations with Abbas.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/probing-kashrut-pitfalls-in-jerusalem-an-interview-with-investigative-journalist-yechiel-spira/2010/05/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: