Photo Credit: Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90
Wine barrels at the Barkan winery.

The Badatz Ha’Eda Ha’Haredit, considered one of the most stringent kashrut certification in Israel, is freezing the granting of a kashrut status to the Barkan wineries, following the reinstatement of members of the Ethiopian community in the company’s wine production department.

Earlier this week, Channel 1 News revealed that the director of the Barkan Winery had removed three Ethiopian workers from the production process, following instructions from Badatz.

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According to a halachic decree, Jews may not drink wine that was produced by a gentile because of the suspicion that the wine was involved in an idol worship ceremony. This was extended by the sages to any unpasteurized wine that was even touched by a gentile. The Badatz does not accept Ethiopian Israelis as Jewish.

The directive led to harsh criticism of the winery, as President Reuven Rivlin said that “Ethiopian Jews for centuries were willing to sacrifice their lives for their Jewishness.” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein tweeted: “I find it difficult to believe that there is one Jew who will refuse to drink wine produced by Ethiopian Jews.” And so, on Wednesday, Yesterday, the winery’s director convened the three employees and informed them of their immediate return to work in their original jobs.

Badatz kashrut stickers were already being prepared for the Barkan bottles, following a lengthy kashering process that included moving the Ethiopians from wine production jobs, when Channel 1 sparked a public uproar that resulted in reinstating the Ethiopians.

Rabbi Gavriel Pappenheim, executive director of the Badatz, claims that the kashrut certification is frozen only in some of the winery’s production lines, “until a clarification is made about an Ethiopian worker.” But a surfer who inquired with the Barkan wineries on Facebook whether the winery would continue its Badatz relationship was answered: “Barkan wineries do not carry a Badatz certification.”

Uri Almanach, chairman of the workers’ committee at the winery, told Channel 2 that the management realized that its move was not right. “Everyone is back on their jobs, everything is fine,” Almanach said, adding that there are still things to be discussed on the subject.

“We’d like to see that [the reinstatement] becomes part of our routine,” the union shop steward said, explaining that it’s not yet clear whether the Barkan company has decided to end its Badatz plans.

“This winery was number one even without the Badatz Ha’Eda Ha’Haredit and will remain that way,” said Almanach. “We will help getting everything back to normal.”

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