Israel’s Supreme Court on Wednesday issued an absolute order for the Chief Rabbinate to implement its new plan severing within 14 months the economic ties between kashrut inspectors and the businesses they supervise.
“Without harming many inspectors who do their jobs faithfully, the lure of their desire to keep their place of employment is liable to become ‘an obstacle before a blind man’ to those who believe in the kashrut supervision and in the responsibility of kashrut certification, should, God forbid, the connection between an inspector and an inspected yield, in some cases, spoiled fruits,” wrote the head of the judicial panel, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, who happens to be an observant Jew.
“An obstacle before a blind man” is a halachic term meaning causing a person to transgress unknowingly, as in the case of dining in a restaurant that displays a kashrut certificate but serves non-kosher ingredients because the inspector has turned a blind eye.
According to the Chief Rabbinate’s plan, which has the support of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, professional kashrut supervisors will not receive their salaries from the businesses they inspect, but rather from their local religious council.
Business owners will pay a fixed fee to the religious council, which will pay the inspectors’ wages.
The Chief Rabbinate faces a long and arduous path before the implementation of what appears on its face to be a sensible plan. Existing legislation must be amended, and then there’s dealing with the kashrut supervisors union, which strongly opposes the reform, fearing that an open and transparent pay method would adversely affect their work conditions, not to speak of their income.
Which is why the Supreme Court has taken the matter out of the Chief Rabbinate’s hands, setting a firm goal date: debates, planning, and a new system must be completed by the end of June, 2018, allowing for trial runs to b concluded by September 1, 2018, when the new system must be implemented.
Many in Israel, including MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) and alternative Orthodox kashrut service Hashgacha Pratit founder Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, pointed out that the high court did not trust the professed good intentions of the Chief Rabbinate, which is why it enforced specific and rather tight deadlines.
Both MK Azaria and Rabbi Leibowitz believe the only reliable solution for the state of kashrut inspections in Israel would be to open up the market to new inspection services.