May 13, 2009

fringe benefits of working in kashrut

Here is an example of what is wrong with the kashrut system that we have. The mashgiach is directly involved with the site he is supervising. Often he is being paid by them, creating an obvious conflict of interests, but what is even worse is when they are caught giving extra benefits to the mashgiach.

A mashgiach for the Tel Aviv religious council was given free room and board at a hotel under his supervision. Supposedly he was not even on duty at the time he was given the free room and board (if he was on duty and had to be there during the holiday because of it, it is understandable as part of the arrangement that they provide him with the room and board). he denies it and they are looking into it. What actually happened, and whether it is accurate or not, does not interest me.

What does, is the fact that this happens. The hotel has the ability to give a benefit to the guy who is supposed to be supervising the kashrut. Will such a mashgiach who is receiving such benefits have the cojones to stand up to hotel management when he finds something wrong in the kitchen? It might only be a subconscious and subtle bribe, but it is a bribe nonetheless. This is one of the biggest problems with the hechsher system in Israel. Considering I have heard the heads of kashrut organizations complain about it as well makes me wonder why they don't bother changing it. Could be because despite it all they don't want the responsibility of paying the mashgichim and prefer, despite the problems, to dump it off on the hotel/restaurant. but it should be changed.


  1. It would seem to take away from his objectivity. However, in a technical halachic state I don't think that it takes away from his "neemanus". Mesiach lefi tumo is only required for a goy or someone who would otherwise not be trusted. Eid Echad neeman b'issurim is trusted even if he has an interest (it is different for testimony which requires 2 eidim). Therefore, even the owner of the store (if he has neemanus) can be relied upon. However, perhaps it isn't so clear. I don't remember exactly, but I believe that eid echad is not believed against a chazaka. So, we are testifying against chazaka like meat which is not kashered and he has to say it is kashered. The owner or worker is believed because it is "biyado", it is in his hands to kasher it, however a third party might not be. I don't remember. Anyway, it is an interesting topic.
    Also, it is interesting that it isn't the rabbonim who are bringing up these issues.

  2. This is a known issue with Rabbanut hechsherim.

    The fact is that in any case the restaurant/hotel pays the mashgiach's salary. In other words, if he pulls the hashgacha he loses his salary.

  3. Rafi,
    You should distinguish between Rabanut and Badatz hechsherim. Most Badatz hechsherim pay the mashgiach themselves
    But, 2 things
    1) Not sure how much this solves the conflict of interest. The Badatz is also interested in keeping the guy as one of their clients, and the mashgiach wants his job
    2) I know personally of one case where a mashgiach of rav rubin was being paid extra money on the side by the head of the food plant, for "overtime" and the like. Leave it to businessmen to find a way to buck the system

  4. "ki hashochad ye'aver ainei chachamim, vee'salaif divrei tzadikim".

  5. this goes on here in Chicago all the time. It's even worse when the business owner is a dominant aggressive personality and the "mashgiach" is a twenty year old. The "mashgiach" is a direct employee of the restaraunt and who here doesn't think that shenanigans are easy to occur? who wonders why so many frum jews see the hashgacha world as a business and sham, rather than a service provided?

  6. 20 yr old? shaya, you give them way to much credit, usually they are 16.

    maybe if farms hired mashgichim broccli and strawberries would still be kosher.

    ps, rafi, new blog but your roll doesn't update.

  7. See this article which mentions this issue.

  8. One of the best things about the KAJ (K'hal Adat Yeshurun, or the Yekkeshe community in NY) system of kashrut was that the mashgichim were employees of the shul (the kashrut organization), and only employees of the shul. They were never, ever, put into the position in which their objectivity even had a chance to be influenced. The other good thing about that hashgacha was that they were extremely strict as a general rule.


  9. Why do you say this is an Eretz Yisroel problem. Any kashrus, or any oversite organization has these issues. Perhaps you mean this is a Rabanut problem. Too true.

  10. shaya g, that pasuk is about dayanim not mashgichim. The ba'alei musar apply it (in a musar not-halachic sense) to others, and even then the Chazon Ish argues in sefer emuna ubitachon.
    However, as a policy it does seem wise for the mashgiach not to be an employee of the establishment.


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