Mar 14, 2012

Kashrus Organization Forces Owner To Fire Waitresses

Somehow, the hechsher organizations keep finding new rules to attach to their hechshers. Many unrelated policies that have been regularly added on to food supervision have added up over the years, and one must wonder why the kashrut has the ability to force its ever-changing policies unrelated to food on the food industry. I would even go so far as to say that it is high time the kashrut agencies were put in their place. Yes, they are necessary - for food supervision. They are not necessary for setting rules such as when people can sit, when restaurants can be open, and now that women cannot be employed.

The situation of the Heimishe Essen restaurant in Rehavia has been precolating around Israel andi in the news over the past few days. If you haven't heard, the restaurant has become very busy on Thursday nights, and has become popular mong many yeshiva students. While the restaurant has always employed waitresses, suddenly it has been decided that this is a problem.

The kashrut organization that certifies this restaurant, the kashrut of Agudas Yisrael, has decided that Heimishe Essen can no longer employ females as waitresses - at least not on Thursday nights. When the owner was hesitant to acquiesce, they threatened him with pulling the hechsher from the restaurant. The owner, having no choice, is on the verge of firing his waitresses. I guess it does not make sense for him to have the females hired to work all week long and hire another team of male waiters to work just Thursday nights.

The owner, who has been forced into this situation, says he is trying to find a solution that will make everyone happy. he says he has served everybody happily until now, both religious and non-religious alike, and there has never before been a problem.

If he does fire these waitresses, I will expect a lawsuit to be filed against him based on gender discrimination. I would hope that there would also then be a way to sue the kashrus organization, or to pass along the lawsuit to them.

As a result, various groups and peoples are banding together and planning a protest outside the restaurant tomorrow evening - Thursday, the busy night of the week. As part of the protest, some of those involved are also scheduling a sing-along with men and women as a way of hitting back at the extremists.

I don't know where they get all this power from. Fire someone just because of her gender? Where do they come up with this stuff anyway? This is a new demand - do they have a team of people in a dark room somewhere thinking up new things they can demand their clients comply with?

I think this restaurant owner, and any other restaurant owner treated similarly, should immediately tell the hechsher organization to pack its bags and leave the restaurant. There are plenty of organizations he can choose from, and if this one or that one wants to be crazy, he should switch. I feel bad for the restaurant owner who finds himself in a pickle, not of his own doing - he has now been thrown into the eye of the storm.

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  1. so, the kashrus organizations tell us there's nothing they can do as far as setting up rules for cleanliness or "humane" treatment of animals (prior to shechita), but for tznius they can set all the rules they want.

    Makes me trust our leaders more and more every day.

  2. 3 comments:

    1) Can Badatz really just pull its certification from anyone at any time for any reason? Do they really have no contractual obligations or accountability whatsoever and can just bully whomever they choose?

    2) If it bothers the yeshiva so much, shouldn't they simply tell their boys not to go to that restaurant? Why is this the restaurant's responsibility?

    3) If I ever scoff at the notion of Israel turning into Iran, please remind me of this story.

  3. Someone doesn't approve of the yeshiva boys putting themselves in that environment. Said someone is using a wimpy way to address it.

  4. Hmmm, so all the times that Rav Avi Shafran has condemned the Magen Tzedek hechsher because of its focus on non-food related issues and making it sound like they're part of kashrus must have been.... hypocrisy?

  5. its the Israeli Agudas Yisrael hechsher, not the Amrrican Aguda (which doesnt have a hechsher), so no, his hypocrisy is perhaps communal but not directly personal.

  6. "There are plenty of organizations he can choose from, and if this one or that one wants to be crazy, he should switch"

    Not really. if he wants a mehadrin hechsher that yeshiva bocherim would eat the other available organizations would probably demand the same.

    1. bohr - perhaps, now that this new bar has been set. Until now, no other organization has made a similar demand. perhaps they have demanded appropriate dress, nut not the firing of female waitresses

  7. No Rafi, Shafran is quite the hypocrite. In his recent tirade against Magen Tzedek he said, "...a restaurant where tzenius is lacking would all be rightfully subject to a machshir’s rejection."

    That statement completely undermined his entire argument against Magen Tzedek.

    This all part of the creeping crud of religious fundamentalism in Judaism.

  8. R' Shafran's recent defence of mtitza bpeh and attack on Magen Tzedek imho were not his strongest work (one is no good because it's not from us and the other is good because it is from us) - however what's worse here is that the waitresses were apparently dressed in an appropriate manner, it's their very existence that apparently has been deemed "untzniut"

  9. the Amrrican Aguda (which doesnt have a hechsher)

    LOL. Some might take this a different way :)

  10. From what I understand kashrus organizations have taken issue with belly dancing in restaurants for a long time.

    What isn't fair here, is that the restaurant has become wildly popular among these bachurim, and therefore they're getting this pressure. Male-only staff isn't a new requirement in all restaurants.

    Re Rabbi Shafran, I think his objections to Hechsher Tzedek was their intention to besmirch the Orthodox, and that he does agree that any real violation of halacha in non-kashus realms would be basis for pulling a hechsher.

    If a kashrus org would fail to pull a hechsher amidst non-halachic violations, or would pull it due to political issues, and then you ask Rabbi Shafran about it, then it might be as you say. Realistically it would make more sense for Rabbi Shafran to explain that while he can describe principles that he or the Agudah think should and shouldn't apply, ultimately they cannot answer for another organization - because they can't.

  11. Besides, they should just make a Thursday night bachurim area in the restaurant, with male waiters and no women seated nearby for that matter.

  12. I guess there is a certain amount of non-food related supervision that is fairly acceptable. I mean if a restaurant is open on Shabbos, the kashrut orgs do not give supervision - they dont allow that. That makes sense to me, as lack of Shabbat observance also means, halachically, lack of trustworthiness, which is, even with external supervision, a basis for kashrut certification. To disqualify JUST because someone is a woman (perhaps if there was immodesty involved, belly dancing, etc. this would also be ok to a certain extent) is over the line. And whats next - the kashrut org will then say that if there are any women customers allowed in on thursday nights they will pull their hechsher?

  13. "This restaurant is reserved for men only during the following times." That sounds more like the role of a community supervision, not a kashrus supervision. Ultimately the way the conservatives went with their hechsher tzedek by the way (changing the name and any mention of the term kashrus).


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