Sep 13, 2017

a chink in the Rabbanut monopoly

The Supreme Court made a couple of important, and controversial, decisions yesterday affecting religious life in Israel.

One of those decisions caused another chink in the monopoly of the Rabbanut over kashrut in Israel.

The Supreme Court decision was basically the allowance of a food establishment to present, even in writing, the halachic standards it follows and that it is, if it is, supervised by some agency regarding those standards, as long as it does not use the word "kosher" - unless it is supervised by the Rabbanut. The Supreme Court believes that a restaurant owner has the right to tell its customers and potential customers what its standards are, regardless of the Rabbanut supervision - they just cannot use the word kosher in doing so.

So, while the Supreme Court upheld the Rabbanut monopoly on the word, and on the use of the word, "kosher", they went further than ever before in allowing restaurant owners with no Rabbanut supervision much more leeway in what they are allowed to tell the public about their kashrut.

The Rabbanut is understandably upset about this and considers it a breech that will allow "fake" kashrut organizations to flourish. They say the public that is undereducated and under-informed about the complexity of the relevant kashrut issues will not be able to make such determinations based on a statement of standards and whatnot and will easily be deceived about kashrut they are interested in keeping.

Good or bad, the Rabbanut is losing its monopoly and control, little by little. They really know this already, from other decisions in the past couple of years. In Jewish communities in countries around the world there is no central authority that has ultimate control and there is no reason to think Israel must have one and without it kashrut will suffer. it also does not mean Israel cannot have such a central authority, but if it wants to keep its control it will have to be far more forthcoming and cooperative than it is. At the end of the day, monopolies are almost never good for the final consumer. The Rabbanut has not yet made the case that it is an exception to that rule.

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