Feb 26, 2018

The hechsher that broke the Rabbanut's back

Tzohar announced the opening of a new kashrut certification under their umbrella. The Rabbanu tis very upset and is warning that if Tzohar goes through with it this will do a lot of damage to the state religious services and to the Rabbanut specifically.

I don't get why they are so nervous and why they think this will cause them so much damage.

I might or might not rely on this new hechsher. I might or might not rely on the Rabbanut hechsher. You might or might nor rely on this or that hechsher.

The fact is that there are already a dozen or more private hechshers functioning at very high levels with holdings in significant portions of the food marketplace. What is the big deal that one more is opening up? Why is one more so damaging? Some people will rely on it, and some people will not, just like every other hechsher in the country including the Rabbanut and including every single Badatz.


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18 comments:

  1. Tzohar is supported/staffed by very Torani non-chareidi Jews, so they are the most legitimate competitors.

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  2. Tzhoar's certification is different from the existing bedatzim. All the mainstream Bedatzim place their hechsher on products in addition to the Rabbanut, not instead of. I.e., they are certifying that the product is not only Kosher by the standards laid down by the Rabbanut, but also meets their standards (which they claim are higher).

    Tzohar is offering a service INSTEAD of the Rabbanut, i.e, they may have establishments that do not meet the standards of the Rabbanut, but meet Tzohar's standards (which may be higher or lower than the local Rabbanut)

    Personally, if an establishment does not have a Teuda from the local Rabbanut, I do not eat there. I'm not interested in a restaurant that claims to be kosher because the guy has a big beard, or there is a picture of the Baba Sali, or have a certificate from hashgacha Pratit or some Bedatz that I've never heard of. Don't see why that would change with Tzhohar (even through in fairness to them they are more transparent than most bedatzim).

    This means that if I'm in Shoham, I would eat at an establishment with a Rabbanut teuda signed by Rav Stav, but would not eat in a different city with a "Certificate of supervision" signed by a Mashgiach trained by Rav Stav's organization.

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    1. isnt that illegal? isnt that exactly what Hashgacha Pratit got in trouble for and lost some cases in court?
      if Tzohar is certifying without the Rabbanut, they will be taken to court and they will be told they cannot put up a teuda using the word "kosher" or any such implication

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    2. Rafi - SC ruled that it's not illegal if you don't say "kosher" (i.e., the teudah can say "Under the supervision of so-and-so" and it's fine). The Rabbanut tried to fine restaurants who did so, but the fines were thrown out.

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    3. Michael - Why do you trust a local Rabbanut more than another organization that you trust (assuming you trust the organization)? I understand that until recently, a local Rabbanut's hechsher was required, and a if a restaurant did not have one it raised a red flag. But with the recent SC ruling (see my above comment) lack of a Rabbanut Teuda means nothing.

      Tzohar might be better, since you would have to know each local Rabbanut to know how reliable they are; they are, in essence, independent hechsherim. But Tzohar (or any of the various Badatzim, or even Hashgacha Pratit for that matter) is a single organization which will have uniform standards, irrespective of where the hechsher is being given.

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    4. yoni - that's my point. there are ways around it with the wording that wont make it illegal - if they use the word kosher without the rabbanut on as well, they will be taken to court, but anything they do that is not illegal is just a matter of trust the same as with any hechsher. you might or might not trust them and rely on them but that is a personal issue

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  3. Yoni,

    One of the things I like about the system in Israel as there is a uniform standard set by the Rabbanut, and that is a standard that I know I rely on. As soon as there are private organizations with competing standards, as a consumer I need to research each organization, determine what their standards are, and then determine whether I accept their position on each standard they set.
    I am reasonably informed about halacha, but don't want to stop and research the hachsher before sitting down in a restaurant. And for a tourist or someone who doesn't speak Hebrew or familiar with the details of halacha, that may be impossible.

    If a "Hasgacha Pratit" establishment tells me that they are closed on Shabbat, only uses Gush Katif Vegetables, and all products are parev or Milchig. Can I assume that they took trumot and Maasrot and Challa? Can I assume that they checked their rice and toivelled their Keilim?

    Tzohar is a reliable organization, and as long as they offer services such as weddings under the auspices of the Chief rabbanut (as they do), they have my full support. Once they start setting up their own list of standards which may be higher or lower than those of the Rabbanut, I have no time to review each of their policies, determine how it is different from the rabbanut, and then decide whether to trust it.

    What's more worrying, if Tzohar succeed, it is only a matter of time before we have other organizations certifying "Kosher style" or "Kosher but open on Shabbat" (they will find ways to do it without using the word "Kosher") and this is certainly going to mislead the public.

    For comparison's sake, in some cities such as Toronto or Melbourne, there is one accepted kshrut authority (COR in Toronto), which is accepted by everyone from the Bobov community to the Conservative institutions. In New York there are dozens of competing Hachsherim, some are acceptable and some aren't - I have been with religious teenagers from Toronto visiting new York who bought Hot Dogs from a corner stand because the non-Jewish stand owner assured them it was Kosher because and showed them the packaging from the Shofar Hotdogs. They had no way of knowing that the standards of kashrut on that product are not what they would be used to.

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    1. The COR monopoly in Toronto has been broken.

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    2. To your first point, the Rabbanut system isn't uniform. Each local Rabbanut operates according to its own set of practices. Plus, there's regular Rabbanut, Rabbanut Mehudar, Rabbanut Mehadrin, regular Rabbanut-but-all-the-meat-is-chalak, etc., often in the same city. So there's no uniform set of practices.

      You won't have to research a hechsher before you go to a restaurant. You'll check, once, and decide if you trust a hechsher, and then when you check if a restaurant
      has supervision, you'll only eat in the ones with a hechsher you trust.

      Tzohar entering the market is not what's opening the door to dubious kashrut claims. The SC decision enables anyone to give supervision and even appear to be kosher, as long as they pass the "magic words" test. Tzohar is taking advantage of this, and offering a hechsher which is (most likely to be) similar to the one the Rabbanut currently gives.

      I'm pretty sure that it would take you less time to review the Tzohar practices (once they've been decided upon and published) than it took you to write your comment, so I don't buy that argument. For that matter, I have a feeling that finding a copy of their practices may take considerably less time than finding the Rabbanut's (extrapolating from how simple HP has made it to find theirs).

      For what it's worth, Tzohar rabbis don't perform weddings "under the auspices of the Chief rabbanut." By law, weddings between Jews have to be reported to the local Rabbanut. Besides paperwork, there's little in the way of "auspices" involved.

      A larger point is that I can't understand why you're assuming an organization of Orthodox rabbis should be suspect. They're not breaking the law, and they're not taking any shortcuts. They're just non-governmental.

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    3. With regard to the statement "I have a feeling that finding a copy of their practices may take considerably less time than finding the Rabbanut's" - thought I would test it - searched for "הרבנות הראשית לישראל כשרות", first hit was https://www.gov.il/he/Departments/Topics/national_kosher which seems to be a pretty detailed description of their standards and processes.

      With regard to the rest of your comments, a good argument, but personally I don't eat in restaurants without Rabbanut kashrut, if there is an establishment which claims to be "Bedatz Beit Yosef" or some other private Bedatz, I check that they also have a teuda from the local rabbanut before eating there. I would do the same with a Tzohar certificate (i.e., only eat there is they also are certified by the local rabbanut)

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    4. 1. Didn't find any specific practices.
      2. Why would you insist on Rabbanut hechsher in addition? I understand previously, but it's been established that it's not illegal (as long as the private Badatz hechsher omits the word "kosher"). I have a feeling that within a few years you'll be hard-pressed to find a restaurant which has a Rabbanut hechsher plus a private one.

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  4. Michael - a consumers ignorance as to the standards of a hechsher he might or might not eat from is a separate issue and has nothing to do with the Rabbanut. As a matter of fact, many make the same claim about the Rabbanut, that it is not reliable, not up to standards, and people just dont know. But that is besides the point. People should take care to figure out what standards are acceptable to them and then find out which hechsher provides those standards. The excuse that some people might not know is not a reason to say a specific hechsher should not give hashgacha, as long as they are not trying to deceive anyone. If they are reliable rabbis and certifying kosher food, the specific standards are for each person to become knowledgeable about and make his or her own decision about

    your loyalty to the Rabbanut is admirable, but as long as they are not doing anything illegal (using words like kosher or whatever), I see them as being no different than any other private hechsher.

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  5. COR was not happy when Krispy Kreme came in and challenged their monopoly in Toronto. KSA gave hashgacha to them under conditions that COR had outright rejected. The main argument was whether they were a manufacturer (allowed to be open on Shabboat) or a retailer (not allowed to be open on Shabbat). COR also didn't accept that a teudah could be removed before Shabbat and returned after Shabbat. COR went as far as opening an investigation into KSA and announcing that it was a hasgacha that they would no longer recognize.

    COR argued the importance of having a consistent, standard, definition of Kashrut that the entire community can rely on. The odd thing was due to the COR ruling, people would drive to Buffalo to enjoy Krispy Kreme donuts under the KSA. Some people saw the COR position as being a reasonable approach to protecting the interests of the community. Others saw it as an attempt to protect their pocket book (Can't spell corruption without COR). Any ruling they made had a tendency to be viewed from these two angles.

    For a period of time I asked different people what factors determined which hashgachot they accepted and which ones they don't. Nobody gave me a specific reason why one was considered acceptable by them or not. I found many people made shmita decisions based on the same level of knowledge. I also had trouble finding an answer of why it was OK to buy from a local pizza shop that didn't have hashgacha, in many cases by the same people who do not hold by the Rabbanut.

    The Rabbanut might be considered about kashrut standards for the country or they might be worried about protecting their pocket book. Either way the Rabbanut will see Tzohar as a threat.

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    1. I can see a reaosnable argument in a town with one hechsher that it should stay so. Of course free market and the benefits of competition say otherwise, but I can see the ideal of the entire town working within one organization and kashrut body. Similarly in Elizabeth it used to be (maybe still is) that all the shuls were under the auspices of Rabbi teitz and basically the entire town followed the same rules and minhagim. I can see that as being an ideal, and treating someone new trying to break into the market and to break that situation as being problematic. Israel kashrut doesnt have that situation, so even if you believe there is such an ideal situation of one hechsher, one rabbinic body, Israel is nowhere near that and Tzohar joining the fray does not change that

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    2. Someone in Toronto went to a Kosher Style restaurant. On the receipt the word Kosher was used. They brought the information to COR so that they could take action, for misrepresenting the word Kosher.

      Nobody can say they are kosher without the approval of the Rabbanut. There are tons of kashrut organizations that are supposed to act lchumra from what the Rabbanut offer. No organization could be more lenient than the Rabbanut because they set the country wide standard for Kashrut. (Example: Rabbanut issuing a kashrut alert for a product with an unauthorized hashgacha, even though it has an OU.) If any establishment served that product they would be at risk of losing their Teudah no matter how frum any additional hashgachot they have are.

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    3. OU has different standards from the Rabbanut. On some issues they are stricter, on others they are more lenient. So for example, I believe that the Rabbanut would reject a product that contains Chadash even if it has an OU on the package.

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    4. Rafi G -- Elizabeth is not as you say. There was another shul in town, the rav never protected his own kashrut clients, and in their homes, perfectly shomer shabbat people do other than the local rav (within the bounds of halacha.)

      MS -- the OU will certify chalav stam items, the rabbanut insists on yisrael witnessing the milking. The OU insists on (what is called) glatt, the rabbanut does not. (Opposite of the milk).

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    5. Agree with Michael Sedley. There must be a basic standard in order for everyone to be able to trust what they are buying or ordering.

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