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Mar 30, 2009

Kosher Restaurants serving non-kosher

A recent blog post on a Hebrew blog is making some noise.

Maariv recently ran an important article on the issue of the fake "Badatzim" and how serious the problem is (rough English translation can be found here).

With that in the open, Dvorit Sargal, wrote in her blog about her memories of when she was a waitress.

She describes how she worked in a restaurant with Rabbanut kashrut along with "a wall full of kashrut certificates". The mashgiach would come in regularly, and check what he checks, he would eat his meal, sit down and take a snooze, and the chef would continue doing as he pleased. The steak was cooked in butter. the pareve soup was anything but. Milky items were cooked in fleishige pots. etc.

And, she says, nobody knew any better. The diners, religious, would sit there and eat their delicious meals without realizing they were eating anything but kosher food.

Sargal says the restaurant she worked in was not the exception, but the papers ont he wall are worthless. Any restaurant where the owner is not religious or somehow connected to religion cannot be relied upon to keep kosher, no matter how many kashrut certificates are on the wall.

Sargal concludes with two damning statements:
  1. Anybody who wants to keep kosher should eat at home. Only.
  2. If any newspaper would send a few steaks from random kosher restaurants to a laboratory for analysis of what is in them, the results would make the ground tremble.
Sargal does not say what restaurant she worked in, and we have no way of knowing what hechsher was on the walls. She is very vague in that regard. if she has testimony of fraud, she should be presenting it to the police. It is possible all that she writes is an exaggeration, though it would also be wrong to stick one's head in the sand and ignore her allegations.

Make sure you eat in a restaurant with a good and reliable hechser.

Or you can always shecht, and cook, your own meat..


  1. Once you say that the hechsherim are not reliable, why only restaurants and not every processed product with a hechsher?
    If you put the responsibility of the kashrus on the Rav Hamachshir, assuming he is trustworthy, if he is presented with the "evidence" he should be able to pasken and remove his hechsher if necessary.

  2. There is something that I really don't understand with hechsherim.
    How is coming once a day considered yotzei venichnas?
    Anyone care to explain?

    In the US I remember, that a mashgiach temidi was required for fleshige places, but not for milchige places. That also doesn't make much sense, because there is much to gain by switching cheese for example with gevinas akum. Unless maybe they rely on the Tosafos/yesh omrim in the rama that there is no problem with gevinas akum if in that place they don't make the cheese with animal stomach. There are still other things that they could add to improve the taste or to get a cheaper alternative. If the baal habayis or workers are not themselves trusted for kashrus, it would seem that a yotzei venichnas would be required.
    Having a mashgiach temidi everywhere (where there is a need for hashgacha) would greatly increase the already high cost of kosher food. Which is why perhaps, kosher food should just be bought from establishments which are themselves inherently reliable, no independent mashgiach required and a "rav hamachshir" should just be the one who sets policy of what is considered kosher and perhaps do an occasional inspection to see if there are any potential problems. However, that model might only work in a small town. If you would have a large factory or live in a large city how would you know if someone could be assumed to be reliable? Perhaps, a person could get a haskama from the local rav who would make it his business to know the person and look at references, but the owner would still be responsible for his own supervision.

  3. a further problem is that here much of the time the mashgiach collects his salary from the restaurant/establishment and not from the supervising agency.
    That creates a conflict of interests.

    About trustworthiness, generally we say "eid echad ne'eman b'isurin". The problem arises when money is involved, even normally trustworthy people often can no longer be trusted once it is a business.

  4. The masgiach can only be someone who will eat the food in that establishment period. If you aren't willing to eat the food there because it isn't to your standards, you can't be trusted to supervise it for others.

  5. I believe that eid echad is neeman beissurim even if money is involved.
    I think it is just limited if it is neged chazaka in which case he is only neeman if it is biyado. Correct me if I am wrong, it is from memory.
    It is a matter of policy NOT halacha that hechsherim don't trust even a frum owner.

  6. it could be. I was not aware of the nuance. If it is policy and not halacha, then the policy is based on what is perhaps a new reality that even religious people have been caught cheating often enough to save a bit of money...

  7. Yael,
    Can you provide a source for your assertion?
    Generally, eid echad neeman beissurim means that he testifies on the facts not that he paskens. If he says that the nothing happened to the food which violate the standards of the rav hamachshir, even if he personally holds himself to a higher standard why can't we trust him?

  8. I don't think there is a halacha saying what yael suggested, but it definitely looks bad when the mashgiach won't eat in a place he certifies.

    But it is understandable, as often a mashgiach is certifying for an organization offering lower standards than what the mashgiach himself might adhere to. For example, perhaps a mashgiach is makpid on glatt meat, but works for regular rabbanut and certifies a place that is non-glatt. So it is understandable that he will not eat there, even though it looks "bad" to the casual observer.

    It is really less of a problem when clear standards are being used, such as certify non-glatt even if you are makpid on glatt. When there is a lot of leeway on the end of the mashgiach and it depends more on him, then it looks worse.

  9. Rafi G,
    If that is the reality, then why are the hechsherim any more reliable than the owners. The hechsherim can also save money e.g. by assigning one mashgiach to 20 establishments, by not being so exacting on their clients. The mashgiach himself can work another job (or just take a nap) while he is supposed to be a mashgiach.
    If we can't trust anyone else, life will become unbearable. How do you know that the water you drink or the pills that you buy won't kill you?
    Maybe your wife is buying traif meat to save money and you don't even know it?

    Society is built on trust along with some checks and balances.
    It is true that the more we trust the more we may be cheated, but the alternative of not trusting at all could completely undo all of society.
    We need to find a healthy balance between trust and skepticism.

  10. anon - I agree. therefore you have to find the hecsher/im that claim to keep the standards you wish to follow, and then it is "on their heads" so to speak.

    or you can go the route of not trusting anybody, shechting your own meat, separating your own truma and maaser, making all your food from scratch, etc.

  11. Rafi G,
    That is one approach, but perhaps you could go even further.

    I don't think it is reasonable for every individual to research every issue, choose their standards, and then go over every single standard that they have with every hechsher that they would like to eat from.
    If there is a posek behind the hashgacha who is paskening that it is OK, then perhaps you can rely on his pesak and don't have to research his standards. Rabbanim disagree on many things, but often if one rav paskened ok another rav doesn't call the one rav to find out exactly what happened they just rely on the psak. (It is different if they already know the circumstances and have a problem with it.) Could you imagine what life would be like otherwise?

  12. Again, I agree. Most people, myself included, don't know what most of the issues are and do not even know what to ask.
    So you choose to keep the mehadrins and badatzes that are well known - maybe chasam sofer, eidah, belz, machpud, Beit Yosef, aguda, she'airis, rubin, Kook, etc in no particular order. Then you hear about all the politics involved and question whether one of the ones you follow is really ok or not, but you have no way to know.
    Then you walk into a restaurant and see a badatz you never heard of. Is it good or is it a fraud? How do you find out?

  13. I don't see how you can trust a "badatz" that you never heard of.
    If it is a Rabbanut, even if they are more lenient, at least there is a known overseeing body that certifies Rabbanim to be a Rav Ha'ir, and defines minimum standards for kashrus.
    If it is a badatz, unless the management/rav hamachshir of the badatz is a known entity, all you have is a piece of paper that anyone could make.

  14. Yael,

    So an Ashkenazi mashgiach can't supervise a kitniyot resturant? Or where issues with different Ashkenazi and Sefardi p'sak come up? Or if someone is a nazir, he can't give hechsher to a place that serves wine?

  15. Is there anyone out there with any inside knowledge on the Chattam Sofer issue.

    A couple of years ago, we were directed to a prominent Rav, who told us that BB in out PT is in. It then turned out that he had recently started working for PT, so there goes objectivity.

    Now with Pesach upon both BB and PT have more items with their hechsherim than anyone else. It's frustrating to not be able to buy when you don't know what the problem is.

  16. Hi there
    First of all, thanks for the correct translation.
    1. My last name is Shargal (with h).
    2. I do not exaggerate.
    3. The specific restaurant i worked in do not exist any more (onesh mishamaim)
    4. I do believe that nothing changed, and that it was not a unique case.
    5. You can read the comments in Behadrey Haredim.

  17. velvet - thank for visiting and commenting.. I apologize for misspellign the last name. You can never be sure how to write it in English, when you are taking it from the Hebrew... sorry. and thanks for the original post

  18. when my brother was 19 he worked under the mashgiach of a Miami Beach hotel that was kashered for Pesach.

    The things that he witnessed bothered him so much that he has never eaten at a Pesach hotel since and would warn anyone that it is IMPOSSIBLE to rely on ANY hashgacha of any hotel for Pesach.

  19. Re: Chatam Sofer B.B.

    Since I am commenting anonymously you will have to verify the facts.

    1. I heard from a reliable source that Rav Zev Leff stopped using Chatam Sofer B.B.

    2. Chatam Sofer B.B. is listed as an acceptable Hechsher (at least for pareve items) on Rav Malinowitz's list of acceptable hechsherim for Beis Tefilla Y.A. shul events.

    3. The Star-k (star-k.org) lists it as an acceptable Israeli Hashgacha (although their list might be dated, so please confirm).

    4. I was listening to R. Avraham Yosef's radio program and someone asked him about Chatam Sofer. He refused to respond about a specific hechsher, but he did say that for the products that he supervises (as Rav of Holon) he tries to use products from Badatz Eida Hacharedit, Badatz Bet Yosef, and IIRC Rav Landau, because he sees them as raising the level of kashrut.


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