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Jun 26, 2018

Eida discriminates against Ethiopian Jews in kashrut

the following is a shocking report in the news that was just exposed. Briefly, the Barkan Winery decided to change kashrut supervision organizations and take on the supervision of the Eida Hachareidis. Among the requirements of the Eida to grant the certification was to get the Ethiopian workers off the line producing the wine - they could be moved to other parts of the business. Barkan decided to comply, as business is business and that's what is required - they are desperate to break into the market of people who will only accept Eida hechsher..

People, including politicians, are comparing this to the Nazi selections. I don't like any comparisons to Nazis, unless it includes mass murder and concentration camps it seems uncalled for, as horrible as this behavior might be.

So, who is to blame - the Eida or Barkan management? The Eida demanded it as a requirement, but Barkan went along with it without even putting up a fight and just sacrificed them on the altar of entering a new market.

Most interestingly, Chief Rabbi Rav Yitzchak Yosef criticized the Eida harshly for this and claimed it is pure racism and there is no halachic reason for such a demand. More specifically, Rav Yosef suggested that it could be problematic relying on them for strict kashrut supervision when they are involved in being lenient regarding the character assassination of people who's only fault is the color of their skin. (source: Kikar)

I think a boycott of the Eida hechsher, as many are calling for right now, is nearly impossible. Especially if you live in a largely Haredi area where the Eida has the lions share of the market. However you can give preference to other hechshers that you rely on, when you have the choice. If you see two products one with the Eida and the other with Rubin or Mahfoud or Belz or whatever it might be, if you accept the second hechsher, prefer to take that one instead of the one with the Eida. The individual consumer cannot do much to these giant manufacturers and hechshers, but what little we can do we should. And Barkan as well - buy a different wine, when you can. A Barkan boycott is more feasible, and some are calling for it, though any winery using the Eida hechsher presumably has the same issue - though maybe they aren't employing Ethiopians to start with, so maybe it just never came up.

I feel it is important to include the full statement in response issued by the Eida. There are also a couple of interesting points in it.

בד"ץ העדה החרדית מכבד את הקהילה האתיופית בארץ ואת תרומתה הגדולה לחברה בישראל.
יהודים רבים שעלו מאתיופיה, מועסקים במפעלים בהשגחת בד"ץ העדה החרדית וידועים בעבודתם המסורה מתוך כבוד הדדי ואמון מלא.
במהלך העליות השונות מאתיופיה הגיעו לארץ עולים שאינם יהודים ולכן התבקשו על ידי הרבנות הראשית לישראל לעבור גיור לחומרה
בשל המחוייבות של בדץ העדה החרדית לאוהבי היין שומרי הכשרות המהודרת ביותר, נזהר הבד"צ שבעתיים בתהליך ייצור היין על ידי מי שיש ספק ביהדותו.
הבד"ץ העדיף במקרה זה, לעשות הכללה, כדי לא לפגוע בעובד זה או אחר ולכן ביקש להעביר שלושה עובדים יקרים למחלקה אחרת במפעל, מבלי לפגוע בפרנסתם, ובכך מנע פגיעה אישית בעובדים.

גם הרבנות הראשית לישראל פועלת באופן דומה.

בד"צ העדה החרדית פנה לאחרונה לאחד מראשי רבני העדה האתיופית בארץ והוא נעתר לבקשתם לסייע בבדיקת יהדות כפי שהוא נוהג עבור עולים מאתיופיה המבקשים להינשא. כל עולה חדש או ותיק אם ירצה יכול לקבל בקלות רבה בירור יהדות ואישור יהדות.

The Badatz Eida Hachareidis respects the Ethiopian community in Israel and its contribution to Israeli society.
Many Jews who made aliya from Ethiopia are employed in factories under the certification of the Badatz Eida and are known for their dedicated work with mutual respect and full trust.
During the various mass aliya events Ethiopians who are not Jewish also came to Israel, and therefore the Rabbanut of Israel requested they undergo a conversion to Judaism "lchumra" - to be sure. 
Due to the commitment of the Eida to those who love wine and also want the most mehuderet kashrut, the Badatz is especially careful regarding the production of wine by anybody with even the slightest doubt of his Jewish status.
The Badatz prefers in this case to generalize, in order to not hurt any specific employee, and therefore had 3 employees transferred to a different department in the factory, so as to not hurt their livelihood, and thereby avoided any personal insult or harm to the employees.
The Rabbanut also acts similarly
The Badatz Eida recently approached the head of the Ethiopian community in Israel to assist in clarifying the Jewish status, as has been done for Ethiopian immigrants registering to marry. Any immigrant, new or old, can easily get his status clarified and receive a confirmation of Jewish status.

A few interesting points in the response:
1. perhaps most interesting is the claim that the Rabbanut does the same. If they do, why hasnt any report come out about that - especially with the news always looking to criticize the Rabbanut nowadays? And if they do, I find it strange that Rav Yitzchak Yosef would criticize the Eida so harshly if the Rabbanut has the same policy. And if they do not, I await a response from the Rabbanut with a strong denial
2. They generalize so as not to hurt any individual, so instead they just go and hurt everybody.
3. Even with a giyyur lchumra, if it needed to be done and was done, those people are Jewish, so what is the purpose of this?
4. If they can easily check the status of any specific Ethiopian immigrant, why not just check the status of these 3 employees, quietly, and approve them to continue working if their Jewish status is confirmed or move them over if their status as Jews is denied?

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  1. If the specific employees involved refused "Giyur L'Chumra" and that is why they were moved, then The Eida is following its own standards for who is a Jew, which is reasonable.
    If the Eida insists that ALL Ethiopians are under suspicion, because some refused "Giyur L'Chumra", that is racism and should be prosecuted.

    In either case, in my opinion there are serious issues with the Eida's Halachic stance on a variety of political and halachic issues, for many years I personally have tried to avoid products with the the Eida, although as Rafi pointed out, it is almost impossible to boycott them completely.

    (All of the wine in the supermarket near my work carries the Eida, believe me I checked, but I still buy wine there because it is convenient)

  2. If you eat tuna w/o a eideh hecsher you might be eating swordfish... rav ovadya yosef says it is kosher and goes with tuna

  3. Untill about 1977 EVERYONE held the ethiopians needed גרות לחומרא . In 1977 ROY reversed his position and called the jews... take your chances, just like tuna...

  4. Nothing surprising about Rav Yosef's strong statement.
    Typical for him

    Halachic cover for defending family honor

  5. There is good reason to be strict here. These people have no background of the Oral Torah and at first as stated above were asked to have a giyur for all its people. On top of that we know there are many who came who are definitely not Jews. Because they are of a different color brings out the 'racism' charge immediately even if it has nothing to do with that. The Jewish people cannot take a chance with conversions/converts without being extremely cautious. People are needlessly following the majority uninformed by using their loosely used terminology of the word 'racism'.
    Better to be strict until matter is resolved than not when it comes to the matter of 'who is a Jew'.

  6. Let's assume it was Russian-speaking immigrants instead of Ethiopians, in my view the problem would be the same, due to the status of safek goyim. In my view the problem is more complex than the media tries to portray as racial discrimination.

  7. What about employees who came (or whose parents came) from the Former Soviet Union? Shouldn't they also be banned from wine production -- for the same reason?

  8. If they have a chardie appearance it means they are jewish or converted... not so the etiopians...


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