According to the JPost, a group of religious Orthodox rabbis affiliated with the group Tzohar, a group working for coexistence with secular Israelis (a mighty good idea; we’ll see if they’re any better than the other lot), announced on Tuesday that they will be issuing alternative kashrut certificates to restaurants and stores who buy produce depending on the heter mechira.
The Jpost article cites three rabbis affiliated with Tzohar
“If local rabbis refuse to recognize fruits and vegetables grown by Jewish farmers during the shmita year as kosher, then we will,” said Rabbi Rafi Freuerstein, chairman of the Tzohar organization.
“We believe it is important to strengthen Jewish farmers and Jewish agriculture and provide reasonably-priced produce to the Jewish nation,” he said.
“The Chief Rabbinate is not fulfilling its function as a rabbinic authority for the entire Jewish nation,” said Rabbi David Stav, a member of Tzohar, during a press conference Tuesday. “Rather, it has been taken over by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Lithuanian haredi interests. We are trying to save the Chief Rabbinate from itself.”
The chief rabbinate, predictably, has attacked Tzohar as “undermining state-recognized rabbinic authority and risking a break between religion and state.”
“If the rabbinate is dismantled as a result of internal fighting, we risk losing national recognition for rabbinic authority,” said Rabbi Ratzon Arussi, chief rabbi of Kiryat Ono and a member of the Chief Rabbinate’s governing council.
Rabbi Moshe Rauchverger, another council member, said that Tzohar threatened to break the rabbinate’s monopoly over religious services and open it up to Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism.
“If Tzohar starts providing kosher supervision, what is to stop Reform and Conservative from doing the same?” said Rauchverger.
Yes, indeed, what? Well, if the Reform movement gets interested in the kosher supervision business, I say kol haKavod, since that means that there are enough Reform Jews keeping kosher that that would be seen as a worthwhile expenditure of energy. Fabuloso! What’s the problem? And IMO, it’s about time for the Masorti Jews toget more involved in kashrut supervision anyway, hechsher tzedek notwithstanding (see all the various posts on the Rubashkin’s scandal and the hechsher tzedek*.
Tzohar responded to the attacks by saying that it would, first, only provide kosher supervision in cities where the local rabbi was haredi and refused to provide kosher certificates to restaurants, supermarkets and other food-serving venues selling fruits and vegetables grown by Jewish farmers, and second, will be getting around the legal problem of the Chief Rabbinate being the only body authorized to provide kosher supervision in Israel by not calling what it does kosher supervision.
However, Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, group chairman of Tzohar claims in Ha’aretz that they just want to save the Chief Rabbinate from itself, “If it doesn’t want our help, we’ll do it ourselves. We see [its conduct] as blasphemy and contempt of the nation’s great rabbis. We won’t help those hard-liners who are ruining the farmers’ livelihood and providing food and money to Hamas and its economy.”
Well, aside from the gratuitous poke at the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s about time someone stepped up to help out the Chief Rabbinate, whose antics are getting more bizarre over time.
Israeli commentators described Tzohar’s initiative as possibly an unprecedented challenge to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, which generally enjoys cross-Orthodox backing. Tzohar called on the Chief Rabbinate to avert a schism by re-endorsing the status quo.
*The Rubashkin scandal see:
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and Failed Messiah
hechsher tzedek see:
When Is It Kosher?
Less brains …more meat
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