Israel’s Hydra-Headed Kashrut Monster Just Grew a New One

So we already have – in addition to the apparently mediocre kosher endorsement of the Chief Rabbinate and the slightly less dubious endorsement of the Chief Rabbinate Mehadrin, the additional mafias of Badatz Eidah Chareidis (the Israel-hating black hand headquartered in the heart of haredi darkness of Meah Shearim), the more innocuous Chug Chatam Sofer in Bnei Brak, the Badatz Agudat Yisrael, the eponymous Rabbis Rubin, Landau and Mafhoud, and the Badatz Beit Yosef which belongs to the extended Shas empire. There are others as well.

Most of the foodstuffs marketed here in Israel are festooned with a variety of these imprimaturs, each of which specializes in shakedowns that result in the multiply redundant endorsements.

Surely this multiplicity of blessings does little to diminish the end-cost of the product to the tax-paying consumer; a consumer already saddled with the lion’s share of protecting, defending, and feeding the populations whence these rabbis come.

Indeed, in many cases, the gumshoe Rabbinate rabbis who actually (if it so pleases them) show their faces at a given establishment, engage in some deft double and triple dipping. As Rabbanut rabbis they collect their fee directly from the vendor/manufacturer and then ‘earn’ additional remuneration from one or more of the more ‘superior’ endorsements who pander to a clientelle eager to score extra credit with the A-mighty by not trusting the others.

To this circus of integrity a new player has just made its debut. Under the label “Yehave Daat”, another of the late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s son’s has idealistically thrown his ten-gallon black sombrero into the kashrut ring because, in his words, “There is a clear lacking in kashruth that operates per the decisions of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l”, i.e. his late father who must be spinning in his grave.

Surely Rabbi David Yosef, the proprietor of this new and improved kosher endorsement is motivated by idealism exclusively, and a desire to protect the Sefardi public from the pitfalls of Badatz Bet Yosef which makes the same claim, not to mention the right reverends Mafhoud, Rubin, Landau, Chug Chatam Sofer, Badatz Eida Hacharedis, and Badatz Agudat Yisrael.

No doubt, with his impressive black Ashkenazi-style rabbinical hat, Reverend Yosef junior will, with sweet persuasion, succeed in convincing myriad brand name food operations to decorate their products with yet another imprimatur. All in the interests of the consumer, of course. And all to honor the legacy of the late Rav Ovadiah.

When does this end? Where does this end? If this is not gangsterism camouflaged as piety, what it? And, yes, there is a solution. The Knesset could pass legislation that any given kosher endorsement is paid for by the constituency it represents. Communities which prefer their own rabbinic endorsements should be the one’s who pay the food companies to allow their rabbis to conduct inspections. The cost should not be born by the manufacturers and certainly not by the consumer at the cash register. If Rabbi Rubin or Landau or Yosef of whomosever has a loyal following that desires his endorsement exclusively, let them pay for the privilege.

Of course this will never happen; not so long as Bibi and the haredi parties are conjoined in spiritual intercourse and mutually benefitting from these legalized shakedowns.

But hope springs eternal. Who knows? Perhaps one day. Yeah, right.

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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