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Monday, January 13, 2014

Kosher and open on Shabbat

A new bill seeks to require the Rabbinate to grant a kashrut certificate to restaurants open on Shabbat, as long as the food they serve is kosher according to Jewish Law.
According to the proposal's initiator, Knesset Member Elazar Stern (Hatnua), there is need for legislation preventing rabbis from stipulating that restaurants seeking a kashrut certificate must observe other religious mitzvot as well – an act which has already been banned by the High Court of Justice in the past.

The suggested amendment to the Kashrut Fraud Prevention Law has already been submitted to the Knesset, and will soon be discussed by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. Stern expects Habayit Hayehudi ministers not to oppose it, as it takes into account the involved halachic restrictions and offers solutions.

According to the proposal, when a rabbi examines the kashrut of food served in a restaurant for the purpose of providing a certificate of inspection, he will not bring in extraneous considerations, such as the whether the place is open on Shabbat, the owner's religious affiliation or opinions, performances or ceremonies held on the premises, etc. A rabbi who violates this order will face a four-month jail term or a fine.

Condition: Separating between sets of dishes

As for businesses which desecrate Shabbat, the bill states that as a condition for receiving a kashrut certificate for the rest of the week, the restaurant must separate between sets of dishes so that on the Jewish holy day the utensils used during the rest of the week will be locked up and not used. The reason is that according to kashrut laws, it is forbidden to cook with them on Shabbat while desecrating the day of rest.

Several restaurants in Israel, mainly in the north, already have an inspection certificate for weekdays even though they are open on Shabbat – thanks to some rabbis who agreed to provide the certification. The dishes separation arrangement suggested by MK Stern is already implemented in those businesses.

The Kashrut Fraud Prevention Law states that "when providing a kashrut certificate the rabbi will only consider kashrut laws," but according to Stern this definition is unclear, and as a result "the boundary is being stretched" and other considerations which have nothing to do with the food's kashrut are taken into account.

The bill further mentions a High Court ruling in which judges ruled that the Rabbinate cannot toughen its conditions for a kashrut certificate just because a restaurant a owned by a Messianic Jew.

"Kashrut is another matter in the state and religion issue which has many aspects requiring amendments to the law," MK Stern said. "This bill, which is based on the opinion of important religious-Zionist rabbis, will cause many more restaurants to become kosher, and – in the bottom line – present Judaism which connects rather than rejects.

"I see this as one of the correct expressions of the State of Israel's Jewish-democratic identity, and if it is not advanced, it will serve as another level for those seeking to separate religion from the State."

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