Kosher: Restaurateurs in Israel say religious authorities exert too much power over the economy

Photo credit: 
Binge's picture
October 10, 2016
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate is responsible for overseeing decisions related to religious matters, including the Jewish dietary law.

Kosher, being the specific way food is produced, prepared, and served as per Jewish guidelines, proliferates restaurants in Israel. It has gone on to trickle from religion into politics and even the economy. Restaurateurs seem resentful of how much power religious authorities hold over their businesses.

Rabbi Aaron Lebowitz has emerged as an opponent to the Chief Rabbinate--the primary body involved in religious decision-making so far. Lebowitz founded the Alternative Kosher Supervision Project, which offers similar inspections at significantly lower costs.

He believes that the Chief Rabbinate has enjoyed a dangerous monopoly for too long, considering the corruption that ensued and their cost of certification also being expensive. Although Lebowitz's reach is smaller, holding certification in only 23 of many restaurants in Israel, he is not easily discouraged. He believes starting small could be the path to retrieving the autonomy of a community, after which, legal authorities will be left with no choice but to consider the interests of the majority. 

However, the Chief Rabbinate is, of course, in opposition. They believe privatisation is impossible in state-powered organisations like this one or the Ministry of Health.

A High Court ruling earlier this year declared that only establishments with a certification from the Chief Rabbinate could term their food kosher. Customers at restaurants that come under the Alternative Kosher Supervision Project, however, remain unaffected and hold the belief that autonomy is more important for small businesses and that it will benefit the economy.