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Israel: Attorney General Rules that Restaurants May Display Private Certification of Kashrut

(May 12, 2015) Yehuda Weinstein, Israel’s Attorney General, has ruled that Israeli restaurant owners can present certificates attesting to their restaurants’ being under private kashrut (Jewish dietary law) supervision. Weinstein’s ruling is viewed as “breaking the monopoly” of the Chief Rabbinate (CR) in this area. (Yaki Adamkar, The Attorney General: A Private Body Can Issue Certificates of Kashrut for Restaurants, WALLA (May 6, 2015) (in Hebrew); Israeli Restaurants Can Present Themselves As Kosher Without Chief Rabbinate’s Certifiers, JTA (May 7, 2015).)

Under the Kashrut (Prohibition of Deceit) Law, 5743-1983, 37 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL (LSI) 147 (5743-1982/83), certificates attesting to compliance with the Jewish dietary laws may only be issued by one of the following authorities:

1. the CR or its designee (id. § 2(a)(1));
2. a “local rabbi,” defined as a person possessing a written certificate from the CR (id. § 2(b)) and who is “officiating in the locality where the eating house, the ritual slaughterhouse, or the place of manufacture of the commodity is situated” (id. § 2(a)(2)); or
3. the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces or his designee (id. § 2).

The Law prohibits the presentation of a food service establishment as one that keeps kosher in the absence of possession of a kashrut certificate. (Id. § 3(a).) The Law further provides that “where the owner of an eating house possesses a Kashrut certificate and the eating house … [is] represented in writing as being kasher, he shall not sell or serve commodities therein which are not kasher according to the law of the Tora.” (Id. § 3(b).)

The recent interpretation by Weinstein of the legal requirements concerning display of kashrut certificates at restaurants was issued in response to a petition filed by the Israel Religious Action Center of the Jewish Reform movement on behalf of two Jerusalem restaurants fined for having advertised themselves as kosher after stopping use of the CR’s certification service. The petitioners had argued that the prohibition imposed on restaurants from being described as kosher only because of their not having the CR certification is disproportional and that the Rabbinate should not have a monopoly on the word “kosher.” (Adamkar, supra.)

According to Weinstein’s ruling, the restaurants must display their private certification of kashrut in a clear way that does not confuse consumers. Following the ruling, the fines against the restaurants imposed under the Law were rescinded. (Id.)

Some members of the CR reportedly were unhappy with the ruling, but stated that the agreement for establishment of the upcoming coalition government would include a provision that would void Weinstein’s liberal interpretation of the law. (Id.)