Another Look at the Shuk

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Machane Yehuda Shuk
Some feel I am making “too big a deal” over some of the “infractions” seen at the “Shuk,” Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. Truth be said, I do not agree and that is why I am writing again. It is not the fact that I am in the shuk almost daily, but because the shuk as it exists at present represents a stumbling block to thousands of innocent and naïve shoppers daily!
I was there three times on Friday, with my last visit coming a number of hours before Shabbos, when business is booming. Armed with my camera, I took a number of photos which I will share with you in the website version – with the hope that ‘a photo is worth a thousand words’. I am making a serious effort to point out basic kashrus issues, not making an issue of stringencies, but seeking to enlighten you that some of the stores simply lack any kosher supervision whatsoever.
One place which really elicits my ire is Yehuda Chamutzim, located on the open street between Agrippas and Jaffe (Machane Yehuda Street). I present [on the website version] three photos to support my case.
1)    The sign from the Strauss company which displays the Sheirit Yisrael mehadrin hechsher. The sign is quite legitimate, and it the same as the signs we frequently see at grocery stores displaying the Coca Cola or Tnuva emblems. The store simply sells enough Strauss salads that the company gave him a sign, which promotes the Strauss product. The Sheirit symbol merely states the closed Strauss salads are under this hechsher. It has absolutely nothing to do with any other products, sealed or sold be weight.

yehuda-chamutzim-showing-strauss-sign

Yehuda Chamutzim - Strauss Store Sign

2)    The second sign shows the store’s canopy, for identification purposes only.

Yehuda Chamutzim canopy

Yehuda Chamutzim canopy

3)    The third photo shows Yehuda’s attempt to further dupe you, the kosher consumer. His red-on-yellow sign displays the kashrus symbols of two legitimate well-known agencies, Rav Landau of Bnei Brak and Badatz Beit Yosef. The sign is his, not a kashrut certification and other than lending to the feeling the store is mehadrin, it is meaningless and a kashrus stumbling block.

Yehuda Chamutzim - sign showing Beit Yosef & Rav Landau symbols - Not a kosher certification at all!

Yehuda Chamutzim - sign showing Beit Yosef & Rav Landau symbols - Not a kosher certification at all!

There have been rumors circulating last week concerning this store, under the ownership and management of Yehuda …. (I opt to leave his last name out) regarding the chickens sold by him. While he sells many sealed items, in refrigeration and freezerers, with reliable supervision, his chickens are in Styrofoam trays closed with transparent plastic wrap. They do not have wing tags, leg tags or any kosher markings whatsoever.
Last week, I spoke with R’ Rafi Yochai of the Chief Rabbinate Fraud Division as well as R’ Yitzchak Iluitzsky, the head of the kashrus division of the Jerusalem Religious Council. Their information along with some other fact-finding led me to learn that veterinary inspectors were in the store last week and there are/were problems concerning his chickens. The rumors that his chickens are problematic vis-à-vis kosher could not be verified. Rabbi Iluitzsky explained that since the store has no kosher supervision whatsoever, the rabbinate has no hand in his day-to-day operation.
My simple question is how do kosher-observant consumers line up outside on Friday and buy his fried cigars, kuba, stuffed shells and many other products, including chickens lacking any apparent kosher certifications as seen in all other butchers in the shuk. Kosher chickens of any supervision have identifying tags. I wonder if a consumer would enter a store in England, NY or elsewhere and purchase fried meat and parve products, or chickens, in stores lacking any kosher supervision. Well this is the case here folks if you buy at Yehuda Chamutzim.

Another store that pains me is Ma’adnei Binna Mehadrin, located at the corner of Eitz Chaim (closed street) and Agrippas, a popular take-home food store on weekdays and especially on erev Shabbos. As seen in the photo, the salesperson appears chareidi, but the store has no supervision whatsoever.
I entered on a weeknight and questioned how he can display a mehadrin sign when he does not even have a hechsher.

Ma'adanei Binna - Sure looks Mehadrin - No Kashrut Supervision

Ma'adanei Binna - Sure looks Mehadrin - No Kashrut Supervision

Store sign stating "mehadrin" means nothing

Store sign stating "mehadrin" means nothing

We toured the kitchen and truth be said, the items he showed me did have legitimate supervision, including Chug Chatam Sofer, Beit Yosef and Rabbinate.
The folks insisted they are G-d fearing and therefore, do not need to “waste money” on supervision and whoever wishes to trust them may, and those who do not, should buy elsewhere. The law prohibits them from writing “mehadrin” on the sign, but Rabbi Iluitzsky admitted his inspectors are not enforcing the many violations in the shuk because they lack the police protection required to dare enter the turf of the shuk operators, who in many cases would exceed verbal objections when attempts are made to take corrective and/or punitive actions.
The store is a meat take-home store selling grape leaves, lentil products, rice products and much much more. No one can verify that preparation adheres to minimal kosher standards, including inspections for bug infestation, integrity of the raw materials and the array of kosher laws involving the preparation of foods.

A person serving you exhibiting a chareidi or any other appearance is not statement of the kosher integrity of a store. By the way, when I persevered regarding the fact he lacked supervision, he pulled out a teudah from Tiferet Kashrut that was in a glassed frame underneath. The reason it is hidden is the agency is one of the bogus ones [see photo in appropriate website section], and therefore, he prefers not to openly display it. If pushed to show a certificate to an unknowing shopper, he has it on hand to testify to the ‘mehadrin integrity’ of his operation.
Let’s not forget the ever popular Melech Halva, the guys on Eitz Chaim (closed street) who are constantly interfering with pedestrian traffic, hawking their free halva samples. Their sign (see photo), black-on-yellow, hand written, says all the halva is “Badatz Eida Chareidit”.

Melech Halva - Meaningless Kashrut sign

Melech Halva - Meaningless Kashrut sign

I checked and while the items did have supervision, many are not Eida Chareidit at all. In fact, the sign, as I continue to point out is meaningless since it is nothing more than a statement from the owner, not a kashrut supervision. What he also displays, towards fooling you again, is a framed certification from Badatz Beit Yosef.

Expire irrelevent Beit Yosef certificate from a bakery in Cholon!

Expired irrelevent Beit Yosef certificate from a bakery in Cholon!

Stop and read it – it is issued to Matok K’Dvash Bakery – Yehezkel Dahan, in RECHOVOT, not Machane Yehuda. It also expired almost a month ago. The sign is too far away for the average guy to read, but a camera and zoom lens brings it to you on the website. Why support a guy who is trying to fool you? That is my question.

Another popular place, located on Agrippas Street is Ta’ri & Ba’ri (Fresh and Healthy) Juice Bar (see photo).

Ta'ri & Ba'ri Fruit Bar -No Hechsher here folks

Ta'ri & Ba'ri Fruit Bar -No Hechsher here folks

It has no supervision whatsoever. The same holds true for the popular Etrog Medicine Man.

Etrog Medicine Man Fruit Bar - N0 Hechsher

Etrog Medicine Man Fruit Bar - N0 Hechsher

It pains me to see so many people who appear Shomer Shabbot and Mitzvot lining up at these places, seeking to buy a refreshing drink that is healthy for body, while possibly bad medicine for the soul.
There are also expired shmitah kashrut certificates (purple) and an array of meaningless too-far-away-to-read Hebrew documents, sometimes framed, all towards fooling you.

Expired certificate from Shmitah - notice, he highlighted store name and address but left expiration date faded.

Expired certificate from Shmitah - notice, he highlighted store name and address but left expiration date faded.

Why trust someone who is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. There are Baruch Hashem enough stores with legitimate Jerusalem Rabbinate and an array of badatz agencies who proudly display their teudot, easily read, for everyone to see. Yes, they usually charge more, but that is because their supervision demands a rabbinical mashgiach, and that costs money.
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The “”Unauthorized Kashrut Agencies in Israel” and “Recognized Kashrut Agencies” sections have been updates, showing additional photos of teudot, bogus and legitimate.

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10 Comments

  • Eliyahu Skoczylas
    May 3, 2009 - 13:22 | Permalink

    I greatly applaud your efforts in “exposing” the Machane Yehuda shuk, and have passed your information on to others. Since you made me aware of it, I have begun checking, also, and been alarmed at the large numbers of shops without proper te`udoth (certificates). One bakery that I used to shop at has a te`udah up, but when I looked closely I saw that it had expired three years ago! I have also been treated to shopkeepers pulling out bogus certificates that they otherwise concealed, as you mentioned, but have additionally been cursed at when I question the validity of the supervision or ask them why it’s not prominently displayed.

    L’kav zchuth, (in alll fairness,) I can only be grateful that at least some guilt and frustration is causing these people to curse at me – at least they are not so far gone as to be brazen and unashamed of their actions; they know that what they are doing is wrong. An this gives me hope…

    I think that if each shop with “irregular” kashrus was to be approached a half dozen times a day by different people who politely take interest, are aware of the issues, and then leave to shop elsewhere, then the owners might wake up and get back on the derech. Not harsh confrontation, but simply growing in these businessmen the awareness that it IS important, that it DOES matter, that it just makes good business sense to give us consumers what we want – kosher food, clearly supervised.

    Or else we can all just live in Tel Aviv, HaShem yishmor (God forbid)! :)

  • Eliezer
    May 4, 2009 - 14:08 | Permalink

    I had my own incident, where when I went to a butcher to purchase chickens, I asked for his teuda. He assured me that it was fine, and when I pushed, he finally pulled some card out of his wallet, which I saw a symbol on there, but I looked too quickly to get the details.

    In the end, I just left, I figured it wasn’t worth it if it wasn’t good.

    Is it common to issue a certificate that the store owner can keep in his pocket?

  • yechiel-admin
    May 4, 2009 - 14:57 | Permalink

    To the best of my knowledge, none of the legitimate agencies issue a pocket certificate.

  • Naomi
    May 5, 2009 - 07:52 | Permalink

    I think you are doing splendid work and thank you very much for your messirus nefesh in investigating and reporting on the Kashrut situation in Jerusalem. Please ignore the “nay”ers who think you’re making a big deal. Your big deal is very much appreciated by me and many of those to whom I forward your newsletters.
    Bivracha v’Toda

  • rafael
    May 5, 2009 - 10:07 | Permalink

    the price will always tell you as to get a certificate and keep one you must pay and pay .

    until dimwitted rabbis agree on a reasonable level of kashrut and it can be nationalized .use your sense and get to know your supplier .

    g-d lives in tel-aviv too Eliyahu

  • Miriam
    May 5, 2009 - 10:39 | Permalink

    I too appreciate seeing the work you’re doing in checking out TeUdot and the various Kashrut signs. There are so many different Kashrut emblems out there and many have such small print that it’s too easy to mistaken the bogus ones. Also, there should be an immediate computerized listing in all areas of Kashrut.We should be utilizing the technology in the best interest of following Halacha, not just criticizing the bad information available to users of online websites. Your postings are a wonderful example of the positive use. Todah.

  • Yehoshua
    May 5, 2009 - 15:06 | Permalink

    I just want to point out that there is a very big difference between stores with signs of hekhsherim (not proper te’udot) or expired / photocopied hekhsherim etc., versus places like Uzieli which doesn’t have a certificate at all. I believe Uzi isn’t trying to fool anyone. In fact, I believe that a number of kosher consumers buy there because they KNOW him. Those who do NOT know him and buy there should learn the halachos in Yoreh De’ah 119 –> indeed, relying on someone you don’t know who sells something is *problematic*. However, if you do know someone, OR you know someone who testifies to a store owner;s kashrus, you CAN eat there.

    For example, there is an organization called The Nachlaot Experience, (http://www.nachlaot.com) which offers Shabbos meals in the neighborhood. I believe that one needs to pay for the meals. I, for one, would be absolutely allowed to pay and eat there since I KNOW that the owner’s are not chashud; indeed they are Shomer Mitzvos, Yirei Shamayim However, those who do not know the owners but see on their website that the food is ‘mehadrin’ do NOT the ability to rely on the Website’s claim OR to the fact that the owner’s LOOK frum –> similar to Ma’adenei Bina. This is only in the case if the food is not free. If the food is free, the case is different.

    I urge all of those who are able to look more closely at the mekoros of our chachamim, to see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 119 (at least through se’if 7) and the related Sugyos in gemara Avodah Zara 39b, Rambam Ma’achalos Asuros Perek 11 (halacha 26 and surrounding). The Aruch HaShulchan YD 119 has a particularly clear explanation of these halachos. I note that the poskim have become more strict over time due to kilkul hadoros and this appears to be proper.

    We definitely see people in the shuk trying to be misleading, but those like Uzieli or http://www.nachlaot.com/ aren’t necessarily trying to do the same thing as Chamutzim Yehuda. I think that a distinction between these cases is proper.

  • RF
    May 5, 2009 - 21:09 | Permalink

    May the merit of your efforts protect our holy Land of Israel, esp our precious Jerusalem, and all our brethren.

    Seems to be that there are people who protest your criticizing Kashrus “lapses” as being unacceptable defamation of Eretz Yisrael. I would encourage them to understand that this can only ENHANCE our beloved land. We should all remember that we are entitled to this Land only insomuch as we are dedicated to observing the mitzvas and keeping ourselves a “holy” people, undefiled by objectionable foods or practices.
    I would also like to add that some of the shop keepers may be admirable in many many ways — but not sufficiently savvy about the latest intricacies of food technology and possible kashrus pitfalls. So even if they are mitzvah observant, they might not know about all the possible problems.
    Furthermore, it is an unfortunate fact of human nature that when profits are threatened, many people are tempted to “cut corners….” even on stuff they would never dream of serving in their own homes….
    Not for naught is there a saying, in all realms of consumerism, “Buyer beware!” All the more so when there may be a negative spiritual impact, for us AND for our beloved Jerusalem and holy Land of Israel….

  • Aliza
    May 7, 2009 - 17:44 | Permalink

    By great good fortune I stumbled across your newsletter a couple of months ago and after the shock of discovering how many nonkosher places I was eating at/buying from, my next reaction was gratitude that you take the time to find these things out and share them with those of us who have unwittingly been taken in by these frauds. I “knew” that many places calling themselves kosher were not, but trying to figure out which were and which weren’t was very difficult with the limited Hebrew I have. I frequently looked at those meaningless, fraudulent signs (and the fact that obviously religious people were buying from those places) and hoped for the best. Now I understand that the others buying there were probably as clueless as I was–and may have been reassured in their turn that I, obviously religious, was buying there too. I will make sure that I see (and read! however much time it takes) the kashrut certificate before I buy anything again.

    I don’t know who thinks you are making too big a deal over the infractions at the shuk, but I for one am very grateful to you for your trouble. Please keep up your good work! I’m looking forward to reading about the kashrut of places at the Central Bus Station.

  • Daniel Breslauer
    May 10, 2009 - 14:30 | Permalink

    Keep up the good work. Hashem yishmerecho from these thugs!

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