Basher – Shuk Machane Yehuda

2 Av 5770
July 13, 2010

basher-signFor those of you who have accompanied my on a shuk walking tour, you are familiar with a number of the stores that I make a point of mentioning, usually those with unauthorized hechsherim, or without any hechsher at all. The popular Basher Cheese Store is an example of the latter, and too many shoppers feel that seeing someone behind the counter sporting a kippa is the same as a kosher supervision. I have decided to share the latest Basher story with you, readers, hoping to drive the point home.

While in Basher (on the closed street, Eitz Chaim Street) I kept stupidly relying on the plethora of certified kosher cheeses and nice kippa wearing people behind the counter – so that when buying Cantorel brand Brie from France without a Hechsher. I believed them when they said that the Hechsher was on the bigger label for the while block of packaged wheels and not on the individual wheels packaging.

When I got home I decided to check that out. It turns out Cantorel is a brand name of cheese under the bigger company Les Fromageries Occitanes and I emailed them for info.

They wrote to me that they do offer Kosher runs of cheeses certified by Rabbi Alloun (kosherlabel.com) in France. I emailed him and then spoke with him earlier today. He said that they do certify Cantorel cheeses but ALL certified cheeses are marked on EVERY individual wrapper.

I went back to Basher and got my money back and the owner (who owns several large Cheeses stores in Israel) kept giving me the run around and saying it was kosher – even though I inspected the wrapper yet again and – no kosher symbol. Upon even further investigation I found that Cantorel Brie is, in fact, usually made with animal rennet thus not only isn’t it certified but it is very seriously non Kosher.

I know that it’s my fault for believing them – but, I live near the shuk, and every day I see SO many very religious people eating cheeses and buying them from Basher.

Now, many are fully kosher but they use the same knives and boards as for the NON kosher cheeses. What’s more, someone who will train their staff to lie about Kashrut for the money (as he himself does) would have no qualms about switching wrappers, I’d assume.

8 Comments

  • David
    July 13, 2010 - 17:16 | Permalink

    Although it has been a little while since my wife last went to Machane Yehuda, she remembers another similar style cheese shop close by that does have a hechsher and one can see the hechsherim on all the packages of the imported kosher cheeses. Of the non-kosher shop, she certainly understood that many of the brands were not kosher and could not understand why “frum looking” people were buying there.

    Is there anyone who is likely to be in Machane Yehuda in the near future to report the name of the kosher shop, and also under whose kashrut auspices it is?

    I hope that there is not a problem in posting the kosher store name on this feedback, but if there is then please can Yechiel forward me the info privately.

    Many thanks.

  • yechiel-admin
    July 13, 2010 - 20:03 | Permalink

    In response to the many comments, I WAS NOT the buyer and I DO NOT purchase items in Bashar becasue I DO NOT support stores without hechsherim, especially those selling items that do not exhibit any kashrut certification.

  • Sue
    July 13, 2010 - 22:47 | Permalink

    I recently “discovered” Basher cheese shop. They told me that all their cheeses and breads are kosher though all are not mehadrin or Badatz. I heard that all their cheeses are not kosher and asked again and they assured me that they were all kosher. Guess I won’t be shopping there again!

  • yechiel-admin
    July 14, 2010 - 06:50 | Permalink

    FROM A READER:

    I have purchased from this store for some time probably around 9 months and have never seen either of the brother bosses wearing a kippa. None of the other staff have worn a kippa either when I visited the store. I know that they have many groups visit them and they give out samples of cheeses and then some of the people in the group purchase. Do they put on kippot when certain groups visit them? I don’t know. The positive thing is that all the people working in this store in the Shuk are very pleasant and give good customer service.

    There are some disconcerting things:-

    1. They often tell people that there are hechshers on certain cheeses but never show the people the hechshers. On one of the cheeses that we like, the Soignon Chaubier we have seen a Badatz hechsher when we first purchased it months ago. If we again buy this I will insist I see the hechsher again.

    2. Do all the stores have a general hechsher and are they closed on Shabbat? I presume that the store in the shuk is closed on Shabbat

    3. I have noticed that there are often wide ranges in pricing some cheeses each time we come to the store. In fact I found that purchasing a certain Gruyere, the supermarket price per kilo for the same cheese but packaged was way below what I was charged. When I complained, the price of the Bashar Gruyere unpacked was reduced. I was also offered a much cheaper Gruyere which I was told has a hechsher(but which I did not check as I relied on the bosses) which I purchased. When I asked for the same Gruyere cheese next time I visited the store I was offered a completely different Gruyere and told it is the same one as I purchased before. I knew that this was not the case because the rind of the cheese was a completely different colour and texture.

    4. I do believe that there is a possibility that there is overcharging because my wife purchased the Soignon Chaubier in an express store in Rechov Azza for a cheaper price, but they only stock it rarely.

  • yechiel-admin
    July 14, 2010 - 06:52 | Permalink

    FROM A READER:
    The message below was forwarded to me by a friend, and I have a comment to make about your “cheese story”. There are two separate issues here. The lack of supervision is a legitimate one and you are to be commended for pointing it out.

    However, you state that cheese made using animal rennet “is very seriously non-kosher.” In fact, this is not true. There are many poskim who adhere to the position that animal rennet is fine for making cheese. (Please understand: cheese made this way certainly needs supervision.)

    Among those who held this position was Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. So it is a mistake to state categorically that such cheese is non-kosher.

    At most, you can say that there are halakhic positions that it is non-kosher, but that is a subject of a machloket.

  • Simon
    July 14, 2010 - 10:30 | Permalink

    If the kosher shops of the shuk had very clear teudot (no mess, no old laminated signs dangling around, no ishur mehadrin without Rabbinute etc, no people asserting to “trust me, ze beseder”, no out of date mehadrin teudot with the excuse “everybody knows the guy still comes”).

    A solution could be a simple colour coding to differentiate regular and mehadrin teudot, but nothing more complicated, with no partial-supervision of shops etc etc, then it would be clear which shops are and are not kosher.

    This is a big issue and I prefer to go to the supermarket where everything is either wrapped in plastic with a hescher, or from a clearly supervised and certified section of the shop (meat and fruit specifically)

    What does the Shuk committee say about this?

  • David
    July 14, 2010 - 17:41 | Permalink

    ================================================
    At most, you can say that there are halakhic positions that it is non-kosher, but that is a subject of a machloket.
    ================================================
    I would word it:
    At most, you can say that according to most halakhic positions it is non-kosher…

    My gut (no pun intended) feeling is that non-kosher rennet in cheese is more problematic than non-kosher gelatin. (Both issues are to do with processing that takes something from an animal and makes it into something non-edible.)

    I can’t remember all the arguments of the issues after listening to shiurim on the subjects but I do feel that I came out with that conclusion. Maybe I am mistaken, and my conclusions were based on biases that are personal and nothing to do with halacha.

    Are there Rabbanim on this list that can put the issues into perspective.

  • Simon
    July 15, 2010 - 10:20 | Permalink

    The cheese thing isn’t about Rennet. It’s about i) the supervision of the shop, and ii) that cheese must be gvinas yisrael. There are zillions of cheeses out there with vegi rennet but are not kosher due to the prohibition on non-Jewish cheese.

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