Ministry Supervision Over Mashgichim?

2 Cheshvan 5771
October 10, 2010
chief-rabbinate-of-israel1Following is a lose translation of the article appearing in Ynet, along with JKN commentary and explanation. One wishing to view the original Hebrew article may click on the hyperlink.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel last week withdrew objections to the establishment of a new agency under the auspices of the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Such an agency would oversee the activities of the nation’s mashgichim operating under the umbrella of the local rabbinates nationwide.

State law empowers the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in matters of kashrut. The Chief Rabbinate in turn delegates this authority to local religious councils, and they in turn run a kashrut department which oversees the kashrus in a city/municipality.

In areas such as Nachal` I’ron (Wadi Ara), which are predominately non-Jewish, and therefore lacking a local religious council, the Chief Rabbinate’s National Kashrus Authority fills in. This is also the case regarding supervision in Ben-Gurion International Airport for example.

If passed into law, the Ministry of Religious Services will select three manpower agencies [by way of a tender] which will supply mashgichim. The Chief Rabbinate will maintain halachic authority over the operation as well as maintaining the right to grant or revoke kashrut certification.

Opponents insist the additional costs to the manpower agencies will make kashrus certification even more expensive and less desirable, while proponents explain the additional sum will be offset by eliminating the ‘under the table’ payments and bribes to mashgichim who were simply paid off to turn a blind eye to kashrus violations.

What has prompted the call for revamping the system is the 2008 State Comptroller’s Report that addressed kashrus in a number of cities, including Jerusalem, Rishon L’Tzion and Haifa. The report details serious mishandling of funds. In one case, the rabbi of a city received no less than NIS 1.5 million, his to distribute as he wished.

In another city, 23 members of one family were employed in the state-run kashrus network. The outrageous facts revealed in the report, mishandling and misappropriation of funds prompted MK (Kadima) Otniel Schneller to act – leading to the bill which seeks to revamp the system. He explains that the new system would eliminate the unacceptable practice in which mashgichim are paid by the stores they are supervising, placing them between a rock and a hard place.

JKN – Don’t get too excited. The bill has to pass the ministerial legislative committee today, and then the Knesset, where it must pass three votes to be passed into law. Then, it must be implemented and then one must hope the tender for the manpower agencies and selection of competent mashgichim is not tainted by payoffs and foul play, as is the case in many other state-run operations.

Schneller remains optimistic and hopes his bill will indeed be voted into law and thereby make a significant contribution towards improving the state-run kashrus mechanism.

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