Summer Kashrus Travel Advisory for Jerusalem

3 Menachem Av 5772
July 22, 2012

I would like to begin this post with an apology for not publicizing my message a number of months ago when I first felt compelled to do so. Since that time, I have spoken with people, consulted, and pondered, and finally reached the conclusion that no one is willing to speak so it’s time for JKN to do so, as I have done in the past when the situation demanded. Since that time, the situation has become significantly worse and realizing the result will be unpleasant, it is time to say what has to be said for I can no longer tolerate seeing religious people eating, many times being duped, unaware they are relying on a kosher supervision that is no longer reliable.

Not seeing any way to compel a change I feel duty bound to warn those of you who will listen, those who have come to trust my voice. For the others, nothing lost and nothing gained perhaps. I do not know why Hashem put me in this place, but I do not believe it is to remain silent.

As you know, I am not affiliated with any kashrus agency and do not make a living from JKN. I have stopped shuk tours and lectures in schools and elsewhere for reasons I do not care to share at present, and focus on investigating and education. I feel that you have a right to know that the kashrus situation in the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem, has reached an all time low, at least since my aliyah over 30 years ago.

This kosher travel advisory applies to restaurants and eateries under the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, both regular and mehadrin ONLY.

1. This DOES NOT refer to any other hechsherim,
2. Does not refer to the Rabbinate hashgacha in other cities,
3. Does not refer to factory products,
4. Does not refer to hotels or whatever else you can think of.
5. Does not refer to tithing in the shuk, only the restaurants and those selling take home foods and ready to eat items in the shuk. NOT fruit and vegetable vendors.

It is quite specific so read carefully and do not extrapolate and draw your own conclusions.

From my hours and hours of visiting stores, monitoring stores, spying on stores, stakeouts, picking through garbage, observing mashgichim, walking the shuk and other areas in the center of Jerusalem and have reached the conclusion that one seeking reliable kashrus may no longer rely on the Jerusalem Rabbinate hashgacha in restaurants, regular and/or mehadrin unless you are personally familiar with the goings on in the restaurant you wish to visit.

That means in my opinion, if you lack firsthand knowledge attesting to the reliability of a mashgiach and a particular eatery/restaurant, you should not eat there. A rabbi in a suit or sporting whatever defines reliability to you is insufficient.

For rabbonim in Israel and even more rabbis abroad recommending Jerusalem Rabbinate regular or mehadrin without recent firsthand information, I urge you to stop doing so until you have made numerous unannounced visits to restaurants before you shoulder the responsibility for your congregants neshamas.

I have seen many violations of basic Shulchan Aruch. I am not speaking about chumros (stringencies) here but simple basic halacha, which includes but not limited to:
1. Non Jews lighting the fire and mounting shwarma for cooking in a mehadrin and non-mehadrin stores.
2. Non religious Jews pouring non-mevushal wine in a mehadrin and non-mehadrin restaurants.
3. Using non hydroponically grown (gush katif) greens for cooking in mehadrin and non mehadrin restaurants.
4. Using non mehadrin cheese in a mehadrin restaurant.
5. Non bishul yisrael for Sephardim in mehadrin restaurants in contradiction to the regulations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
6. Accepting hashgachot categorized as “unauthorized” by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
7. Non-Jews holding keys and opening and closing the store without Jewish supervision, a basic in kashrus.
8. Non-Jews with keys to freezers and meat refrigerators.
9. Violating Shulchan Aruch 118, ‘meat being out of sight’ without proper kosher markings, two seals as law demands. Chotem B’soch Chotem.
10. Meat being delivered without proper markings/supervision.
11. Deliveries to stores hours before mashgichim arrive and improper paperwork to legitimize those deliveries to a kosher inspector if and when he arrives.
12. Unsupervised cooking in kitchens predominately staffed by non-Jews.
13. Breads being transported by non-Jews without any kosher supervision or markings.
14. I could go on but if you do not get it by now, no need to continue reading.

In short, the Jerusalem Rabbinate mashgichim are all too often “no shows” as are the mifakachim (inspectors supervising mashgichim). Mashgichim in many cases do not remain in stores the minimum required time daily as per the Chief Rabbinate. Ditto in mehadrin stores. Ditto for showing up at all.

The Jerusalem Rabbinate has unilaterally decided to permit unauthorized hashgachas to operate in the capital, once again, ignoring the Chief Rabbinate. In short, the Jerusalem Rabbinate no longer adheres to the rules and regulations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel in many cases and it thereby disqualifies itself by non-compliance.

How can this be you ask? I for one believe that after not having chief rabbis in the city for over a decade has led to the total breakdown of kashrus services in the city. In short, there is no one watching the store and over the years, several changes in management, the organization has become dysfunctional from a reliable kosher standpoint.

You may accept this or not. It is entirely your call but I have done my duty by informing you. If you have followed JKN over the years you know I have no agenda, no bias and it’s is never about dati leumi, chareidi, badatz or anything else, just simple compliance to halacha.

To prevent the flood of loshon hora comments that this is bound to generate, the article is closed to any and all comments. Emails asking me “Where can we eat” will not receive a response. I do not have the hours and manpower to check restaurants with any level of competence since we are talking about hundreds and hundreds that are certified in Jerusalem.

Once the certifying body is no longer reliable, it is time to realize, painful and inconvenient as it may be, that you may have to find new places to eat. As I said, it is entirely your call.

I apologize to the mashgichim and mifakachim out there doing your jobs, for there are some reliable places that I have seen, but they seem to be the exception, not the rule, hence the kashrus advisory. Some mashgichim call me regularly; stop me on the street regularly, begging me to go public for they cannot tolerate the anarchy that exists today.

Believe me when I tell you that I am being polite and exercising much restraint here.

As I have been explaining for years, it is time for you the kosher consumer to get an education. Learn the minimum about a hashgacha you plan to rely upon and not come to Israel and then call from a hotel room after you are booked and ask if it is okay. An educated empowered consumer can actualize change. Please, for all our sakes it is time to accept responsibility and implementing change. Eating blindly because it is convenient and enjoyable will guarantee this unacceptable situation perpetuates itself chas v’sholom.

Before leaving your home abandon the myth that the State of Israel is all kosher and Jerusalem is glatt/mehadrin (use any word you like). This is not so and as you seek an acceptable hashgacha elsewhere; you must do the same here.

There is a growing number of stores in the middle of Jerusalem that do not have any hashgacha, that open on shabbos, that serve treif, including seafood and pork products. A mashgiach in a non-mehadrin restaurant is expected to spend a number of hours in every store daily. Please, if a mashgiach has 4,5,or 6 stores under his responsibility how does he manage such a feat? You may be accustomed to the OU in America, or the Vaad HaRabbonim of Queens perhaps. That means when you enter a meat restaurant there is a mashgiach there to greet you and respond to your questions. There is no such thing as a meat restaurant operating without a mashgiach present. Please, think back and tell me the last time you saw a mashgiach in a meat restaurant here? The kitchen staffs are frequently and perhaps even primarily non-Jews and non-observant Jews.

Please, I urge you to wise up and understand that people here speak Hebrew as it is the national language. Not everyone had a yeshiva education and when it comes to kashrus, good intentions are insufficient.

There must be a legitimate competent hashgacha and today, the Jerusalem Rabbinate is no longer doing its job as it should. It is my tefilla that the many rabbonim ‘in the know’ will draw courage from this alert and come out publically attesting to the accuracy of my words towards compelling change. I have no doubt the mudslinging will follow because when you cannot argue the facts, the next step is to discredit the messenger.

Wishing you all an absolutely outstanding visit to the Holy Land.

In closing, permit me to refer you to a Jerusalem Post article from September 2011. 

If the entire article is not visible, double click on it to view in another window:


Comments are closed.