6 Tammuz 5772
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Since JKN published the article on the Jerusalem Rabbinate Kashrus, I merited meeting with the rav/posek, Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger, Rabbi Yaakov Ruchamkin (who heads the kashrus department) and Rabbi David Malka (secretary of the kashrus department). We met for over an hour to discuss my statements and the situation pertaining to the kashrus in the capital of the Jewish People.
I promised the rabbis that I would share their sentiments, as well as urging them to write a response which will of course be published by JKN. I believe the rabbinate’s official response will follow since I tried to impress upon them the significance of taking the step towards improving kashrus in the capital.
In the interim, I am happy to state that there was productive dialogue and what I perceived to be a genuine effort by the rabbis to understand how I arrived at my conclusion, for while they acknowledge there are problematic areas, they feel the situation if far better than depicted by me in my alert, pointing out they certify between 800-900 restaurants and the picture is far larger than I realize. The rabbis pointed out that in recent weeks “many changes” have been made in the area of the shuk (Machane Yehuda) and the center of town in particular, and they are confident that as I continue running around trying to monitor the situation, I would see a change for the better as they are constantly improving kashrus in the capital. I hope this will be the case as I continue visiting stores in the coming weeks and months.
I am not retracting my article, but I am committed to continuing to run around and learn and report to you, the JKN readership as I have always done. I am also confident that a channel of communication has been opened, permitting direct access to these three senior officials, who told me that they will act on all reports of problems cited as they have in the past.
On this note I must add that one area in which we are in total agreement is the need for the general public to document and report kashrus violations as they perceive them.
That is to say that one must document a date, name of restaurant, time, and of course one’s name. The time for anonymity is over if you want kashrus to improve!
A change in the status quo will only come about through the actions of the kosher consumer which means making a simple phone call or writing an email. The Jerusalem Rabbanut does not have the manpower to monitor things as it would like and this is a budgetary reality but the consumer can and should join in as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the kashrus division, by documenting information and passing it along to official channels. (If one can include photos in a report it will only serve to add credibility to one’s email).
I also discussed the possibility of creating a Jerusalem Rabbanut kashrus website, with information, something similar to Tnuva is what I envision, with the latter providing a wealth of information regarding Tnuva’s kashrus standards, exhibiting total transparency.
In short, the meeting was productive and I wish to publically thank Rabbi Schlesinger for his time as well as the other rabbonim too. I feel that if the public makes the effort and we become empowered kosher consumers, we can assist the Jerusalem Rabbinate in raising the level of kashrus in the capital of the Jewish People to the level that will meet the standards of the most demanding consumer. I also feel the meeting was quite timely, before Tisha B’Av, and we made a genuine effort to mend fences ahead of the day on which we mark the tragedy of the destruction of the Holy Temples, in no small part due to our inability to address one another respectfully.
Permit me to add that part of the tshuva of a fast day is also to atone for “ma’achalot assurot” (prohibited foods – see tefilas Zaka of Yom Kippur”) and that everyone should have a meaningful fast which includes praying that if we would have Siyata Dishmaya (Heavenly assistance) that we are redeemed and with a Beis HaMikdash, we would all be eating ‘kosher korbanot’ and eliminating the need to fast on Tisha B’Av in the future!
Regarding the influx of email “Where can I eat”, as always, I refer you to your rav for that is why we have rabbonim, to guide us on all matters of halacha.
I explained to the rabbonim that I feel there needs to be a major improvement in the system that would facilitate reaching rabbis when consumers have inquiries or simply to report something. They agreed. I added that today, in the 21st century, there must be an email address for kosher consumers to contact to file grievances or cites issues that require attention. As such, I have been given permission to advertise the phone numbers and email addresses of the rabbonim towards facilitating communications with the public at large.
If you are reporting what you think is a kashrus violation:
1) Hebrew is preferable but if this is not doable, write in English. (I request that you ‘cc’ email@example.com so we can work together. I will also assist the rabbonim with translations if and when they request as I indicated to them).
2) Be factual and omit opinion and editorializing. Be as accurate as possible.
3) Give your name and return contact information (anonymous emails are not taken seriously).
4) Try to include photographs.
I urge whenever possible to use email, for the paper trail is advantageous to all and facilitates proper documentation and can include photos.
Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger (Rav/Posek Jerusalem Rabbinate)
Rabbi Yaakov Ruchamkin (Director: Jerusalem Rabbinate Kashrus)
Rabbi David Malka (Secretary: Jerusalem Rabbinate Kashrus)
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