Israel’s minister of religious affairs has proposed legislation, currently before the Knesset, that would bring an end to the chief rabbinate’s monopoly on kosher supervision—provoking much condemnation from the rabbinate itself. After presenting a brief history of rabbinic oversight of food production, Shlomo Brody argues that the proposed reforms are likely to be salutary:
In the current system, all food, to receive kosher certification, requires a stamp of approval from the chief rabbinate. Under the proposed reform, multiple rabbinic organizations will be allowed to provide nationwide supervision services, with the chief rabbinate serving as a government regulator of these independent bodies.
The chief rabbinate . . . insists that it is best qualified to run the entire field of kosher supervision in the Jewish state. This claim is undermined by the widespread use of costly “supplementary” kosher-supervision certificates issued by private agencies that have greater public trust and by a scathing report issued several years ago by the state comptroller that highlighted inefficiencies and irregularities in the chief rabbinate’s system.
I, for one, hope that the push for reform will greatly improve the system. It remains clear, [regardless of the details of the current debate], that Jewish law certainly does not mandate a centralized body to govern the nation’s kosher-food production.