Why Israel Needs to Reform Its Kosher-Certification System

Sept. 1 2021

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.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Judaism in Israel, Kashrut

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism