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Wednesday, July 28, 2021 

Kashrut services not affiliated with chief rabbinate are fine, so long as their talents are good

Over the past few years, quite a few Israeli restaurants now employ the services of Tzohar, rather than the Haredi-controlled chief rabbinate, for kosher certification on their food products:
The Eucalyptus, a restaurant just outside Jerusalem’s Old City, draws in diners by offering “authentic biblical cuisine” — made from ingredients and dishes found in the Bible.

The chef, Moshe Basson, has an unusual way of sourcing his food, foraging for some of the biblical-era herbs in forests and fields around Jerusalem. So when he decided to certify the restaurant as kosher in 1997, he made special arrangements with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate that would allow him to keep finding the herbs for himself rather than buying them from a certified merchant.

“I use all of the ‘Sheva Minim,’ the seven species mentioned in the Bible, as well as all kinds of wild herbs,” Basson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I had a written agreement with the Rabbinate that I could continue to do that, as long as I checked them for bugs the way they instructed me to.”

But other chefs began to complain that they were not allowed to use products that Basson was allowed to use. Eventually, three years ago, the Chief Rabbinate suspended his kashrut certificate, and Basson began to look for other options.

He landed on Tzohar, a group of relatively liberal Orthodox rabbis who offer an alternative kosher certification service. When Basson asked older Orthodox diners if they would accept Tzohar’s certification, he said, “half said yes and half said no.” The response from younger patrons was more enthusiastic.

“I went to each table that had someone wearing a kippah and asked them if they would accept the Tzohar kashrut,” he said. “And almost all of them between the ages of 20 and 50 said yes.”

The Eucalyptus is one of more than 200 Israeli restaurants that has eschewed the Chief Rabbinate’s kosher certification in favor of Tzohar’s. It’s the latest sign that Jewish Israelis, who had been divided into the two broad camps of “religious” and “secular,” are now seeking a greater range of ways to practice their religion — many of them outside the Chief Rabbinate’s control.
Let's be clear: if the services are authentically kosher-based, there should be no issue with a source unaffiliated with the chief rabbinate managing chores, period. Tzohar is a fine service. It's just a shame that we have such an otherwise awful government being the one to make the approvals for ensuring private businesses can deal with these restaurants.

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