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Chicken Soup
with a dash of sarcasm
Kashrut Certification in Jerusalem 
4th-Aug-2008 02:18 pm
The original report, the restaurant listing starts on page 5

I got this from a blog, Rafi G. Life in Israel. I'm just going to copy his text.
Rav Katz from Elon Moreh was appointed by Rav Elyakim Levanon to go around the Jerusalem restaurants and investigate the status of their kashrus. The following report is his review and his recommendations. He writes about the standards supposedly used by some of the hechsherim, and how it is implemented, or not, in the actual restaurants.

Rav Katz went to restaurants bearing certificates from; Rabbanut Jerusalem, Rabbanut Jerusalem Mehadrin, Machpud, Rubin, Beit Yosef, Badatz Eidah, Badatz Aguda, Badatz Belz, Badatz Keter HaKashrus, and Badatz Nezer Ha'Hiddur.

The last two listed in the list are "unrecognized" Badatzes. That means there is no oversight on what they do and nobody knows their standards. Even worse is that he found, with these two, that the mashgiach shows up usually no more than once a month, if that often, and then generally just to pick up the check.

In the report, you will read about problems he found, such as how often the mashigach actually shows up, or who checks the rice and beans, who lights the fire (and when that is an issue he differentiates between Ashkenazim and Sfardim because Sfardim are more machmir on who can light the fire and cook the food) and stuff like that. Some more serious issues that arose were he found restaurants with packages of meat that had no labels, and no hechsher, on them. Some would not talk to him, some threw him out, etc.. And more.

After his description of what he found "Ba'Shetach" (in the field), he lists all the restaurants around Jerusalem that he visited and his recommendation regarding whether one can rely on the hechsher or not to eat there. When he recommends against eating there, he writes specifically why and what the issues in that specific place were.

The list has been amended for clarification:
The list of restaurants included a restaurant in Talpiot called Papagayo. I ate in Papagayo not oo long ago and found it to be excellent. It is a Brazillian meat place. The report recommends against eating there due to problems such as the mashgiach not always there so bishul problems for sfardim, and no reliable sifting of flour or removing of challah, etc.

Kosherut has put out a redaction of that recommendation against. Because Papagayo does not deal with making dough in the restaurant - all dough is ordered from an outside supplier, the above noted problem is not a problem. As well, the cooking is only done during the hours the mashgiach is present.

So because they have come into the new clarification of the situation at Papagayo, they have removed their recommendation against eating there.
4th-Aug-2008 12:09 pm (UTC)
According to that list, I'm going to hell. If hell includes any of the restaurants that got a negative review, then I'm going to like it there.

What ever happened to "If it's kosher, it's kosher"? I really don't give a rat's ass who turns on the oven or puts the food in. Further, just because something doesn't have a hechsher doesn't mean it's automatically treif. Babette's, for example, or businesses that simply can't afford to pay for the hechsher because these power-mad rabbis are more concerned with the money than the kashrut. Some of these restrictions are just plain chumrot from almost two thousand years ago when the height of the Rabbinic anti-assimilation laws came out. Much like with Chalav Yisrael or Glatt, there is no need for some of the restrictions that this rav mentions. They are superfluous, and are classic cases of the prohibition against adding to the Torah.
4th-Aug-2008 12:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Rabbi Shawn for your psak.
4th-Aug-2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
Calling me a Rabbi is an insult. Unless that's what you were getting at. And I apologize for the rant/psak.

I don't claim to be an expert in this area of halacha. I do claim to have several years of experience of dealing with corruption in the Jewish community, which has lead me to question many non-d'oraita laws. If I had my way, we would recodify the entire Mishnah, Talmud, Shulchan Oruch, and Mishna Brura to update it to the modern world, re-evaluating every single link to Torah miSinai, with Rambam's "If religious teachings are found to contradict certain direct observations about the natural world, then it would be obligatory to re-evaluate either the interpretation of the scientific facts or the understanding of the scriptures" as a repeated mantra. Then again, I'm also of the opinion that God intended us to constantly be re-evaluating Judaism both for leniencies and stringencies, not just the latter.
4th-Aug-2008 12:33 pm (UTC)
The problem is the bigger picture. It's not just about you and what level of Kashrut you hold by but about those who keep a stricter standard expecting that standard.

If people feel they can get away with the little things that some feel are archaic and unimportant - like having a Jew light the ovens, Hafrashat Challah, even sifting the flour, then they may be tempted to take things further... I mean, you heard about the "Monsey scandal" last year.
4th-Aug-2008 12:48 pm (UTC)
Which Monsey Scandal? I can't keep all these crises-that-can-be-solved-by-Rabbis-not-being-idiots straight.

Further, halacha also goes the other way. I won't argue that lettuce needs to be checked for bugs. But as technology advances, the question arises as to how much more accurate our check needs to be. Is it OK to just go with what we've normally gone with, i.e. if it's not visible to the naked eye then it's fine, or do we need to start holding our lettuce up to the light, soaking it in soapy solution, checking using a magnifying glass or microscope? How thorough must the check be if we are doing a simple "naked eye" check? How much time must we spend per leaf looking for bugs? Must we do it for each leaf separately, or can they be done a few at a time?

Classically, you rinse off a bunch of leaves, dry them off somehow, and then look over them for a second or so each to make sure there's no residual insects. What certain mehadrin hechshers require tends to be soaking for a few minutes in soapy water (which will impart an awful soapy taste and/or waterlog the leaves, thereby destroying them), rinsing them off, then checking using a light table or by holding up to a light.
4th-Aug-2008 01:11 pm (UTC)
The scandal was a well-respected butcher was caught selling treif chickens as kosher and apparently he'd been doing it for years.

Here is a classic example of the Mashgiach not doing his job.
6th-Aug-2008 09:41 pm (UTC)
The debate as to how well one must check is the subject of at least two debates. First, the things on which there is agreement: A majority may be relied upon if & only if one has checked well enough to ensure there is not a miut hamatzui (noticeable minority). For example, most animals do not have any of the 18 varieties of holes which would render them literally treif. With the exception of holes in the lungs, there is not even a noticeable minority of animals with this problem. Thus, one need not check an animal for holes in the meninges for example, even though such holes would render the animal a treifa & prohibited to eat. The lungs need to be checked because there is a noticeable minority of animals with such a problem (even before one comes onto glatt/chalak). Now back to our bugs in salad.

Debate 1: Is a noticeable minority defined as 7.5% or 10%? The former is the opinion of R' Eliashiv & the latter the opinion of R' Shechter & therefore the Orthodox Union. I will use the latter because it creates easier math. However, the second debate is not dependant on the first & those who wish can convert the ratios as desired.

Debate 2: Imagine a hashgacha organization which will check a caterer for weddings. They must check well enough that
Opinion A: among any group of attendees, no more than 1 in 10 will have bugs in his or her salad.
Opinion B: Among 10 weddings, no more than 1 in 10 weddings will have bugs in the lettuce.
6th-Aug-2008 09:18 pm (UTC)
Could you cite where the Rambam said that particular quote?

Which observation of the natural world leads you to believe that a restaurant owned & operated by Gentiles today will be kosher if its owners say it is? What has changed about this scenario from the times of our Sages?
7th-Aug-2008 04:52 am (UTC)
I unfortunately don't have the direct quote from Rambam. That quote is from Wikipedia, which describes his views, not his exact sayings. I believe that in Moreh Nevuchim it should say something about that. My copy has been packed, unfortunately, and I can't seem to find the direct quote online.

What has changed? Globalization. Cultural knowledge. People know more about the "other" than they used to, and it's quite easy to learn about the "other" if you put some effort into it. I give you 10 to 1 odds that I can show you a gentile that knows more about kashrut than a randomly picked Jew in the US. Hell, I've worked with plenty of them. I've seen one gentile chef pick a fight with his mashgiach because he was able to prove the mashgiach wrong, with bringing up sources. While this may not be a product of science, it is certainly something that has changed the facts on the ground.
10th-Aug-2008 03:43 pm (UTC)
You assume that increased knowledge will lead to increased observance. There is a financial incentive to cheat, so why wouldn't a Gentile knowingly ignore hilchot kashrut?
11th-Aug-2008 05:15 am (UTC)
Because for some unexplained reason, Gentiles tend to be more respecting of our religion than most Jews.
4th-Aug-2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
The problem here seem at least in part to be, the rabbi who certifies it as Kosher is more interested in getting paid than making sure it actually is Kosher to some set of standards.
6th-Aug-2008 09:50 pm (UTC)
Gentiles are not more trustworthy with regard to the kashrut of food they prepare than they were at the time of the Talmud.
7th-Aug-2008 04:55 am (UTC)
I would trust a knowledgeable gentile over your average unaffiliated or Reform Jew.
4th-Aug-2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
I am so incredibly pleased to see a report that does not simply say 'recommended' or 'not recommended' but gives specifics. This both makes it possible for me to apply my own standards, and also introduces transparency. I hate the current approach in the US where people who have a financial interest in one heksher simply say 'not recommended' about another hechsher they are in direct competition with.
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