Kashrut Certificate in Israel (Legal Information)
Did you know that in Israel, without a kashrut certificate (indicating that the holder of the certificate follows the Jewish dietary laws, and the food he sells is “kosher”), the word “kosher” may not be used in advertising or in a restaurant menu? This limitation is only part of the strict rules regarding kashrut in Israel. Many businesses are unfamiliar with the law, and suddenly discover in retrospect, the hard way, that they have to bear heavy sanctions and fines for violating it. This short guide explains what to do (and especially what not to do) in order to act in accordance with the law and avoid legal complications.
The Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv provides its clients with advice and representation in a variety of legal disciplines, such as corporate law, commercial law, intellectual property, bankruptcy and insolvency, and labor law. The firm provides legal assistance to restaurants, hotels, banquet halls, and other food businesses on kashrut laws and compliance with the requirements of the law on the subject.
The Reason Why Most Restaurants in Israel Are Kosher
In Israel, fairly strict rules have been established regarding kashrut laws. In order for food providers (restaurants, banquet halls, dining rooms, etc.) to be able to present themselves as kosher, a kashrut certificate from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is required. Actions contrary to these guidelines may result in sanctions such as fines and even prosecution. To avoid this, it is important to know the law regarding kashrut in Israel, act accordingly, and seek legal advice if necessary.
Interestingly, research on the subject shows that most restaurants in Israel are kosher, or at least interested in a kashrut certificate. This is so despite the fact that it is not financially profitable, since the majority of the public in Israel is secular.
But there is an explanation: owners of kosher restaurants attract the Masorti (lit. “traditional”) audience, who only eats at restaurants with a kashrut certificate. In contrast, they lose at most only a small part of the secular audience, who does not usually refrain from eating in a kosher restaurant.
What Does Israeli Law Say Regarding Kashrut Certificates?
The Law for Prevention of Fraud in Kashrut requires that a kashrut certificate be issued only by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. As already mentioned above, food providers that do not operate through the Rabbinate cannot legally use the word “kosher.”
Moreover, in accordance with the High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruling on the subject, they are prohibited from using variations of the word “kosher,” such as other Hebrew words that have the same linguistic root. In addition, they are prohibited from using the terms “mehadrin,” “halakhah,” “supervision,” etc., which are misleading and suggest that the place operates in accordance with the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate. However, it is legal to use additional kashrut supervision by bodies recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, such as the Badatz, Rabbi Hatam Sofer, and more. But these cannot replace a kashrut certificate from the Chief Rabbinate.
Determining Eligibility for a Kashrut Certificate
The law stipulates that the Chief Rabbinical Council of Israel or a rabbi officially representing the Council is authorized to grant eligibility for a kashrut certificate to restaurants and food providers. Alternatively, a local rabbi may also issue the certificate. The law stipulates that eligibility for the certificate may only be determined based on the halakhic kashrut laws; that is, it must be ensured that the place operates according to the halakhic standards regarding the use of kosher food, separation of dishes, etc.
In contrast, criteria that do not relate to kashrut laws may not be used. The HCJ has repeatedly banned the Chief Rabbinate from preventing the issuance of kashrut certificates for reasons not having to do with kashrut, such as to a banquet hall in Jerusalem that hosted belly-dancing performances or to a confectionery run by a Messianic Jewess. In contrast, the HCJ ruled that cooking on Shabbat (the Jewish rest day) was a legal reason for revoking a kashrut certificate from a guest house in the Golan Heights.
What About Supervision Certificates Issued to Restaurants by Private Organizations?
Over the years, private organizations issuing their own supervision certificates have been established. The best-known of these is the Tzohar organization, which received lenient conditions from the HCJ for issuing kashrut certificates. According to publications on the subject, even today the Rabbinate refrains from imposing fines on businesses that use such a declaration certificate. However, it is important to act with due care. If necessary, it is recommended to seek legal advice in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the law and the rules of the Chief Rabbinate. This will save you legal complications due to improper use of the certificate.
Contact a Lawyer Who Specializes in Advising and Assisting with Kashrut Certificate Matters
In the Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law firm in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv you will find lawyers with expertise in the various areas of civil law. The lawyers at the firm will be happy to assist you with any issue regarding kashrut law in businesses. For any question or need for assistance you can contact us using the phone numbers or email address listed below.