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Jewish Journal

Israel’s Own Doheny Glatt Kosher Scandal

by Pini Herman

April 4, 2013 | 4:54 pm

A Non-Denominational Kosher Supervisor

The similar type of Israeli law that leads to the arrests of women wearing a tallit while praying at the Western Wall was passed by April 1994, ultra-Orthodox Shas made a deal with the Labor Party, which led the government at the time, and together the two pushed through the "Kashrut Law" in the dead of night according to Haaretz.  The Kashrut Law states that Israel will only import kosher meat. Israel's importers subsequently send hundreds of kashrut inspectors - with their families in tow - to slaughterhouses and processing plants around the world.  Sending of kashrut inspectors is expensive so there is a 190 percent tax on Kosher meat imports to Israel.  

Meat that goes to the Palestinian Authority is not taxed this way. For instance, a Palestinian importer pays $1.55 per kilo of fresh fillet, while the Israeli importer pays $11.80 for the same cut of meat: 7.6 times more.

So on a much grander scale than at Doheny Glatt, there is a switcheroo in Israel.  The Israel state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, reported that out of 35,000 tons of fresh meat unloaded at Israel's ports during 2007 to 2009 for sale in the Palestinian Authority, only 15,600 tons reached their stated destinations. No less than 56% of the amount, or 19,400 tons, "disappeared."

As Amiram Cohen writes in Haaretz, the disappeared non-kosher meat in Israel:

....passes from truck to truck en route, drivers change, shipment certificates designating destinations are faked and the meat for Palestinians finds its way to butcher shops in Israel. The recipients stick on labels attesting that the meat is as kosher as kosher can be. Sometimes they fake the labels, sometimes the smugglers buy perfectly authentic kashrut certificates from kashrut inspectors gone bad. In any case this illicitly kosherized meat finds its way to butcher shops throughout the land.

Sounds so LA, but with a difference.  In Israel the kashrut supervisors are mostly state employees or overseen by the state and are generally paid a living wage and are forbidden by law to accept other remuneration.  In Los Angeles, rabbis have pointed out that a kosher supervisor may not receive a living wage from the Kosher certifying agency and therefore are sometimes paid by the stores they supervise creating an impossible conflct of interest where they may endanger a significant part of their livelihood if they turn in the store being supervised for kosher transgressions.

In Israel, this continuing scandal was uncovered by the non-Orthodox Israel State Controller looking at lost tax revenue, not the Israel Ministry of Religion or Rabbinate.  Similarly, in Los Angeles the Doheny Glatt Kosher scandal was uncovered by a non-Orthdox investigator worried about the high price of kosher meat.  An earlier scandal, revealed in October 2012, of staged kosher slaughter of tons of Yom Kippur Kaparot chickens being sent to landfill rather than the needy was document by another non-Orthodox person, myself, disturbed that people performing Kaparot charity were being defrauded  resources for the needy were being trashed.

The two recent LA kosher scandals were not a total surprise to kosher certifying agencies in the opinion of several who had gone to the RCC, other certifying agencies, rabbis and Jewish media who did not dwelve into past revelations with any great or even minimal energy.  There is central prohibition in Judaism against "putting an obstacle before the blind" by persons who've been enabled with knowledge. When I went to the Board of Rabbis, a department of the Jewish Federation of Greater LA, with the Kaparot scandal information. There seems to be an attitude that this topic is not really a communal issue and after four months still no reply from the Jewish Federation's Board of Rabbis department.

The crucial difference this time was incriminating videos and pictures taken by a non-Orthodox volunteer, Eric Agaki, "as a mitzvah."  Only belatedly, after the scandal were 24 hour video cameras installed in Doheny Glatt Kosher by the new kosher supervision that took over for the RCC.  I suggest that a recorded video feed from the Kosher butcher shop might be made available to on the Web to others beside the kosher supervisors, so scrutiny may be engaged by all stakeholders and consumers, whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox.  

Just as a Jewish population survey is conducted regardless of Jewish denomination in order to acertain the size, scope, needs, health and functioning of the community by a variety of criteria.  An ongoing Jewish kosher status survey of video feeds should be equally inclusive of a variety of criteria from glatt to stam kosher to kosher style. This would be an all-denominational kosher supervision and consumers would have a types of kosher and price range to choose from. Its an idea, video monitoring of animal slaughter, whose time may be here.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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