The Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem revoked the kosher certification of one Israeli importer of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, while leaving in place the license for the drink’s official importer to the country, even though the whiskey sold by both importers apparently comes from the same factory.
Uri Zror, the owner of Paneco Group, appealed to the High Court of Justice over the revocation of his company’s kosher certification, according to a Channel 10 report. He argued that there was no religious ground for its removal, as “the product is kosher, it is the exact same product as the official importer’s.” He said that even “religious Jews drink it.”
Zror told Channel 10 that his company sells Jack Daniel’s for an average price of NIS 119 shekels (approx. $30), while the official importer sells a bottle for an average price of NIS 149 (approx. $38). He said that the kosher certification industry in Israel upholds a monopoly, because “when the price is high, people earn more.”
He added that kosher certification is used as means of limiting market access for many products, which in turn drives up the price. If a company does not have a kosher certificate, he said, “it is impossible to sell it in many places, and that is how they control the price.”
In a January interview with the Tel Aviv-based publication the TLV Times, Zror bragged that “our prices are cheaper than duty free,” and said that while his company earns less per bottle than its competitors, it makes up for it with more bottles sold.
Whiskey is traditionally made from distilled grain. It is often given its flavor by maturing in casks that have previously contained sherry. The sherry draws the flavor of the wood from the cask. Sherry, wine and grape juice are only considered kosher if they were manufactured by Jews. However, since the sherry itself is present in the whiskey in tiny quantities and only acts as a catalyst, many rabbinic authorities consider all whiskey to be kosher.
By Israeli law, food products may only be imported if they win the approval of the Israeli rabbinate, regardless of whether they are also certified by a foreign kosher authority. Therefore, by removing certification from competing importers, the rabbinate is in effect able to create monopolies and keep prices artificially high.