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Haredi MK compares religious affairs minister to villain of Hanukkah story

Moshe Gafni repeatedly shouts ‘Antiochus’ at Matan Kahana; Knesset speaker rebukes him, ejects another ultra-Orthodox lawmaker for using same term

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni (L) in the Knesset plenum on July 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni (L) in the Knesset plenum on July 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

United Torah Judaism leader Moshe Gafni on Monday lashed out at Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana over his proposed reforms of the kashrut certification industry.

“Antiochus!” Gafni shouted repeatedly in Kahana’s direction, as he addressed the Knesset. Antiochus is remembered in the Jewish tradition as the villain of the Hanukkah holiday who banned Jewish religious rites, sparking the Maccabean revolt.

Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy rebuked Gafni, but did not eject him from the plenum, as he later did when Shas MK Moshe Arbel denounced Kahana, using the same term.

“What a disgrace to call an Israeli minister a thing like that,” Levy said to Arbel.

UTJ No. 2 Yaakov Litzman, meanwhile, branded Kahana a “Reform Jew” — a denigration of the highest order in the Haredi world — in an interview with the right-wing Channel 20.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers have used similar rhetoric against Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina party that Kahana is a member of. Both Bennett and Kahana are modern Orthodox.

Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana addresses the Knesset plenum on July 26, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

The plan released by Kahana would establish a series of private kosher certification agencies that will be required to uphold religious standards established by the Chief Rabbinate.

The proposed plan would also see the creation of an overarching supervisory body of the Chief Rabbinate to monitor the private agencies and ensure they uphold the standards they have promised to meet.

According to the plan, however, if an agency wanted to issue a certificate with a lower level of kashrut than the Chief Rabbinate, it would be able to do so, with the approval of three city rabbinate-approved rabbis, and issue a different certification — including one that can be given to restaurants open on Shabbat. The proposal has been attacked by the Chief Rabbinate and Haredi lawmakers.

Kahana is also reportedly working on a proposal to allow conversions outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate, authorizing municipal rabbis to perform the religious rite.

Amy Spiro contributed to this report.

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