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Hummus joint keeps it kosher without rabbinate approval

Supporters of alternative kosher organization Private Supervision gather weekly in solidarity with local restaurants

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz (left) of Private Supervision at Pasta Basta, a popular restaurant that recently received certification from the alternative kosher-certifying organization (Courtesy of Private Supervision)
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz (left) of Private Supervision at Pasta Basta, a popular restaurant that recently received certification from the alternative kosher-certifying organization (Courtesy of Private Supervision)

The creamy, thick hummus served at Arbis, a hummusiya named for the spicy chickpea snack traditionally served following the birth of a firstborn son, is considered one of the best in Jerusalem. But anyone who wanted to swipe some, had to be sure to get there early last Friday.

The hummus joint, located off Agrippas Street of Jerusalem’s Mahne Yehuda market in the Nachlaot neighborhood, recently played host to supporters of Hashgacha Pratit, or Private Supervision, the private, alternative kosher certification organization started by Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz of the Yerushalmim Party and slowly gathering steam in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

The purpose of the organization is to offer a kosher certification alternative to the Orthodox chief rabbinate, which for years has had a monopoly on making sure restaurants follow halacha, or religious law, when it comes to preparing and serving food.

With the recent decision of the Supreme Court that Private Supervision can’t present kosher certificates that use the word “kosher,” the organization launched a social media campaign urging customers to eat at restaurants using the alternative kosher certification, and to share pictures of their meals and dining experiences with the hashtag #kosherhere or #reallykosher.

“We have adjusted our system to accommodate the new legalities,” said Leibowitz. “Tomorrow we are showing we are here to stay.”

The organization, which now has 26 restaurants in Israel using the Private Supervision certification, including several in Tel Aviv and Herzilya, has added another location since the ruling and has more in the pipeline, said Leibowitz.

“We have been adding at least one location a month, sometimes more for the last year,” he said.

Arbis, the hummusiya location for the Friday, June 25 event, has been using Private Supervision certification since it opened two and half years ago, said Yoav Bakerman, one of the three owners.

Bakerman said he and his partners didn’t like the working methods of the rabbinate.

“It’s a lot of money to use the rabbinate,” said Bakerman. “It was important for us to have a kosher restaurant, and it’s a kind of bridge for other customers.”

Some customers have chosen not to eat at Arbis when they found out what kind of kosher certification the restaurant uses, but they have served ultra-Orthodox and modern Orthodox customers just the same, said Bakerman.

When the new kosher certificates were given out two weeks ago, the hummusiya offered to host an open house to show that “it’s time to do things differently.”

“We’re not the old generation any longer, you have to do things differently in order for it to be different.”

According to Leibowitz, the Friday event at Arbis was the first in a series, with each event at a different location on a weekly basis.

Arbis, 1 Shilo Street, Mahane Yehuda, Jerusalem.

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