'A lot of these restaurants have had it with the rabbinate'

Jerusalem’s Kadosh bakery drops Rabbinate kosher stamp for private alternative

Shift to supervision by Tzohar — which can’t legally call itself ‘kosher’ due to state monopoly — sparks cheers, curiosity and disappointment for some

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Keren and Isack Kadosh, the pastry chefs and co-owners of Jerusalem bakery Kadosh, which recently switched tokosher supervision with Tzohar and away from the Chief Rabbinate (Courtesy Kadosh)
Keren and Isack Kadosh, the pastry chefs and co-owners of Jerusalem bakery Kadosh, which recently switched tokosher supervision with Tzohar and away from the Chief Rabbinate (Courtesy Kadosh)

Pastry chef Keren Kadosh was making meringues, piping perfectly shaped rounds from a pastry bag with her red manicured nails.

Her message on the Instagram reel, however, had nothing to do with the rounds of whipped egg and sugar.

“Despite the storm, nothing has changed!! Our desserts are the same desserts, and we have remained exactly the same people,” wrote Kadosh. “And more important, and before everything else, we will always always fight for the respect between people. Whoever has trusted us for many years knows that we always fulfill our promises.”

Kadosh, one-half of the Kadosh family bakery, was referring to a social media storm over the venerated Jerusalem bakery’s decision to switch its kosher certification from the Jerusalem rabbinate to Tzohar, the religious-Zionist organization that launched its private kosher supervision program in 2018 in a bid to challenge the monopoly of the state-run Chief Rabbinate.

A strawberry-topped croissant from venerated bakery Kadosh, which has decided to switch kosher supervision to Tzohar from the Chief Rabbinate (Courtesy Kadosh)

In a variety of social media posts, including Facebook group Secret Jerusalem, more than 250 people commented on the change. Many looked at it as a positive development, while some asked for more information about Tzohar. A smaller minority commented that it was a step down in the popular bakery’s kosher supervision.

“Business owners have felt bitter, and have long desired a change to the kosher certification system, but they didn’t have an address,” said Yehuda Ziderman, director of kashrut for Tzohar. “They were scared they’d lose customers.”

Ziderman believes Kadosh’s decision is getting more attention because it’s well-known for its delectable pastries and handmade confectionery made by Keren Kadosh and her husband and co-owner Isack Kadosh, who inherited the business from his father.

“It’s a big decision for any business, big or small,” said Ziderman. “But a lot of these restaurants? They’ve had it with the rabbinate.”

It’s been a long road for those committed to offering a friendlier route to kosher supervision, which began in 2016 with the grassroots efforts of Hashgacha Pratit (Private Supervision), created by then Jerusalem councilmember Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz.

A branch of the Aroma coffeehouse chain in Tel Aviv that was awarded a kosher license from the Tzohar organization, May 9, 2018 (Tzohar)

After gaining traction among a few dozen kosher restaurants in 2018, Hashgacha Pratit transferred all the businesses under its supervision to Tzohar, an organization led by Orthodox rabbis which aims to cultivate a more united, open-minded Jewish society in Israel.

The transfer to Tzohar took place after a High Court of Justice ruling which established that restaurants could inform clientele that they serve kosher food, providing they didn’t explicitly designate themselves as a “kosher establishment.”

Despite the ban on using the word “kosher,” the decision was seen as a dent in the rabbinate’s control over the country’s kosher supervision process, and made way for Tzohar’s new licensing division.

“We’re more businesslike about all this, we live in the modern world, and people with crocheted yarmulkes can also take care of kosher supervision,” said Ziderman, referring to the modern Orthodox population of kosher supervisors at Tzohar, as opposed to the mostly ultra-Orthodox kosher supervisors of the Chief Rabbinate.

Some 200 restaurants countrywide now feature Tzohar kosher supervision in their establishments, with the familiar turquoise and yellow Tzohar sticker affixed to their doors. The word “kosher” is not used, and Tzohar has to provide a detailed explanation of the kosher standards in all of its restaurants.

The picture posted by Chotam chiding Pasta Basta for its use of Tzohar for kosher supervision, which reads ‘Pasta Basa,’ the word ‘basa’ meaning ‘bummer’ in Hebrew slang (Courtesy Chotam)

“After years of work, we’ve finally reached something of a consensus in Israeli society,” said Ziderman. “We still have a lot more work to do, but there is a large chunk of the population out there that is willing to work with us. People who eat Badatz [a private ultra-Orthodox kosher certification] won’t use Tzohar, but that’s not our target population.”

Keren Kadosh couldn’t be happier with their decision to switch the bakery’s kosher supervision to Tzohar.

“In the short time that we have been working with the kosher supervisors of Tzohar, it’s been wonderful for us to see the interest and time they invest in the kosher standards of the business,” said Kadosh. “Our family institution has been kosher from the day of its establishment and until today, that’s how it’s been and that’s how it will always be.”

“We will continue to be precise on all the rules of Jewish law, without insulting the honor and station of the rabbinate of Israel,” she added, “and of course we are committed to keeping our standards of kashrut.”

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