Times Will Tell

Podcast: Can fakin’ bacon and moon-shaped croissants be called kosher?

Times Will Tell takes a closer look at the first step of Israel’s reforms in the kosher supervision system, and who’s making the decisions

Welcome to Times Will Tell, the weekly podcast from The Times of Israel.

We’re taking a deep dive today into Israel’s kosher certification system, as the government undertakes the first step in overhauling the industry.

The new plan, unveiled in July by religious affairs minister Matan Kahana, would presumably end the monopoly of the chief rabbinate and local rabbinates as the only bodies that can issue kosher certificates, which costs businesses upwards of $2 million a year in total, and allow for other private kosher certification agencies.

This long-awaited privatization of the kosher certification industry follows a path paved by the religious Zionist Tzohar organization, which launched its own kosher certification agency in 2018. They took over for a grassroots group that first entered the industry years before, aiming to break the rabbinate’s grip on what can be considered kosher.

You’ll hear from several people involved in this industry, including Rabbi David Stav, chairman of Tzohar; Tzvi Maller, the American-born owner of Crave, a restaurant in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market that grappled with a fakin’ bacon issue; Itzik Kadosh, a pastry chef and owner of a beloved Jerusalem cafe who fought the rabbinate over turning his croissants into triangles; Yittie Lawson, who runs Tacos Luis, a Mexican restaurant down the block from Kadosh; Dan Mallet, who runs Jerusalem’s Angelica, a fine chef restaurant whose customers won’t stand for anything other than the rabbinate’s stamp of approval and Leon Avigad, who owns and operates the Brown Hotel chain in Israel, Greece and Europe and just wants his kosher supervisors to tell him what to do and how to do it.

It’s a wacky world of what is considered kosher and these people live it, every day.

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