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Rabbinate heavyweight defects to private kashrut initiative

Jerusalem-founded Private Supervision group receives major boost with addition of expert Rabbi Oren Duvdevani

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

Customers sit at the Carousela restaurant, which was supervised by Hashgaha Pratit - Hebrew for private supervision - to check it abides by kosher practices, on June 8, 2016, in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood.(AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)
Customers sit at the Carousela restaurant, which was supervised by Hashgaha Pratit - Hebrew for private supervision - to check it abides by kosher practices, on June 8, 2016, in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood.(AFP PHOTO / MENAHEM KAHANA)

Private Supervision, an alternative kosher supervision organization founded as a friendlier alternative to the government-run rabbinate, will now have a well-known kosher rabbinical expert running the show.

Rabbi Oren Duvdevani, who was in charge of the kosher certification department of the rabbinate of Givatayim, a suburb of Tel Aviv, left his government job to join the Jerusalem-based initiative.

“It’s a very serious change for us,” said Yonatan Peleg, the spokesperson for Private Supervision, which was established by Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, a member of the Jerusalem city council for the Yerushalmim party. “He’s a very serious person in terms of kosher supervision, a real expert, and anyone who has worked with him knows that.”

It’s a significant change for Duvdevani, too, who is leaving the well-established rabbinate, which effectively has a monopoly on kosher supervision in Israel.

Rabbi Oren Duvdevani (Courtesy Neemanei Torah V'avodah)
Rabbi Oren Duvdevani (Courtesy Neemanei Torah V’avodah)

Duvdevani, said Peleg, has years of experience working with private kosher supervision, having spent time working in Mexico for OU Kosher, the certification and supervision department of the Orthodox Union, as well as for OK Kosher.

“He knows how to run a private kosher supervision organization,” said Peleg. “He knows you can do it competitively and that can improve the entire network, where the relationship between restaurant owners and the rabbinate has just been deteriorating all the time.”

There are now between 30 and 40 restaurants in Israel that have kosher supervision through Private Supervision, known in Hebrew as Hashgaha Pratit, which is based on a cooperative effort between supervisors — women and men — and the kitchen staff at the participating restaurants, cafes and hotels.

“Our plan is to really expand now,” said Peleg.

Israeli law does not oblige restaurants to be kosher, and nonkosher establishments are common, mainly in areas with a less religiously observant Jewish population.

But restaurants that do want to be considered kosher must have the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate under current Israeli law.

The cost of official inspections and a certificate for a medium-sized restaurant is in the range of NIS 9,500 per year ($2,500).

Those opposed to the current system allege it is corrupt and unfair — and that it does little to confirm that a restaurant is indeed kosher.

The Chief Rabbinate dismisses such allegations, saying it is best placed to handle the process and that any allegations of corruption are investigated.

AFP contribute to this report.

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