Without trying to justify the illegal actions of many in the state’s kashrus system, it is pointed out that many of the harsh points contained in the State Comptroller’s report on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel kashrus pertains to legal matters that do not have an impact on kashrus in the slightest. This includes mashgichim claiming to work over 24 hours a day, mashgichim being paid off the books (working under the table) and other activities that are not kashrus related. There are documented cases in which mashgichim filed for hours worked, when in actuality, they did work.
That said, there are also areas where the actions or inactions of mashgichim did impact kashrus, like those who claim to have reported to work when in fact, stores they are responsible for were not checked for weeks!
The reports states there between 3,800 and 3,900 mashgichim in the state system, of which 95% are employed by the restaurants they monitor, and only a small number of them are employed by a religious council.
In the Jerusalem Religious Council for example, 40 of 412 mashgichim filed for over 16 hours a day of work, and of this number, 16 claimed to have worked between 12 and 24 hours a day. This is just an example of the magnitude of the false reports and being paid and not working.
In Jerusalem, the level of fraud is simply nothing less than an outrageous Chilul Hashem, cheating the system, avoiding taxes, and being paid without providing kashrus to stores while naïve consumers eat with the belief someone is watching the store.
Another interesting fact in the report is that only 35% of the mashgichim employed nationwide are certified as mashgichim by the Chief Rabbinate. In Jerusalem, that number is about 17%, Netanya 10%, Haifa 35%, Rehovot 25%, Tel Aviv 58%, and Ashdod 64% to cite some examples.
The state comptroller also documents that local religious councils act as they please, often ignoring the Chief Rabbinate of Israel guidelines for regular and mehadrin certification, often insisting on chumros that are not included and in the case of Jerusalem, too often, no one is watching the store – literally.
For those in the know, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern Shlita announced when he assumed the post he would work hard to clean house. In fact, it was his staff that brought the state comptroller and Israel Police into the picture, which led to the disclosure of widespread corruption in the Jerusalem Religious Council, which is also responsible for other religious services in the city.
Following the release of the state comptroller’s report, Rabbi Stern released the following statement. “I was elected to the post of Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem two and a half years ago and at the time I said I will direct my energies to the kashrus. That is what I did from the first day, as I saw there were areas requiring improvement. We made changes in areas under my control, but there are areas that are not under my control.
I pointed out the deficiencies to the Chief Rabbis of Israel, the Jerusalem Religious Council, politicians and members of the press. Drastic change takes time, not two years, and B’ezras Hashem, with determination we will make changes in the coming two years.
I must add there are many in the Jerusalem kashrus who are performing admirably, far beyond their job description, with mesirus nefesh towards maintaining kashrus in the capital. I do not address the kashrus because of the [state comptroller’s] report, but because it is my responsibility, and I will continue doing so after the media fanfare dies down”.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)