Chief Sephardic Rabbi, Rishon Letzion Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef brushed aside the ultimatum issued by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit just a few hours after it was issued. Mandelblit issued an ultimatum to the Chief Rabbinate earlier on Wednesday, warning that he would cancel the monopoly that the Rabbinate currently enjoys over kashrus supervision unless they settled the issues surrounding the relationships between the businesses supervised and the mashgichim themselves.
The Supreme Court ruled more than a year ago that the direct payment relationship between mashgichim and the businesses which they supervise should be severed. The court ordered that the wages for the mashgichim come from another avenue and not be paid directly by the businesses themselves as it allows for too many possibilities for corruption inside the system.
With more than a year passing, the Attorney General’s office delivered the ultimatum in an official letter that was sent to the Prime Minister, the Chief Rabbis, the Finance Minister and the Religious Services Minister.
Rabbi Yosef claimed that the implementation of such a severing of relations would harm the current system and the thousands of mashgichim who provide kashrus supervision. According to him, the Rabbinate is still trying to come up with a style of operation that will allow for the indirect payment system while safeguarding the jobs of the mashgichim and the quality of service provided by the rabbanut.
Rabbi Yosef further asked Mandelblit for his assistance in developing a method of complying with the edict from the High Court without harming the jobs of the Mashgichim, who constitute thousands of workers. Rabbi Yosef, said that simply opening up the Kashrut industry to other interested parties would harm the workers, and lower the quality of supervision, which is something that no one wants according to him. He asked Mandelblit instead to intervene with the High Court and assist in developing a new system so as to achieve a complete and lasting solution, rather than cut and run which is easy but more damaging in the long run.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)
The AG is making an argument that has been frequently made by a number of rabbonim, askanim and MKs. There is a potential for corruption in the direct payment scheme. The government should provide the needed funds directly to the Rabanut so they can pay the salaries of the mashgichim like any other employee since that is what they are, government bureaucrats enforcing a set of rules. Likewise, other groups should be allowed to compete with the Rabanut if they meet certain standards of expertise and independence from any of the business interests who require hashgacha. These mashgichim are NOT entitled to a guaranteed job for life and if high quality hashgacha can be provided at lower cost and/or more efficiently, they should seek work in the private sector or apply for other public sector positions. R Yosef is not in the employment business; he is a government agency manager and has responsibilities to do his job in accordance with the requirements of halacha but also at the lowest cost to the taxpayers .
Mashgichim must be treated fairly. They have family and give many unsocial hours for our convenience to have all type of luxuries at anytime of day and night. Do you want Mashgichim to quit; we’ll end up with a shortage of kosher food and establishments!
But this issue is also a kashrut issue and an organisation where the mashgichim are employed by the supervised business is clearly of substandard. I don’t understand why the rabbanut can’t employ the mashgichim just like most or any other kashrut organisation.