Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Kashrut Crisis in Australia?


At 5:16 AM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

May 20, 2005
The kashrut crisis

THERE is a growing crisis of confidence in the NSW Kashrut Authority (KA), and regardless of the spin offered by its current leadership, the sooner they accept this premise as fact, the quicker this crisis can be resolved.

Should anyone doubt the veracity of this crisis, consider the following facts: three members of the KA board resigned last year over KA halachic administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick’s kashrut work in New Zealand; the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies launched a 10-month inquiry into the KA which concluded last year with 28 recommendations for reform; and a growing number of Sydney’s kosher restaurateurs and caterers are not satisfied with the status quo at the KA. Add to this the fact that members of various Orthodox congregations in Sydney have met in the last month to moot the idea of forming an independent kashrut authority, and it is not a stretch to suggest that not only is there a crisis at hand, but that it is reaching its apex.

However, one point should be made abundantly clear: this crisis has nothing whatsoever to do with the halachic ability of Rabbi Gutnick. It is his title — halachic administrator — which is a microcosm of the real issue. There should be a total separation of powers between the rabbinic arm of the KA and its administrative arm. Rabbi Gutnick’s title straddles both, and therefore a problem, real or perceived, exists.

Nonetheless, the issue of Sydney restaurateurs and caterers buying Melbourne meat because it is cheaper is far more complicated than many appreciate. Under the law of “shechitat chutz”, Judaism protects the ability of locals to make a living from the supply and sale of kosher meat. Because Melbourne operates in a competitive market with three different hechshers, and because rent, labour and transport costs are lower in Victoria, the cost of kosher meat in Melbourne is noticeably cheaper than in Sydney.

That aside, the hand-picked board of the KA remains unaccountable and has no constitution. Furthermore, the fact that most of the rabbis on the KA board are also on the Sydney Beth Din leaves little or no room for an independent means of appeal to the Jewish court should the need arise.

The current standoff between the KA and South Head Synagogue, in which both parties are threatening legal action for alleged defamation, is not only regrettable but underscores the depths to which this crisis has sunk. Had those at the KA been prepared to implement the majority of the key recommendations of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies inquiry, the crisis would have been averted.

The NSW Kashrut Authority must now accept that it has lost the confidence of its community, and should be restructured with a total separation between the halachic arm and its administrative arm to ensure that kashrut in this community is attainable, affordable and accountable.


Post a Comment

<< Home