Rabbi Andrew Sacks is the Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel (the organization of Masorti/Conservative rabbis) and the Masorti Movement's Bureau of Religious Affairs. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Masorti organizations.
Monday Jan 23, 2012
We all scream for ice cream
Haagen-Dazs is NOT Kosher. Ouch! The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who under Israeli law has sole authority for matters relating to Kashrut in Israel (despite the plethora of Badazim) has ordered the product removed from the store shelves. They have gone so far as to say that "those refusing to comply risk losing their Kashrut certification." This abderian behavior, sad or funny though it may be, is becoming a trend.
Did someone discover lard in the ice cream? Is General Mills (the owner of Hagen-Dazs) spiking the product with pigs milk? The answers are no and no. The same ice cream that has been deemed Kosher until now has suddenly become suspect.
The problem, according to the spokesperson for the Rabbinate, is that Haagen-Dazs uses real milk rather than milk powder. If the milk is produced by non-Jews (Halav Akum), then they fear that it may become contaminated with a mix of milk from non-Kosher animals. For various reasons that defy logic this suspicion does not apply to powdered milk.
So the OU certification (the largest corporate Kashrut certification in the world) is good enough for North America but it falls short of the demands of Israel's zealously pious Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.
Well, one might simply say "different strokes for different folks." I have a friend who is an Orthodox rabbi here in Israel. His family keeps a vegetarian home. Yet, his brother-in-law won't eat in his home because he allows the use of dairy products that are under the supervision of this same Rabbinate that bars Haagen-Dazs. Maybe all dairy products should be pulled from store shelves?
Sound like the Chief Rabbinate has gone over the top? Sound silly? Well it is not. This is part of an ugly effort by Israel's Chief Rabbinate to become the equivalent of a papacy by setting religious standards for all communities, both in Israel and abroad.
It was just a few years back that this same righteous Chief Rabbinate decided that they would no longer recognize as Jewish those who convert via the rabbis who are members of the RCA (Rabbinic Council of America). They limited to a very small number the rabbis and rabbinical courts they would accept. The RCA and the OU are part of the same movement structure. The conversions performed by Orthodox rabbinic graduates of Chovevei Torah have been rejected almost outright.
Local rabbinic courts have always been autonomous. They must take into account local circumstances. Indeed, it is the oppressively strict standards used by the Chief Rabbinate of today (this was not so when Ben Zion Uziel or Ovadya Yosef served as Chief Rabbis) that has contributed to a strong public distaste for the religious establishment in Israel.
The Pope may set the standard for all priests in the Catholic faith tradition but we do not have a Pope. Even the concept of a Chief Rabbis does not come from within the Jewish tradition. It was established by the British based on the Millet system of the Ottomans.
This power grab by the rabbinate is little more than a veiled attempt at obtaining greater power. They have made this effort with regard to conversion, Aliyah, family status matters, military issues, and now ICE CREAM.
I don't know how other observant Israelis will take this but I, for one, will continue to enjoy my White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Hagen Dazs.
You scream, I scream, let's all scream for our ice cream.