Religion Magazine

Rabbanut Changing Policy About non-Jews Working in Restaurant Kitchens

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Channel 2 News had an interesting expose on kashrut certification. There seems to be some confusion in the report between regular Rabbanut and private mehadrin hechshers, but the issue overall is fairly clear.
They have discovered that the Rabbanut, and this is not limited to the Rabbanut of a particular city but they found the same in the religious council of a number of different city Rabbanuts they spoke to, is now requiring restaurants to only employ Jews in the kitchen in the areas of food preparation. Non-Jews can be hired but only to be on the cleaning staff, and not to work in the kitchen.
Why do I find this interesting? Because until now the Rabbanut has always been very vocal about the fact that they rely on the Rama regarding the issue of "bishul akum" and allow non-Jews to work in the kitchen with the mashgiach lighting the fire or solving the bishul akum issue some other way. Allowing only Jews to work in the kitchen is a significant change.
(source: Mako)

I do not have an opinion if it is a good change or a bad change. With me being ashkenazi, I am perfectly fine with non-Jews working in the kitchen, as long as the bishul akum issue is resolved according to halachic standards and I assume once a place has a hechsher it does so, as per their standards.
On the other hand, with many Sefardim relying on the Rabbanut, maybe it is appropriate for them to use only the Mechaber's more stringent opinion of not allowing non-Jews to be at all involved in food preparation. I have long had the question how Sefardim could eat Rabbanut, both because of their relyign on the Rama for issues of glatt/chalak which should not be good enough for Sefardim, or because of the bishul akum differences. The answer given is that Rav Ovadiah and many other Sefardi poskim allowed Sefardim to rely on the Rama on these (and maybe other) issues.
I don't know why it has been changed. A suggestion is that it is due to natural competition. With so many private hechshers on the scene, the Rabbanut feels it must change some policies in order to compete and stay relevant. Perhaps, and if that is the case, more power to them - competition makes the world go 'round. The other option is that they are becoming more machmir because they are losing sight of what the Rabbanut is meant to be. If that's the case, they might end up with some problems, specifically more and more restaurants unwilling to cooperate and refusing to take the hechsher with the more stringent standards. They would do well to review both their standards and their motives before it is too late.
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