August 12 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – August 12, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 2 articles on the subject of Messianic Jews.

2 dealt with Messianic Jews
The case of “Pnina Pie” continues to occupy the media.
Messianic Jews
HaShavua BeAshdod, July 31; Makor Rishon, August 7, 2009

Following the AG’s decision to review the Supreme Court’s ruling that the “Pnina Pie” bakery owned and run by Pnina Comforty should be not be denied a kashrut license simply because Pnina is a Messianic Jew, two articles appeared discussing the move. The first, published in HaShavua BeAshdod (July 31), quoted the Attorney General’s (AG) response to the ruling: “‘In our opinion, the result of the ruling is a very difficult one, because it compels the local Rabbi to grant a kashrut license despite the fact that he considers the business not to be “kosher” in the strict halakhic sense, yet basing himself on laws directly relating to the kashrut of food. The ruling infringes on the Rabbi’s freedom of religion and of that of the observant community and can even bring about a situation in which the latter consume non-kosher food … In the present case, there was no intention to force on the plaintiff halakhic norms unrelated to food kashrut or to change her conduct … The rabbinate’s ruling contains no element of religious coercion. On the contrary, the rabbinate agreed to grant the kashrut license under certain non-essential conditions which derive directly from the core of the kashrut laws.’” The article also quoted Pnina’s response: “‘The Supreme Court is allowed to make another ruling. I believe in the justice of the Supreme Court. Are we talking about the freedom of religion here? What happened here was an infringement of democracy. In his policy, Mazuz is taking the State backwards to an unenlightened State such as that in Afghanistan. This is religious coercion.’”
A second article in Makor Rishon (August 7) noted that while the Supreme Court usually recognizes the considerations of the Rabbi who grants the specific license, it will intervene “in isolated cases where it is feared that the refusal to grant a kashrut license is not based on the kashrut of the food but gives backing to religious coercion. In contrast, in this case, it was ruled that the kashrut law is a ‘secular consumer law in essence and purpose’ … In principle, the ruling utterly negates any possibility of the law being based on the ‘principle of faith,’ which constitutes a central and established element in deciding halakhic kashrut.” In other words, the law of kashrut is closely linked to the acceptance of the word of the establishment concerned that it abides by the kashrut standards set by the religious community. It thus follows that the Ashdod rabbinate was unwilling to believe Pnina’s word that her bakery is indeed halakhically kosher: “It is important to understand that the granting of kashrut licenses is based to a large degree on the acceptance by the rabbinate of the owners’ declaration that they run their business in conformity with the kashrut laws set by Jewish halakhah. The identity of the person selling food and their halahkic reliability serves as a basis for many halakhic rulings … In the case of Comforty, the refusal to grant the license does not derive from an attempt to force the owner to change her religious conduct but from the very fact that she is defined halakhically as an apostate, with all the halakhic problems which this arouses.”