‘Kosher’ Investment Policy in Israel Would Have Rabbonim Approve of Investments


yitzchak-cohenDeputy finance minister Yitzchak Cohen of Shas, seen at left,┬áis promoting a novel concept: kosher investment avenues, by halacha, with the blessing of the Finance Ministry. The idea involves having leading rabbonim of each community, who rule on halachic issues, approve investment avenues for the charedi community. One such rov would be Rav Moshe Yosef, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef, head of Shas’ Moetzes Chachmei Hatorah, who would grant his imprimatur to investments among the Sephardi community. Cohen has been discussing the concept with Yadin Antebi, the commissioner of capital markets, savings and insurance, who would have to approve any special investment avenues. “We want to approve investment avenues based on values, for example halachic principles,” Cohen said.

The avenues in question would encompass everything from investment instruments to savings to life insurance and pension plans, he explained. Rabbinical approval would free various groups that had forgone pension savings until now to do so in appropriate frameworks, says Cohen.

Until now, frum Yidden had a problem placing their money in standard avenues because some are prohibited halacha. For example, investment in corporate bonds are prohibited because it is forbidden to charge interest on loans – ribbis – unless the company has special permission. Also, the frum public does not want to invest in companies that work on Shabbos or sell non-kosher food. For their part, investment banks would like access to the savings of the religious community.

Also involved in the talks with the treasury is Rav Arye Dvir, head of the Halachic Business institute and a confidante of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. Rav Dvir is already involved in certifying stocks for investment by charedim, such as Mercantile Discount Bank and the religious investments firm Chilat Shoham.

“Unfortunately, many religious people can’t invest in provident funds today,” Rav Dvir said. “We want them to have kosher investment options, including in provident and pension funds. That’s why we’re in talks with the treasury and why Antebi has been cooperating fully in finding solutions.”

It isn’t that the frum community has no other options. They can invest in approved ETFs or in foreign companies, says Rav Dvir. “But our purpose is to help investors achieve the highest yields [possible] through direct investments as well. For that we need special approval of investment avenues.”

Meanwhile, during the past year, the Badatz of the Eidah hachareidis has begun granting its approval (or not) to various investment bodies. So far it’s given the thumbs-up to Excellence Nessuah and Hadas Malchut (an arm of Hadas Arazim), and is expected to shortly smile upon Harel’s pension fund Gilead.

Alongside Rav Dvir and the Badatz, Rav Moshe Yosef is getting involved.

Last week, the Knesset Finance Committee approved a proposal to allow “personal provident funds” to start operating. Rav Dvir was involved in that too, alongside the committee chairman, Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism. Their concept is to allow the religious to invest according to their conscience in companies that share their values.

Not everybody is charmed with the concept, even in the charedi community. Allowing charedim who understand nothing about investments to manage their own money is a recipe for disaster, charges one. A single person could rule the roost for whole communities, at his personal whim. “It’s dangerous,” he summed up.

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel/Haaretz}