New Kosher Law in Georgia


georgia-general-assemblyThis week, Agudas Yisroel of America commended Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly upon the signing into law of the Georgia Kosher Food Consumer Protection Act.

The bill had garnered unanimous support in both the House and Senate last month, “a testament,” says Agudas Yisroel Ohio Regional Director Rabbi A. D. Motzen, “to the personal effort of the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Mike Jacobs,” who worked with Orthodox Jewish community leaders in Georgia to promote the legislation. Jacobs, Rabbi Motzen notes, “was involved in every aspect of the bill’s drafting – and redrafting – and garnered the necessary support for the bill’s passage.”

 The revised Georgia statute will amend the existing kosher labeling law, enacted in 1980, in a manner that is patterned after the “public disclosure” models adopted in Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.

 Public disclosure requires stores selling unpackaged food represented as kosher to inform the public as to the identity of the kosher certifier and other relevant information regarding the standards adhered to when making such a claim. Among other things, the bill also transfers oversight of the kosher law from the Georgia Department of Agriculture to the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

 Though no court in Georgia deemed the state’s kosher law unconstitutional, a challenge was filed by local Conservative Rabbi Shalom Lewis and the American Civil Liberties Union. In response to the lawsuit, a bill was originally introduced in the House to repeal the kosher labeling law, but that measure was not brought to the floor for a vote.

 “Had the current law simply been repealed, consumers would have likely faced an increase in kosher fraud,” says Rabbi Reuven Stein, director of supervision at the Atlanta Kashruth Commission. “Any store could have advertised its products as kosher without any requirement to substantiate their claim. House Bill 1345 does not replace the need for a reliable kosher supervisor or agency, but it will give consumers information about the kosher standards being used so they can make informed decisions.”

HB 1345 was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group including State Representatives Kevin Levitas, Joe Wilkinson, Wendell Willard, Michele Henson and Fran Millar. The bill was shepherded through the Senate by Senator Don Balfour. Testimony in favor of the bill was offered by Rabbi Yechezkel Freundlich of Congregation Beth Jacob, University of Georgia law professor Hillel Levin, and David Schoen, Esq.

Rabbi Ilan Feldman, of Congregation Beth Jacob and Dean of the Atlanta Kashruth Commission, had warm words of praise for Agudas Yisroel’s efforts. “Rabbi Motzen visited Atlanta several times,” Rabbi Feldman said, “and spent dozens of hours working on this legislation from his Cincinnati office. He used Agudas Yisroel’s national legal network to bring together the necessary experts and kept everyone focused on producing the best legislation possible under the circumstances.”

{Noam Newscenter}