In his annual report, ombudsman Justice Yosef Shapiro harshly criticized Israel’s national kashrus. He noted that only 35% of its 3,900 mashgichim have the rabbinate ordination required to do their job and 95% of them are still employed by their workplaces, which creates an obvious conflict of interests.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs was not qualified to do its job of running Israel’s kashrus system, he wrote, because it “does not have the knowledge or required tools to implement its job of directing kashrus in [local] religious councils.” The Chief Rabbinate was not coordinated with the Religious Affairs Ministry and was not properly involved in inspecting the operations of local rabbinates. Nepotism flourished in the system and committees set up to deal with problematical issues in the past had done almost nothing.
The report said that fines imposed on cheating food businesses are easily evaded because a fined businessman has thirty days to declare that he wants to contest the fine in court. The majority of eight hundred fined people who chose this alternative never paid a cent because their cases languished until the statute of limitations made them immune to prosecution.
The comptroller’s report noted many technical irregularities in the kashrus field. Among Yerushalayim’s 412 mashgichim, forty officially worked over sixteen hours a day and sixteen were registered as working twenty to twenty-four hours daily. Many religious council workers were hired on the side as mashgichim for ridiculously long hours.
“This situation raises a serious concern that this is a convenient situation for all sides,” the comptroller wrote. “The businesses pay for supervision hours which are [only] done in part to allow them flexibility and convenience, while the mashgichim, who are supposed to ensure that the businesses provides the required kashrus, are partners to shortening of the supervisory time and enjoy a permanent, ongoing salary even for hours of work not done at the expense of businesses which ultimately pass on the expense to the public.”