A Tale of Two Restaurants: What Do WE Think The Role Of A Hechsher Is?

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Dear Matzav,

The story of a restaurant in Lakewood that put up an Israeli flag on Yom Ha’atzmaut made headlines last week when rumors began to spread that the head of hechsher certifying the store had threatened to pull the hashgacha if the flag was not removed.

Whether or not the rumors were true, the story caused a stir, with questions about the authority of hechsherim and the legitimacy of Zionist holidays becoming the hot topic. For me, the discussions clarified a similar situation that took place just a few moths prior.

A few weeks before New Years, it was announced that the a Jewish entertainer would be hosting a show at a local restaurant. There was immediate backlash to the show and the restaurant was allegedly forced to pull the venue at the behest of the rav hamachshir. The story made its way to local news stations and the publicity forced the hashgacha to deny they had any involvement in cancelling the show. The show ended up taking place much to the chagrin of many people.

The sentiment at the time was that such sorts of entertainment had no place in a kosher restaurant and the hashgacha was in the right to say it wasn’t acceptable. I was impressed by how many people were standing behind the authority of our rabbonim and calling out those who flout them. But these recent events proved how mistaken I was.

I am not comparing the two situations and of course anyone would tell you that hanging a flag is a lot smaller transgression than hosting a secular party. But let’s call a spade a spade. We didn’t really think the rabbonim had the right to shut down the event. We only took that position because it fit our own. The second rabbonim take a stand that doesn’t jive with us, suddenly they are out of line and not in touch with reality. A similar situation over Pesach also leads to this conclusion.

This realization should shake us to the bones. If we lose our respect for rabbonim and turn against them the second they don’t fit our agenda we risk losing so much more than just a hechsher.

Sincerely,

H.G.

24 COMMENTS

  1. No comparison at all, and its not that one was a “smaller transgression” than the other.
    The first event which received widespread condemnation was of a yid who is no longer frum, and is not keeping with traditional family values, essentially celebrating a mechalel Shabbos.
    The second event is just a flag of the Jewish state. Other than Neturei Karta, 99% of the frum community has no issue with the Jewish State of Israel. This does not mean we have to agree with the policies of the government, any more than an American flag meaning you agree with the local policies

  2. Can a Rav or organization give a Hechsher to a hotel that has mixed swimming? A question that has been debated for years!!!

  3. Well written! Thank you
    There’s a crazy “Rabbi” in Monsey that gave a Hechsher on a cruise that had mixed ענינים. When he was asked why he would give a Hechsher his response was “Rabbonim give Hechsheirim on restaurants where people speak Lashon Harah. Lashan Harah is worse than what went on on the cruise”

  4. I am not comparing the two situations and of course anyone would tell you that hanging a flag is a lot smaller transgression than hosting a secular party.

    Don’t make a true argument and then just brush it away. And certainly don’t bend the truth in the process.

    The party in NY was not just a secular party. If a non-Jewish group wanted to make a new year’s party in a kosher restaurant no one would give a hoot.

    The issue was that they were publicly making a moshev letizim which was guaranteed to end up making fun of Torah and Mitzvos and those who keep it. A mixed gender audience celebrating New Years, an OTD comedian and lots of alcohol is almost guaranteed to get the avaira meter running. Hence the opposition to that event. It wasn’t just an “agenda”.

    A guy putting up a flag on his store is not a transgression at all according to most of those who would patronize that restaurant. Including those who have an haskafa issue with someone doing so

    Hence they have no reason to make a fuss and are upset if one is.

    Rabbanim not giving a hechser because Torah is being made fun of and the violation of it is being flaunted in a restaurant is easy to understand.

    Not giving a hechser because they don’t agree with the haskafa of a restaurant owner is not so easy to understand and support

    • It’s the Tzionim who are moshev letizim who make fun of Torah and Mitzvos and those who keep it.

      Who cares about some party? No one was making you go to the party while everyone was forced to see a Lakewood store fly a flag in support of anti Torah

      • Who cares about some party?

        If a party that was openly hostile to Torah is something that you don’t care about then you are really not in the position to complain about someone flying a flag.

        Even if (unlike most people) you believe that flag to be inherently in support of anti-Torah.

        If a party that was openly hostile to Torah is something that you don’t care about then your opposition to this flag being flown is very unlikely to be purely out of concern for Kovod Shomyim.

    • Those who give hechsherim follow “our Rabbonim”. If “our Rabbonim” say not to give a hechsher because they’ve done something inappropriate, those who give hechsherim must abide.

  5. Hechsher is a business like any other, anything they deem that will affect their public image, they will (correctly so), react to. It’s not a question of right or wrong. Much the same way a corporation will distance themselves from an athlete, actor etc. who served as advertising icon that got involved in any impropriety.
    Doesn’t seem that hard to understand.

    • Then it should be in the contract up front. And then I as a store owner can make an informed decision as to which hechsher I want to use

  6. There is a similarity to both cases here. In both situations the rav hamachshir had to deny any involvement. Which was most likely a straight out LIE! If the rav hamachshir did in fact threaten the store, they need to have the backbone to stand up to their decision. just to LIE and make believe the store owners made up this entire story is extremely troubling. Kosher doesnt mix well with sheker. Time for new rabbis that can stand behind their decisions.

  7. We are not Catholic b”H and dont believe in the infallibility of a Pope. These are rabbis working for a kashrus business that chose to make a political statement against the State of Israel. We need to stop having every decision made for us and use our own saichel. If the flag offended you dont eat there. If it didn’t offend you then go ahead and enjoy. Let’s save our important life shailos for the few Gedolim we have left. Other than that grow up and get over this mishegas.

    • It has nothing to do with you and your opinion. If a restaurant wants a hechsher from a certain Rav he will have to abide by the rules of that Baal Hamachshir who follows his Rabbonim. Rabbonim can also remove hechserim from Cola or milk or anything else if there’s something inappropriately written on it, even though you personally don’t mind.

    • Silly Sarah,

      The frum veldt has proven over and over In the voting booth and elsewhere,
      although they will never admit to it and And shouldn’t as it would be unhealthy to our whole Wonderful edifice, are well aware when following the rabbis Has its limits

      People who harp on it mostly are too obtuse

  8. It’s the same thing with the so-called shidduch crises. If you’re part of the rich & famous boy’s club and all your children get married 1 2 3, so the shidduch crises is a hoax. If your not famous and your children are not finding it so easy finding their bashert, it’s a serious crises.

  9. Annonymous #1 states ” Other than Neturei Karta, 99% of the frum community has no issue with the Jewish State of Israel.” Uhhhh? Where have you been for the past 71 years??? Secondly, hashgacha is a private business. A rav hamachshir can not be forced to give a hechsher to an establishemnt he is not comfortable with for any reason, regardless of the kashrus level of the food. Likewise he is free to remove his private hechsher for whatever reason he wants. If the store owner doesn’t like it, he as well is free to choose who he would like to have as a rav hamachshir.

  10. A supervisory service should lay out all its rules in advance for prospective customers to consider before doing business. That should include all non-kashrus issues that could cause removal of supervision. Then, the customer would not be blind-sided.

  11. Most missed the true point and the essence of the very issue.

    Unlike in Europe where the Rav of the town/community was the one that was responsible on all issues concerning yehadus, incl the Kashrus and all.

    The typical “Ba’al Machshir nowadays is not even on the level of your LOR, nor does he report to any major authority/posek – he is merely just sort of an expert in his ‘field’. period.

    I wouldn’t ask him any Shailos or any Hashkofos, as he is not fit for it.

    IMHO – that is wherein the problem stems – in Israel most Kashrus agencies are run by major Gadolim/Poskim, each mashgiach will report and will abide to that Posek etc. Whereas, in the USA its a business and everyone is just relying on the one that “expert” in that field.

    Thus, the above case of “trust in our Rabbanim” is not relevant.

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