Kashrut Authority given deadline to reform

THE NSW Kashrut Authority (KA) has 36 days to make structural reform or a second kosher licensing body will be opened in Sydney.

The KA has been slammed by the Kashrut Commission of Inquiry (KCI), which conducted a 12-month investigation backed by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD), United Israel Appeal (UIA), Council of Orthodox Synagogues and JCA into the state of kashrut in NSW.

The report, released on Wednesday morning, says the KA needs structural reform and lacks transparency in relation to operations and finances. It also states that the community is not properly represented on the KA board, that the KA’s decision to force kosher establishments to use one or two suppliers when it comes to meat “is not based on halachic considerations” and that wholesale meat prices are 30 per cent lower in Victoria.

It further notes that “the KCI is of the opinion that prima facie there are questions about the financial condition of the KA” and that a “conflict of interest situation arose in the past, and currently exists, in relation to the KA which is not in the best interest of the community”.

The conflict of interest is in relation to KA rabbinic administrator Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, who is also the rabbinic administrator for Kashrus Australasia. Both organisations have the same initials, both purport to serve the same geographical areas, “Australia, New Zealand and Asia/Pacific” and Kashrus Australasia’s contact details include Rabbi Gutnick’s home address, mobile number and KA email address.

The detailed report states that the KA must revamp before March 13 or a new kosher licensing authority will be launched with the backing of major communal organisations, including JBOD.

The AJN understands that several high-profile rabbis have already agreed to oversee the new hechsher if it is required.

KCI chair Robert Gavshon said he recognised the “exceptional technical expertise” that the KA has and urged “its members to move forward in a spirit of goodwill and embrace the Commission’s recommendations”.

He stressed, in the report, that the best outcome for the community is if the KA reforms.

JBOD president Jeremy Spinak said that his organisation “fully endorses the Commission’s ­recommendations and, in partnership with other community-minded organisations, we will strive to see that they are implemented”.

He said that kashrut is crucial to Jewish life and that the recommendations, once implemented, will deliver transparency, accountability and meaningful competition that the community demands.

“We specifically commend the Commission for recommending a number of cost-saving measures aimed at lowering the cost of keeping kosher in NSW,” Spinak said.

“The recommendations are fundamentally concerned with Jewish continuity – we don’t want keeping kosher to be priced out of reach for Jewish families.”

The KA declined to comment.

JOSHUA LEVI

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick.