Koshergate Kontinues

Rabbi Jason Miller weighs in on Washington, DC’s kosher kontroversy for The Huffington Post and The Forward:


Kosher certification in the nation’s capital has become much like everything else in D.C.: political and divisive. The Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington has long had a monopoly on kosher certification and it doesn’t want to give up its stronghold anytime soon.

Over the past several decades, reports have surfaced of the Vaad refusing to certify sit-down restaurants as kosher because it will lead to socializing between single Jewish men and women (which could in turn violate strict Jewish law). The Vaad even insists on charging for its own certification on top of already established certifications. As Jay Lehman recently wrote to the editor of the Washington Post, “The Vaad has made it clear that other kosher-certifying authorities are not welcome in the area to supervise these establishments. In addition, all kosher meat and poultry wholesale suppliers who wish to sell to kosher establishments are expected to submit to Vaad supervision, even if they are already certified by another nationally recognized kosher certifier.”

These tactics, which seem to violate the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, have come to light as a result of the local D.C. Vaad refusing to grant a kosher certificate to Sixth and Rye, the new food truck run by the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue. Last year, the non-denominational congregation offered an iPad as a prize to the individual who came up with the synagogue’s next big idea. The winning submission was a kosher deli restaurant housed in a truck to jump on the country’s trend of food trucks that roll out at certain times as announced via a Twitter feed.

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11 replies
  1. jacob
    jacob says:

    i object to the statement: “reports have surfaced of the Vaad refusing to certify sit-down restaurants as kosher because it will lead to socializing between single Jewish men and women (which could in turn violate strict Jewish law)”
    basis of my objection – there are no documented sources of this happening.
    basis of my objection part 2 – this is illogical. if this were the case there could not be any other kosher sit-down restaurants supervised by the Vaad.
    summary – this statement is completely meaningless and as such there is no logical reason to care what the author says.

  2. Mike
    Mike says:

    Well, reports have surfaced that the food truck was going to be open during Shavuot without the supervising Rabbis knowledge. That would be a HUUUUGE violation of halacha and if that was going to be the case, that would end the controversy over the food truck (though the problems with the Vaad are certainly valid to keep discussing).

  3. H
    H says:

    Mike, you are correct. It was going to open and to serve dairy and the Mashgiach had no idea until he was called by a local community member. Sixth and I sent out an E-mail stating that the truck would be closed within a few hours of this phone call. It is very simple, they were going to do this without informing him becuase very obviously, kashrus is not a very high priority to the people running this truck.

    As to the lie about the VAAD opposing resteraunts becuase they don’t want men and women to mingle such hysteria certianly seems to border on anti-religious prejudice clouding the way of basic common sense.

  4. Will
    Will says:

    Vaad certifies Eli’s, which is a sit-down restaurant in which singles do mingle.

    This sounds like a slam at religious Jews more than anything else. As for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust act I think it’s pretty stupid to think that a kosher certification agency is violating US law by refusing to certify a restaurant. The Vaad can certify whomever they wish and someone else can open up their own kosher certification agency if they wish and certify whomever they want.

  5. Stephen Richer
    Stephen Richer says:

    Really Will? After all the times you’ve told me not to comment on the Torah because I haven’t spent years studying it, you’re going to comment on antitrust law even though there are thousands of people in this country who have practiced antitrust law for over 10 years (and you’re not one of them).

    I don’t mind you doing so, but just keep this in mind next time you tell me not to talk about the Torah.

  6. Rob Feldmeier
    Rob Feldmeier says:

    1. The Vaad is not violating the Sherman Anti-Trust act any more than the Catholic (Latin for Universal) Church is when it excommunicates Christians who do things not permitted by canon law (abortion, for example). Just as the Catholic Church is permitted, by the First Amendment, to maintain that it is the exclusive custodian for Christianity, and to not deal those who think otherwise, the Vaad is permitted by the First Amendment to make its own determinations concerning kashrut and not deal with those who think otherwise. The Vaad is well within its free exercise of religion rights to refuse to cooperate with kashrut organizations which do not comply with its dogma. A religious organization may engage in anti-competitive practices where the primary motivation for those practices is not financial gain but religious belief, Costello Pub. Co. v. Rotello, 670 F.2d 1035 (C.A.D.C. 1981).

    Even if it were not, the Vaad’s practices can hardly be called monopolistic. You do not need a hechsher to open a restaurant, even a kosher one. There is no civil law which prohibits you from calling your restaurant kosher, even with no supervision at all.

    2. Having said that, I think that the Vaad could issue different levels of certification, as many municipal rabbinates in Israel do (Kosher, Kosher Mehadrin, Glatt Kosher, etc.) The Vaad seems frequently to take the machmir (stringent) position. Jewish Halacha recognizes lenient and stringent positions for many aspects of Kashrut. It is forbidden to label those who rely on the stringent position as fanatics. It is also forbidden to criticize those who rely on the lenient position as insufficiently scrupulous. Within the clear boundaries of Torah, there are many different practices, all of which are correct.

  7. Bethany
    Bethany says:

    I agree with the first three posters – this is RIDICULOUS. They certify Eli’s and the JCC Cafe, where, gasp, men and women sit at the same table and… TALK! They charge for their certification because people still have to go and check everything.. it’s not a rubber stamp for them, they actually check that things are Kosher without taking the word of another certifying agency.

  8. Will
    Will says:

    Whoa, Stephen! Nursing a grudge over there? Feel better.

    Since you r so knowledgable prove to me how not certifying a food establishment is monopolizing? If the Vaad wanted to be a monopoly wouldn’t it do just the opposite? It’s called common sense.

    Oh and in three years I’ll know just as much (if not more) than u or anyone on this damn website about antitrust law, buddy.

  9. haim ohana
    haim ohana says:

    Hello everyone
    I plan to open a dairy restaurant with sushi, pizza, bagels, coffee, pastries, cakes, pasta with cheese and other goodies
    Who can help me with some things (I’m from Israel) to do it quick to contact me my email

    Haim Ohana


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Koshergate Kotinues – Link to HuffPo / Forward piece. […]

  2. […] this site and around town the past several weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about the Va’ad certification policies, in general and in regards to the Sixth & Rye truck, […]

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