After three contentious election campaigns Israel's new government has been sworn in. IDI's experts weigh-in with their recommendations on the most important issues on the agenda. Dr. Shuki Friedman on the challenges facing the 35th government in matters of religion and state.
The Government’s To Do List
Introducing Reforms in Religious Councils
Reforms that must be made include: changing the mechanism for selecting members of religious council; setting up an auditing committee for the councils; separating the positions of chair and director-general to counter political influence; publishing the protocols of council meetings; publishing details on organizations granted financial support and grants for “Torah culture”; and publicizing the process of the provision of religious services. There should also be a clear and focused definition of the division of powers between the local rabbinate and the religious council.
The Minister should promote full transparency in the kashrut market. To this end, data should be published regarding the number of hours of kashrut supervision provided, and a clear and uniform standard should be set for reporting on different categories of food businesses. In parallel, the religious councils should be required to report the number of kashrut supervision hours they provide, using this same standard, so that it will be possible to measure and compare the scope of their work on kashrut.
All kashrut service providers—both official (Chief Rabbinate) and private—should be required to be fully transparent regarding their operations. This will make it possible to formulate clearly-defined working practices for kashrut systems; make it possible to conduct discussions as to the justification for the existence of these providers existence, based on tests on questions of kashrut; the public will be more aware of the standard of kashrut offered for various food products and businesses, and will be better equipped to make more informed choices.
The Minister should establish a systematic and well-organized training program along with ongoing courses for rabbinical judges, in cooperation with The Center for Judicial Education and Training run by the judicial branch. We recommend placing particular emphasis on training in areas of civil law that have relevance for the work of rabbinical judges.
In addition, transparency in the rabbinical courts must be promoted by expanding the scope of information provided in the courts’ annual reports and presenting the data in greater detail. In this context, reports should include detailed budgetary data on the rabbinical courts, the time taken to close different types of cases, and more.