The head of the Chief Rabbinate’s Kashrut Division is to be indicted on charges of receiving bribes from food importers who demanded kosher certification and preferential treatment in return for their money.
In December, KAN News reported that the police had obtained footage of Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen Arazi, the exclusive authority for granting kashrut approval to imported food, receiving envelopes filled with cash allegedly in return for kashrut approval without undergoing the requisite procedures for licensing.
KAN reported on Monday that Cohen Arazi is set to be indicted for having taken bribes for many years.
According to the original report, in one video of the rabbi, one of the importers is seen giving him an envelope of cash and the rabbi is seen counting the bills.
In another video, an importer tucks a roll of bills into the rabbi’s shirt pocket and asked him if he accepts checks for his son’s wedding, after which the two discussed kashrut approval for the importer’s products.
Cohen Arazi allegedly claimed to some of the importers that the cash was destined for a charity for the needy run by his wife, although it transpired that no such organization existed.
One of the importers involved in the scandal said he began the bribery payments eight years ago and gave Cohen Arazi between NIS 1,000 and NIS 1,500 each time.
In one incident, it is suspected that Cohen Arazi gave the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut approval to a fraudulent kashrut authority.
Cohen Arazi has not cooperated with the investigation into his activities. His lawyer argued during the investigation that the money the rabbi received went directly to needy families and rejected the bribery allegations.
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah religious-Zionist organization, which lobbies for reform of religious matters in the public domain, said the indictment demonstrates that “the total monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate over kashrut causes severe corruption and harms the kashrut of food that Israelis consume.”
The organization said the latest incident of corruption within the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division showed that the institution should only regulate the industry and allow independent kashrut authorities to provide supervision instead.