Passion8, the K-A and the KCI

March 5, 2015 by J-Wire News Service
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In August 2013, Sydney caterer Passion 8 went into voluntary administration culminating ultimately, in liquidation, with unsecured debts in excess of $1,000,000, and owing the KA $73,981

The situation was to bring Kashrut in NSW under the microscope through the workings of the Kashrut Commission of Inquiry established by The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies.

The report was handed down at the beginning of February and can be seen here.

kashrutThe Kashrut Authority has examined the report published by the KCI and J-Wire publishes its response in full:

The liquidator, Holzman and Associates, in a report issued 20/11/2014 stated that in their view the company had been trading insolvent from at least 30/4/2013.

Some Executives from the former Passion8 then became part of the start-up of a new company called Amaze In Taste (AIT) trading on the reputation of the old Passion8. The Kashrut Authority was approached to issue the new entity a licence. The Kashrut Authority, being fiscally responsible, wanted to ensure that it would not be placed in the same situation again, and, in line with its standard licence agreement, requested a bond and director’s guarantee. This is standard commercial practice especially in such a situation. This was flatly refused and AIT began operations under the supervision of its own Mashgiach without Rabbinic authority.

During that period, the then President of the NSW Board of Deputies (JBOD) as well as the President of the JCA engaged the KA, in our view, in a productive and collaborative manner. This culminated in a meeting of the Rabbinical Council of NSW where the President of the JBOD attended. He chaired the meeting and informed the Rabbis that he and the President of the JCA had spent many hours investigating the matters and had concluded that the KA was in the right, both in terms of AIT and in terms of its meat policy. A vote was taken, resulting in an 18-3 majority to support the KA, and that the KA should be the only kosher certifying agency in NSW. The KA from its end had taken cognisance of advice from the JBOD and JCA and had agreed to make positive changes to its constitution and membership.

However in the week following that vote things changed. Rabbi Yosef Feldman chose to defy that vote and continued to give supervision to AIT.

The KCI was formed by select members of the community, with the proposed backing of some community organisations, to investigate Kashrut in NSW.

The KA felt that any proper investigation into Kashrut in NSW would have included itself as a key participant. However, the KCI was started, its guidelines drawn up, its board and employees chosen, without any consultation with the KA. The KA were in fact approached only once the KCI had begun and the KA was advised that the train has left the station, if you want to get on board you need to run. It is also important to note that some of the people involved in the set up and board of the KCI have also been involved in prior issues with the KA in 2004, which were dealt with in the appropriate manner at that time. Based on the KCI’s exclusion of the KA’s involvement in the formation of the KCI and its aims, the KA board felt the KCI’s aims were not purely independent, and that the KCI was in fact a potential competitor to the KA.   As a result a decision was taken for the KA not to focus on the KCI but rather on its core activities in providing kosher services and products to its consumers.   The KA felt the KCI’s finding would not be of a completely independent nature and therefore not conducive to real improvement in kashrut in NSW. Our conclusion has proven to be correct.

We believe you will come to the same conclusion yourselves as you read our analysis of the KCI Report. The Report is cleverly crafted to plant doubt and suspicion where there is none, without crossing the line into defamation. It should be noted that in the lead up to the Report the KA became aware of a draft copy and upon exchanges between our respective lawyers the Report took on a completely different tone. We asked the KCI for the opportunity to review the Report prior to publication but this was refused. We ask you to read carefully our analysis and judge for yourselves.

Financial Review

The Privacy Act makes it illegal for the KA to publish details of the salaries of its employees. However those salaries are determined at all times by the lay board of the KA and are well within industry standards.

In 2010 it became a requirement to have annual accounts of any incorporated association with a turnover of more than $500,000 independently audited. We undertook this task diligently but it took time. The Department of Fair Trading was at all times fully understanding of our position, and there was never at any time a question of us being considered in breach of the act.

It should be noted, that in contrast to any other kosher agency in Australia, all our charges are public and our audited accounts are available on the Internet. Similarly, all our halachic policies are published in great detail on our website.

The Report suggests that the KA should be required to be more transparent than compliance with government auditing reporting and regulatory requirements . It seems the law of the land is not good enough for the KCI. Why not?

The KCI in clause 58 states erroneously that the “KA refused an independent financial review”. This is incorrect. The President of the JCA had agreed with the KA that Mr Peter Hersh would perform an independent audit of the KA for the JCA. Subsequently, the KA was informed that Mr Hersh’s review would no longer be considered acceptable. That same day, the KCI was announced.

In clause 59, the KCI seems to suggest unfairness in the involvement of the SBD in potential dispute resolution. However the KCI acknowledges that the situation had already been corrected by our new constitution.

The facts are as follows. The Sydney Beth Din (SBD) is the halachic decision maker of the KA. In relation to any dispute(other than that relating to Halacha) the KA has within it provision for alternative dispute resolution either through zablo (ad hoc rabbinic court) or the London Beth Din. In no case would the SBD ever be involved in judging its own cause.

Accountability to Community

While the KA serves the community it is not a communal organisation and never has been. The KA is a licensing authority. It has never solicited donations, it takes no charity and operates purely as a “not for profit” organisation, providing a service for fair and reasonable fees. From the time the SBD was established in 1906 it has overseen kashrut in Sydney and administered Shechita. The KA is the kashrut arm of the SBD.

While there were two shechitas in Sydney at different times, kosher supervision was undertaken only by the SBD. In 1977 the Yeshiva entered into kosher supervision and this led to a period of turmoil for kosher consumers. This ended, when in 1990 the SBD Kashrut and the Yeshiva Kashrut merged into the KA. At all times the KA and its predecessors were always extensions of the various rabbinic bodies – nothing else. In 2013 the Yeshiva resigned its position on the KA.

The KA licenses companies and ensures their foods are compliant with Jewish law. Our accountability in that respect is to other Batei Din and Kashrut Agencies around the world.

It is simply not logical to suggest that the KA or the SBD should be accountable for its religious and halachic policies to any community secular organisation. It is not logical that they, as secular organisations should have automatic representation on a religious body. In the same way as it is not logical for the JBOD to have representation on the Rabbinical Council of NSW, it is not logical for the communal organisations to have representation on the KA or the SBD. They are not capable or qualified to make any determination on religious matters, and on the contrary, would be seen to be interfering in the halachic process and encroaching on a domain that is not theirs.

In terms of its commercial obligations the KA has an administration board, like-minded in its determination to properly observe Halacha, which is obviously accountable to the Government and the Law. If anyone believes that we have not fulfilled our obligations they are invited to take their complaint to the appropriate regulatory body in the appropriate jurisdiction, instead of spreading rumour and innuendo.

Notwithstanding any of the above, the KA has always been open to improvement and seeks to enhance, where reasonable, its transparency. To that end in the past it has had a member of the JBOD attend board meetings. We have re-extended this invitation to the JBOD and look forward to a member being nominated. What could be more transparent than having a member of the JBOD view operations of the KA from the inside?

Conflict of Interest

The issue of conflict of interest between the Kashrut Authority and Kashrus Australasia was dealt with in 2004 when it first arose. A company in New Zealand, not at the instigation of Rabbi Gutnick, sought Rabbi Gutnick’s personal hechsher.   This is not an uncommon occurrence in the USA and Europe. It was agreed by the KA board that Rabbi Gutnick should give the hechsher privately and that he was permitted to do so as he was (and still is) a part-time employee of the KA. The question was then put by the administration committee of the KA to Rabbis Apple, Rogut, Franklin and Ulman of the SBD whether or not Rabbi Gutnick be required to give a percentage of that income to the KA. The SBD ruled that as Rabbi Gutnick was a part-time employee, and entitled to engage in alternative employment in his own time, there was no halachic or moral requirement to do so. The question was also asked of Rabbi Hershel Shechter, the noted International Posek, who ruled that Rabbi Gutnick was permitted to give the hechsher and was not required, not even beyond the strict letter of the law “lifnim mishurat hadin”, to give any percentage to the KA. As often happens with boards of management, some who were not satisfied with the umpire’s decision resigned from the board.

In the minutes of a meeting of the KA on 28/10/2004 the now Justice Stephen Rothman attended the meeting on behalf of the JBOD (a position he retained until he became a Judge) and the following is recorded:

Mr Rothman addressed the matter of the recent resignations from the KA of Messrs …….. advising they had met with him to express their concerns .. his opinion is as follows …… “…there is no moral or legal impediment to Rabbi Gutnick pursuing this business on a private level.

It should be noted that this is the only company to which Rabbi Gutnick gives a private hechsher. There is categorically no ongoing conflict of interest as suggested by the Report. Every company that comes the way of Rabbi Gutnick is certified by the KA only. Rabbi Gutnick is totally devoted to the Kashrut Authority and any suggestion that any funds (other than from that one company) go anywhere else other than the KA is simply scurrilous.

It should also be noted that at that point in time it was documented as to the working commitments of Rabbi Gutnick for the KA. Those commitments have and continue to be upheld.

The above information was given to the KCI at a meeting in the presence of former Justice Frank Marks, and despite correspondence from our lawyers that there is no conflict of interest, the KCI chose to publish what can only be described as a gratuitous and undeserved attack on the integrity of Rabbi Gutnick. The KA knows of no other Report in the history of our community that singles out an individual in the manner done so by the KCI.

New Constitution

In the KA’s opinion the KCI seems not to have grasped the role of an independent Beth Din in a Kashrut organisation, or indeed the very nature of a kashrut organisation. They also do not appear to have adequately researched the issue.

In Melbourne – Kosher Australia (Rabbis Mordechai Gutnick, Barber and Sprung), Adass (Rabbis Beck and Katz) , Chabad (Rabbis Groner and Telsner); London (Rabbis Gelley, Abraham and Simons) Johannesburg (Rabbis Kurtstag, Rapaport and Baldiel) the OU ( Rabbis Genack, Shechter and Belsky); in all these cases Halacha is determined by either one, or at most a Beth Din of Rabbis. There are no massive boards of Rabbis or lay bodies overseeing those Rabbis. The Beth Din decides Halacha. The halachic process as it relates to the complexities of kashrut is not an easy one and requires significant expertise. As such it is proper and usual world practice that the Beth Din be the decider on all matters of Halacha. Halacha is not decided by committee.

Furthermore the suggestion of the KCI, to remove the requirement that board members be observant members of the Jewish faith, or indeed of the Jewish faith at all, shows a total lack of sensitivity to, or understanding of, halachic process and running a kashrut organisation. It is not something accepted anywhere in the world.

The new KA constitution clearly delineates the separation of powers between the board that runs the financial and commercial side of the KA and the SBD that oversees Halacha. The SBD rabbis are not members of the board but attend meetings, as is appropriate. Contrary to the assertions of the KCI, it is wholly proper and standard practice that they decide all matters of Halacha, and play a major role in the affairs of the KA.

ACCC

In 2004, under threat of legal action from two of the current managers of AIT (then Front Page), the KA turned to the ACCC to seek immunity from the third line forcing provisions of the TPA.

There were two aspects to the request. The first, our contention that our policy ensured the existence of a kosher butcher in Sydney, as we felt that the butcher may not be able to survive without that business. The second was based on Halachic reasons, which we outlined to the ACCC. Many submissions were made to the ACCC against the KA, including one from an individual now on the KCI. (which raises the question of his impartiality   as clearly he had already formed a view in his submissions). The ACCC rejected our arguments in relation to ensuring a kosher butcher in Sydney, but accepted them in relation to our halachic position. Since then the KA has accepted that it can play no role in applying size of market criteria to licensing. We do however, as always, apply halachic criteria.

It must be noted that the questions raised by the KCI in paragraph 80 and indeed other paragraphs of their Report, were already placed before the ACCC. The ACCC – the independent umpire – still upheld the immunity. The KA finds it curious that the KCI chose to raise them again without at least acknowledging they were already put to the ACCC. If the KCI believes it has any new information that would suggest we are not entitled to the immunity we invite them to take it up with the ACCC again.

The KA states categorically that its reasons are halachic and not commercial. No one in the KA benefits monetarily from this decision. It has confirmed the decision with overseas halachic experts. It has even explained the reasons to local lay leaders who have accepted them. We even explained it to the KCI. The KCI simply does not accept or respect that we may have a halachic view on this matter.

AIT

The KA finds it curious that the KCI did not investigate the pricing of AIT compared to other Kosher Caterers. AIT, buying meat from Continental Kosher Butcher (CKB) in Melbourne and not being charged kashrut charges by the KA would have been the perfect model from which to make judgments and comparisons. However, this opportunity was not taken up.

The KA however made the following findings. It is of course difficult to compare catering costs as there are many variables and the charges are generally not public, but Passion 8 and subsequently AIT do indeed publish their charges for their specially designed meal specials, made to feed six to eight guests. The published charges:

Passion8 July 2013 – $148 choice of chicken or fish + free delivery. Feeds 6 to 8

AIT Feb 2014 – $145 choice of veal or salmon + $20 delivery. Feeds 6 to 8

AIT May 2014 – $150 choice of Spatchcock or Salmon + $22 delivery. Feeds 6 to 8

AIT Feb 2015 – $175 choice of beef or Salmon + $22 delivery. Feeds only six.

The following conclusions seem clear:

  1. From July 2013 till Feb 2015 there has been at least a 33% increase in the price of the same offering despite Passion8 changing to AIT, and being allowed to use CKB meat and paying no KA charges.
  2. The price of kosher meat and poultry does not appear to make any difference to the final price as the fish (available anywhere and at the same price as to non-kosher caterers) menu, and meat menu are priced equally.
  3. If indeed the alleged saving and reduction in price afforded by using CKB was real – one would have then expected in subsequent pricing for there to be a decrease in the cost of the meat menu at AIT, as compared to the fish menu and its subsequent pricing to the consumer. No such price differential occurred.

Based on the above information it is reasonable to conclude that the use of CKB meat as compared to Hadassa makes absolutely no difference to the price of kosher catering.

This is but one example of facts and figures that should have been taken up by the KCI and are missing from the Report.

Furthermore the KA also finds it curious that no reports or submissions by consumers were published and little or no reporting on the good work the KA has done was mentioned.

The KA has been reliably informed that the KCI received the following submissions and information, none of which was published in its Report:

  1. The KCI received rabbinic advice that indeed in all jurisdictions around the world, only observant members of the Jewish faith are allowed on a kashrut board.
  2. In the home town of Rabbi Emmanuel, (the rabbinic authority mentioned in the Report), there is a meat policy similar to ours, disallowing meat not produced under their supervision.
  3. Several of our caterers made submissions praising the KA and our meat supply.
  4. There were submissions stating that the state of kashrut in Sydney for the kosher consumer has never been better.

The KA feels the above information would have been pertinent to include in the Report.

Recommendations

The KCI makes a number of recommendations to reduce costs, each of which upon proper examination are found to be either unacceptable halachically, or make no commercial sense.

  1. The KCI suggests that by streamlining shechita from four days to two, savings of $200,000 could be achieved. This is simply wrong. Firstly the current division of shechita over four days is because of issues of capacity at both the meat and chicken abattoirs, as well as at the butcher. Neither could cope with the same volume delivered over two days instead of four.   Furthermore almost all of the costs are fixed labour costs. Our shochtim are employed on appropriate, and indeed conservative salaries. If we were to try to cut their salaries by 50% then they would simply seek employment elsewhere. Therefore both from a practical as well as a commercial standpoint this suggestion simply cannot be implemented.
  2. The KCI suggests that opening of the wholesale poultry market will reduce prices by some 30%. The KCI should have been aware that the poultry market has been open for more than twelve months. Solomons is the only other wholesale poultry supplier in Australia other than M&M, and our licensees have been free to buy from both for nearly 12 months. As far as we are aware there has been no drop in wholesale prices and most of our licensees continue to buy from M&M. The recent experience referred to by the KCI (clause 90, page 39) which resulted in a thirty percent reduction in prices was a reduction in one item only, in one store, largely to compete with Coles and certainly did not translate into across the board reductions. It certainly did not represent any sort of valid statistical sample from which to make broad sweeping assessments across an entire market.
  3. The KA now allows meat for its licensees from both Hadassa and Solomon’s. This restriction is applicable only to caterers , shops and restaurants licensed by us, where we insist that only meat under our supervision is used. This constitutes an extremely small part of the market. CKB meat is available throughout NSW at supermarkets and many other retailers, for the household consumer. AIT has been using CKB for twelve months. There seems to be no drop in wholesale or retail prices at all, and at AIT there has been an increase in excess of 33%, as we have demonstrated earlier. There is simply no credible evidence put forward to back the assertion that the volume of meat created by the KA allowing its caterers and shops to use other meat, could have any price impact on the market at all.
  4. The KCI posits a reduction in the per head charge for functions in NSW. It suggests this will bring reduced costs and suggests a comparison to Melbourne of $2 a head. The KCI does not mention which kashrut agency charges this amount, nor does it mention or compare this charge to the totality of charges, we and other kosher agencies charge. We are reliably informed that kosher agencies in Melbourne charge their caterers annual, monthly or quarterly fees in addition to any per head charge. Without knowing those fees it is simply impossible to make any meaningful comparison at all. Our only charge is the per head charge, as we believe that to be an equitable way in which to charge a caterer. Charging a monthly fee would be difficult if different caterers have different numbers of functions. In order to compare, one needs to amortise the monthly Melbourne charge over the number of heads. No such calculation has been made. Furthermore we do not know the hourly rate of mashgichim in Melbourne. Do the kosher agencies charge an administration fee of 10, 20, 30, or even 40%. Without knowing these figures it is simply impossible to make comparisons at all. While the $2 per head charge on its own may appear to be less expensive, without knowing the other figures, drawing any conclusions is impossible.
  5. There is no reputable hechsher that we are aware of that relies on CCTV in the place of a mashgiach temidi (continuous) when one is required. It is simply too easy to get past the camera. Kosher meat and non-kosher meat look identical, and once past the camera point cannot be detected. In our establishments that have working mashgichim, the introduction of CCTV (even if halachically acceptable) would also lead to an increase in cost for the proprietor not a decrease. The suggestion cannot be implemented and there are therefore no cost savings.

In conclusion, not one of the cost cutting measures suggested by the KCI, on even superficial examination, has any practical merit.

The KCI also suggests that the JCA should fund kosher supervision. We believe this to be simply a waste of communal funds. All the businesses engaged in the provision of kosher foods supervised by the KA do so for a profit. As such JCA funding to kashrut supervision is merely funding the profit margin of those businesses, with absolutely no guarantee of savings being passed on to kosher consumers. The providers of kosher foods properly pay for services rendered by the KA. They run businesses. It seems not in line with the JCA charter that these businesses should be subsidised. JCA money would be better spent funding the various chesed organisations found throughout our community that provide consumer goods to families in need.

Conclusion

The KA considers events of the last twelve months as most unfortunate. A caterer went into liquidation, placing pressure on the KA as well as many suppliers to that caterer. Instead of supporting the KA in its attempt to secure the most reasonable of terms with the replacement caterer, certain persons supporting AIT, entered the scene and gave an unfair advantage to this caterer over the other kosher caterers, who at all times had behaved in a proper manner. Based on the analysis of the KCI Report in this document, the last 12 months have not provided any discernible cost advantage to the kosher consumer.

Furthermore as can be seen from the above, very little of the Report has any validity whatsoever.

The future direction of the KA is clear. We will continue to offer the JBOD the opportunity to participate in the KA as they have done in the past. The SBD will remain the halachic decision maker of the KA. Rabbi Gutnick of the SBD will be our Rabbinic Administrator. We have an almost unequalled national and international reputation, of which we are justifiably proud. We will do our best to continue to serve the community and continue making, “keeping kosher made easy, as is our motto.

Our community has had a united kashrut for over 23 years and has been the envy of many. If there are Rabbis who do not want that situation to continue, or there are lay leaders who need only Rabbis who do their bidding – so be it. Let them start their own kashrut – but let them not do so by hiding behind catch words like “accountability” and “transparency” and falsely accusing us of wrongdoing. At the recent Royal Commission one Rabbi stood out head and shoulders above the rest as a man of integrity and principle – our Rabbi Gutnick. It is that integrity and principle that permeates the Kashrut Authority.

If kosher consumers, whether rabbis or laity, want integrity and only one kashrut, it is time to make your voices heard. If you leave it too long it will be too l

Comments

35 Responses to “Passion8, the K-A and the KCI”
  1. Michael Que says:

    Julie. Constructive conversation is useful. Untruthful rants are not.

    Regarding your comments about restaurants in Sydney.

    To be blunt , would it make sense to sell surf boards at Uluru? If you were opening a kosher establishment , would you not do so where your market is? Demographically, the majority of Kosher eating Jews are in the Eastern Suburbs , so logically that’s where the majority of kosher establishments are likely to be found .

    A cursory glance on the “Consumer” tab of the KA website shows , under the category of “Restaurants, Takeaway and/or Deli” no less than 10 kosher establishment open to the public. Not sure where you got the impression there were only three…

    Funnily enough , it mentions the Fibonacci Kosher Cafe in Bondi Junction and the Museum Cafe in Darlinghurst in the city . Both in places you allege to have “NIL” kosher establishments.

    If by kosher restaurant you did not mean kosher establishment , rather an upper class quality experience akin to that of the steakhouses in Los Angles, your comments are still misleading.

    The amount and quality of kosher restaurants in Sydney solely depends on whether the Jewish community wishes to support them.

    As is evident from the KA rebuttal above , the change from Sydney meats to Melbourne meats has had no impact in lowering the price of kosher . The KA can’t be blamed for your perceived lack of restaurants.

    Again . For restaurants and kosher establishments to increase in numbers. People need to go out and buy kosher .

    If you don’t use it , you lose it .

    • Hfreedman says:

      I think this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If anything the ka made affordable kashrut more difficult hence the complaints and call for an enquiry
      The ka’s reply to the report is not meaningful outside its own self serving interests. Neither I nor many others agree that minimizing competition is better for the consumer
      Previous attempts by some to try and sell retail kosher meat were stymied by the ka and its supporters

      Their credibility amongst the wider community is not very high

    • Julie Zemer says:

      Michael,

      I was responding to some Rabbi who claimed the Sydney is “well served” with restaurants. That was simply incorrect, so I responded to it.

      Again – Sydney is NOT well served with restaurants.

      Definition:

      restaurant
      ˈrɛst(ə)rɒnt,-r(ə)nt,-rɒ̃/Submit
      noun
      a place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises.

      Fibonacci is a cafe. And the deli up at the Musuem also does not serve hot food.

      So Michael, you may only be correct in that Bondi indeed has FOUR and not THREE restaurants.

      1) Katzies
      2) Pita Mix
      3) Savion
      4) Lewis

      (I had thought Lewis is only a deli – but have been advised they also have seats. )

      I stand by my earlier comments. Sydney is NOT well served.

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        Julie, the market place of consumers will drive the supply in any particular demographic.
        If or when the call for kosher expands in Sydney the supply of product and facilities will increase.
        Unfortunately you are living in a small market as it presently stands, you are not in Johannesburg, London Paris or Los Angeles etc.

        • Julie Zemer says:

          Rabbi Pinchus,

          I’m going to get down to the point. I am not having a philosophical or hypothetical discussion. I am going to hit home – hard! Call it aggressive if you will.

          For years the supply of kosher packaged foods was met by Starks, Krinsky’s and Grandma Moses. These stores charged steep premiums (tax) for their imported goods. Families would virtually mortgage their homes for a strict Kosher passover menu.

          Come along Coles, Woolworths and they opened their aisles for kosher offering.

          What happened then, Rabbi Pinchus?

          I’ll tell you!

          Kosher consumption went up by volume of sales and also by patronage. This means people who were not eating kosher packaged foods, began to keep kosher thanks to the goys.

          Then, the price of kosher food dropped – including packaged meat.

          More Jews are keeping Kosher than ever before thanks to the offerings of Coles and Woolies..

          Rabbi, stop with your hypothetical talmud philosphy. Arguments are better left for the shabbat table. Let’s keep this real and true!

          The retail industry has proven that consumers get driven by good offerings, like massive kosher aisles stocked with variety – not vice versa. To suggest that ‘when the call for kosher expands’ is misaligned with consumer buying and marketing strategy. Coles got it right!

          Rabbi Woolstone – you clearly see the market through one shade of lens. That shade belongs to the bygone days of mafia like stockist who would regulate the price of eggs and milk based on personal whim and credit…

          I on the otherhand belong to this generation. The era of free enterprise and open market. Credit and debt free..

          Simply put – the KA is still stuck in the era of mafia like operations and has one of two choices.

          1) To comply with the desire of NSW Jewry and become transparent and competitive.

          or

          2) Face fierce competition with the risk of going under.

          • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

            Julie,
            Firstly,the Talmud promotes the idea of fair open competition, nothing theoretical, real world 21st century living.
            When next in Sydney I am more that happy to show you and your friends, the original sources.
            The availability of Kosher in Coles etc is a welcome addition and has had a positive effect of the market.
            As I have said, there will be more restaurants and cafes as the kosher consumer market increases, the placing of national brands like Heinz and Coca Cola under hechsher is a far easier process.
            I am not a prophet consequently I cannot see into the future, I believe the KA will continue, another Hechsher may evolve, we live in democracies.
            Melbourne has Kosher Australia, Adass and Chabad and possibly other rabbinic supervisions.
            May I wish you a Kosher and Joyful Pesach.

  2. Julie Zemer says:

    Anyone who is familiar with the workings of the KA will know that what the KA response here is absolutely riddled with untruths.

    One clear and evident mistruth is that KA statement talks of the benefits of having only one hechsher – yet the Rabbi admits to owning a second locally registered hechsher!

    So, by their own admission – he should shut down his other business because his policy is a ‘1 hechsher policy’.

    Whilst he claims above that it is only for endorsing kashrut in NZ – he calls it ‘Australiasia’. If he were sincere he would change the name to “NZ Kashrut”. But he is not sincere.
    The second licensing body owned by Gutnick is merely one of MANY conflicts at the KA.

    When the KA incorporates the SBD into their defense argument for purposes of damage control, it effectively brings the SBD into possible disrepute.

    SBD should think long and hard about this rabbi’s attitude, and should issue a statement as to their position in this matter.

    • Steven Gervais says:

      Julie,
      Your defamatory statements regarding Rabbi Gutnick’s integrity and his supposed “conflict of interest” are indeed counterintuitive to the issue at hand. The intrinsic agenda of the KCI is so blatantly obvious, in that they do not wish to enhance kosher in Sydney, nor make anything easier for the consumer. Rather, as the KA’s rebuttal so eloquently highlighted, their reccomendations don’t even make logical sense.
      I find it startling that you are so sure that the response by the KA is riddled with “mistruths,” yet you fail to acknowledge the increased prices of AIT, notwithstanding the “free market” that now exists with regards to purchasing of kosher meat. The way I see it, this city is being held ransom by a catering company who has monopolized the industry, and consequently blaming the KA for THEIR financial misgivings.
      As for your demand to the JBD to comment on Rabbi Gutnick’s position, as the rebuttal states, the KA does not take any communal money, nor does it run on communal donations. That said, the JBD actually has no bearing on the workings of the KA and should definitely be exerting their efforts in more worthy causes in the community, such as ensuring a Jewish education for those that can not afford the exorbitant school fees our Jewish day schools demand.
      I personally wish the KA much success in their future endeavors and congratulate them for withstanding the agenda-driven traffic they have had to endure until this point.

    • Steven Gervais says:

      Re: Julie’s comment on the SBD issuing a statement, I would also like to see the SBD make a statement as to their position on the matter, which I am sure would be fully supportive of Rabbi Gutnick. The evidence speaks for itself, as the KA’s response outlines, their actions and runnings are in complete accordance with the secular law and Halacha, so I don’t see any reason for the SBD to actually have a dispute with Rabbi Gutnick or the KA.

  3. Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

    A comment was made about Kosher restaurants in Los Angeles, it is true there are many. Los Angeles has a Jewish population of over 600,000 with a very large Kosher consuming population. Sydney in contrast has a Jewish Community less than a tenth of that size, with a very small Kosher consuming population.
    Considering this reality Sydney is very well served kosher wise, similar sized communities in the US access there kosher food stuffs at a local supermarket or receive deliveries from larger communities hundreds of miles away. Catering is usually very basic and restaurants hardly exist.
    The Halachic knowledge necessary to be a Rav HaMachshir ( supervising rabbi) is highly specialist, far beyond the average community rabbi, such experts should be supported by lay leaders who are Shomer Shabbos and include men and women with proven business, accounting and legal expertise.
    Each and every person and organization should be open to change and improvement, this however should be carried out in a spirit of cooperation, mutual respect and safeguard the dignity of all concerned.

    • Julie Zemer says:

      With respect Rabbi you have no idea about ‘well served’.

      NSW boasts NIL kosher restaurants at city. NIL in the North Shore. NIL kosher restaurants in the mini-hub of Bondi Junction.

      NSW only sports three, yes THREE restaurants. All in the ‘Jewish residential’ Bondi area.

      Rabbi – you call that “well served”? I’ll take a large portion of lies with that!

      You rabbis with your fancy spin constantly justifying. Sorry – you are wrong!

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        Julie, I lived Sydney until 2008, during the previous 3 decades I witnessed many restaurants come and go including a lunch time café at the Great Synagogue. I frequented each an every one, the owners of the establishments which closed always complained to me that the consumer base for full service restaurants is small.
        The Kosher restaurants at the Bnai Brith and Hakoah were subsidized by virtue of the fact that they resided in a host organization.
        I am not sure of the size of the community on the North Shore, are there enough Kosher diners to support a restaurant?.
        I follow the different websites and sense that the list of product under Hechsher and kosher food distribution is expanding in N.S.W.
        I am always ready to be corrected if I make a mistake, however I take umbrage at you calling me a liar and would expect you to retract your insulting and disrespectful language and rethink your aggressive tone.

        • Julie Zemer says:

          Rabbi – no one called you a liar.

          It reads, ‘I’ll take a large portions of lies with that!”, contrarily -suggesting that what you have said is NOT a lie.

          McDonald’s have a sales pitch which is well known (perhaps not to you as a kosher consumer). ‘Would you like fries with that’. It’s a jib in the food industry.

          It’s an attempt to upsale or profit from something that doesn’t yet exist. Rabbi you have not lied, please do not read it that way.

          The comment was to say that calling Sydney well served in regards to kosher restaurants is just simply wrong.

          This is something that you have now tried to argue through proportional statistics. I on the other hand see ‘well served’ as a reference to variety. Sydney does not have variety by any stretch of the imagination. ‘Well served” is evidently a matter for interpretation.

          I will concede however Rabbi, that your observations on kosher consumer behavior has shown that a number of upstarts in Sydney have failed.

          Their failures are also a matter of contention. Apparently there is a massive Kashrut certification tax applied to upstarts. I would suggest that this may play a role in restaurants closing.

          $50,000? licenses are almost impossible to recoup in profit these days. No wonder these places went under!

          As for ‘insulting, disrespectful and aggressive’ – that is your narrative. Not mine.

          Peace.

          • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

            Julie, can you publish an official document which sets out all the charges applied to different businesses under the supervision of the KA.

            • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

              Julie,can you specifically clarify the issue of “… massive Kashrut certification tax applied to upstarts….” and “…$50,000 licenses are almost impossible to recoup in profit these days…”

          • Baron Revelman says:

            Dear Julie,

            You inadvertently demonstrate that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

            Firstly, The KA grants a kosher licence to any applicant who agrees to the halachic and commercial terms of our standard licence agreement. The KA NEVER makes a decision in regard to “size of market” considerations,

            Secondly, there is NO start up tax or fee to obtain a kashrut licence from The KA. For restaurants and takeaways and the like we charge $570 a quarter, plus mashgiach rates worked out according to the halachic requirements of supervision.

            There is no license fee for caterers, they pay mashgiach rates and a per head charge.
            We also have cottage industry charges for caterers that work out of OBK where they are charged $36.30 per spot check, or $200 maximum per month depending on the amount of spot checks required in that month. The choice is the licensees’.

            The reason why start ups fail is often because there is insufficient clientele.

            If you want to know anything about how The KA runs please email or call our office, we have nothing to hide.

            • Julie Zemer says:

              Thank you Mr Revelman.

              Rabbi Woolstone take note.

              $22 an hour x 8hr day = $176
              $176 x 5 days = $880
              $880 x 52 weeks = $45,760

              $45,760 + $2280 ($570 x 4) =

              $48,040

              That’s pretty close to what I stated as the $50,000 required to be kosher!

              I rest my case. Goodbye!

              • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

                Julie, I take note of your point.
                I assume Mr Revelman will post his response.

                • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

                  Julie,
                  Here in the US in certain communities, where fulltime supervision is required, as in the case of a meat restaurant/factory, a “working Mashgiach” is employed, she or he both is a worker and kosher supervisor, thereby reducing wage costs to the owner.

              • Baron Revelman says:

                Julie,

                Your original comment suggested there was a $50,000 licence fee, to obtain kosher certification and I have told you there is no licence fee. You are now claiming the Mashgiach’s wages are a “tax”? You can’t be serious. Are you suggesting the Mashgiach , who is normally a “working” Mashgaich, fulfilling a productive role in the establishment as well as his/her supervisory duties, should work for nothing? Would you? Or are you suggesting that he KA, which is a not for profit organisation should provide all its services for no charge? If so, just who do you imagine is going to fund this?

    • harry freedman says:

      I clearly did not make my point clear enough about kosher restaurants in Los Angeles. I assumed that most readers here would be aware that LA has a significantly larger kosher population than Sydney, my poorly made point was that it is possible to have kosher restaurants of high standards so that even non-kosher consumers would choose them as a point of destination.
      this does not happen in Sydney and the additional costs that Kosher caterers have to pay to the relevant Kosher authority, combined with the significantly lower annual business hours they can compete with other food outlets, makes it almost impossible to succeed.

      Kol HaKavod to our existing establishments for surviving, and poor consumer not being able to recieve higher statndards

  4. Chana Warlow-Shill says:

    This statement was released without the consent of two out of four board members. Anthony Greenfield and Chana Warlow-Shill have now resigned from the Board.

  5. Michael Que says:

    Harry . You have done a lot of writing . But not a lot of reading . Are you aware of the article about which your comments have been written .
    1) To suggest that a certifying agency should continue to certify without being paid for their service is nonsensical .
    2) that pita mix story: it’s clearly all about perspective. At that time , the KA had the policy of only Sydney meats allowed (as per ACCC decision mentioned in above article ) . Why was Pita Mix contravening their contractual agreements to keep KA guidelines ?

    As has been proven from the KA response , buying the meat from Melbourne doesn’t lower the price the caterers charge. But to bemoan the fact that Sydney doesn’t have as many quality restaurants as Los Angeles is misleading on two counts:
    1) there are over a million Jews in the city of Los Angeles .
    There are 50,000 Jews in Sydney. Of which , only a couple thousand actively keep kosher . How can u demand that there be equal amounts of restaurants ? Who is eating that much kosher here?
    2) the amount of kosher establishments is not dependant on the KA, it is up to us consumers to buy kosher !

    • Hfreedman says:

      That is true, of course we do need to support the kosher industry but it becomes difficult for those of us who are less concerned with strict kashrut than the more observant who have little choice

      Sydney is one of the finest food cities in the world, but sadly one can only describe the quality and variety of our kosher establishments as being only mediocre at best, then to make matters worse the food is that much more expensive

      A chicken and egg argument if ever there was one. The new authority really needs to develop a marketing plan for the kashrut industry in Sydney

      The logic has to be, if they can increase the numbers of consumers, then the profits will grow

      • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

        The culinary choices of Sydney are of no consequence in any discussion about the Kosher market place of Sydney. The kosher only consumers probably number in the low thousand add to that those who choose to have a catered kosher function for their family bar mitzvahs and weddings plus the communal functions.
        Whichever way you dice it, not a big market.
        Costs in any business are based on economies of scale, the Sydney kosher market just does not reach a threshold for dynamic wholesale competition which leads to competitive pricing.
        Yes, every effort should be made to improve systems, however a small community cannot expect big community prices and conditions.

        • harry freedman says:

          and with those thoughts in mind rabbi, the kosher community will simply dwindle away.

          I think a little lateral thinking would be of assistance, I thought us Jews were good at that

          • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

            Harry
            The community will not dwindle.
            the expansion of kosher consumption will depend on a younger generation of Jews committing to kosher homes and Kosher eating outside the home.
            This phenomena has been occurring worldwide over the last 40 years and G-d willing will continue.

            • harry freedman says:

              I hope you are right Rabbi

              sadly all I see in recent times, is the losing of respect for our leaders and the secularization of our culture

              • Rabbi Pinchos Woolstone says:

                Harry,
                I am listening to you carefully
                When I was a youth in Sydney, Torah Yiddishkeit was limited to small Kehillas like the Adass, the Yeshiva, the Mizrachi, there were Shomer Shabbat families at Roscoe Street, a number at the South Head, and at the the Central.
                I lived on the North Shore, I think there were two Shomer Shabbos families I knew.
                When I went to Zionist camp the ones I went to, where not kosher, my friend’s father provided the treife meat and on Saturday we were driven to the local swimming pool.
                In the last 40 year the paradim has changed dramatically, there are many more shuls full of young secularly educated and Jewishly knowledgeable people.
                Torah is alive, well and thriving and 90% of community settings and functions are kosher catered.
                Jewish educational options are 10 fold what they were a generation ago.
                We are living in exciting times Harry, we will continue to grow and thrive.
                May I wish you an inspirational and Kosher Pesach

    • harry freedman says:

      replying to this comment Michael,

      you misquote me; I did not suggest that any kosher authority not be paid, and additionally, you clearly either did not understand my point regarding the Pita Mix incident, or you chose to misinterpret it.

      to be clear, my point was that there is no valid reason why a Kosher license needs to impose terms other than the food it serves being kosher. on what basis or authority did the KA have any right to dictate where kosher food may be purchased from? it clearly was attempting to control the kosher markets which is quite clearly a breach of the anti monopoly laws in Australia

      it seems these issues will not be able to be resolved without acknowledgment by the parties involved of the problems. Blind support of one party or the other does not help resolve the issues at hand

  6. harry freedman says:

    continuing on from my earlier comment….

    arising from the first incident, complaints were made to the Trade Practices Commission (TPC as it was known then) that the KA was operating in breach of the Trade Practices Act and engaging in monopolistic practices. My recollection of the final report was to the effect that the TPC considered that the KA may have been in breach of the TPA, but decided to put a final report on hold allowing the community to try and work issues out

    the question arises, if I simply want to have confidence that a product or place is kosher, why cannot that be certified by any orthodox Rabbi with appropriate knowledge of the Halacha, not only the KA?

    what possible halachic reason can there be not to allow one of the few kosher restaurants/cafes to purchase kosher meat from Melbourne rather than Sydney, is it less kosher?

    to top all of these comments off, the monopolistic practises of not only the KA but other “communal religious organisations” simply causes more grief to the community at large.

    when I wrote previously about this issue I knew that there were many families that would prefer to keep kosher if the food was cheaper, now im not so sure.

    it certainly is a sad state of affairs when a major international city, such as sydney, cannot maintain a proper kosher restaurant, but only a couple of Kosher cafes. I have orthodox friends and family who come to Sydney regularly and would enjoy going to a proper restaurant that is Kosher, but cant.In contrast I have a friend in Los Angles who is an orthodox jew and a senior executive of a major movie studio who boats of how he can take various famous movie stars to Kosher steak houses, who then want to keep going back

    I think it is shameful that this small group of rabbis holds the community to ransom. I have had many conversations with proprietors of food outlets that rely on the Kosher license granted by the KA. their complaints take hours to hear, yet they cannot make the complaints public out of fear of their license being revoked

    It really is time that the whole Australian community re-thought these issues for the greater good

  7. harry freedman says:

    I was raised in a kosher household and have maintained a kosher household in my adult life. I have an interest in kashrut and recognise that it plays an important force within all jewish communities.

    i look at the concept from a simplistic and pragmatic point of view, when I purchase a kosher product, I would like to be assured that it is in fact Kosher. If I, or more importantly, friends and family who observe kashrut more strictly attend a function or go to a kosher restaurant, it is important to know that the place meets the requirements of kashrut.

    fairly simple one would have thought, but not necessarily so.the KA has manipulated the system so that the authority rests in the hand of a few, and the mandate of the authority has expanded itself to empower it and its officers in a way which goes further than simply declaring whether a product or a venue complies with the laws of kashrut.

    2 examples come to mind. I first became outraged when I heard that the KA had withdrawn its certification some years ago to the Sydney restaurant, Savion, not because it wasn’t keeping kosher properly , but rather because it hadn’t paid its bill to the KA.

    the second incident was more recent when a Rabbi from the KA created an fracus at Pita Mix because it had purchased Kosher meat from Melbourne at a time when Haddassa couldn’t supply a particular cut of meat.

  8. ben gershon says:

    no matter how one dress it up i from the lay community see rabbi Gutnick has a conflict of interest.and it dose not look good

    ben

    • Michael Que says:

      Ben Gershon. Not sure what is bothering you. The only people that should be worried about this “conflict of interest” are the people who it should technically affect, the KA. And if it doesn’t bother them , why should it bother you?
      Personally , if both an Australian Judge and a Rabbinic judge had a look and decided it was OK, then it’s OK with me as well.
      It’s high time the community stopped quarreling and finding reasons not to live in harmony . This whole affair has been a waste of the community’s time and energy.
      There isn’t a better kashrut organisation in Australia then ours here in Sydney . It’s time we started supporting it.

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