JERUSALEM, Israel – The Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Messianic Jewish baker whose kashrut (kosher) certificate had been revoked by the Chief Rabbinate because of her belief in Jesus as the Messiah.
On Monday, the court ruled against Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who said that that Pnina Konforti’s faith undermined her credibility.
“[An] apostate cannot be considered trustworthy,” the Rabbinate stated.
The court ordered the Rabbinate to issue the certificate according to the requirements of the law.
“The Kashrut Law states clearly that only legal deliberations directly related to what makes the food kosher are relevant, not wider concerns related to food preparation,” the court’s ruling read.
The court also ordered the Rabbinate to pay Konforti’s 200,000 shekels (nearly $51,000) in legal fees.
Konforti, owner of two bakeries, one in the coastal city of Ashdod and the other in nearby Gan Yavne, has been battling the ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate on and off since 2002.
In 2001, she opened her first bakery in Gan Yavne. Her fledgling business prospered until anti-missionaries got wind of her faith through an article in a Messianic Jewish magazine. They organized demonstrations in front of her bakery and distributed fliers with her picture, warning the local population to shun this “missionary.”
Gan Yavne Chief Rabbi Mshumar Tzabari subsequently revoked her kashrut certificate, harming her ability to do business.
Four year’s later she opened another bakery in Ashdod, where a similar sequence took place.
When some members of the city’s ultra-Orthodox community learned of her faith, they began demonstrating in front her shop, convincing Ashdod’s Chief Rabbi Yosef Sheinen to revoke her kashrut certificate.
This time, Konforti decided to petition the High Court of Justice, whereupon the Chief Rabbinate prepared a list of requirements to reinstate the kosher status of her bakery.
Among the requirements was hiring an employee, to be approved by Sheinen, who would also determine his or her duties and salary.
The employee would be given a kashrut supervisor’s key to the bakery and would be paid by an employment agency or the local religious council rather than by her “employer.”
Konforti also had to agree to refrain from “missionary activities” at her bakery.
When she refused to meet the Chief Rabbinate’s stipulations, the High Court intervened in the stalemate and issued a ruling – one that pleased Konforti but angered the rabbis.
“I’ve been waiting for three years for this decision. Finally, I won,” the bakery owner said.
Konforti, who was raised in a Yemenite family, came to faith when she was working for an evangelical Christian family in Ohio.
“God arranged it that I arrived at a place where there were Christians who love Israel more than most Jews do,” she said.
“Their love and faith were so different from the religion I learned at home, which was based on fear,” Konforti recalled.
“I was never taught to serve God out of love until then. They taught me that Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) is the Messiah,” she said.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news