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Jerusalem - Badatz Beit Yosef a Dominant Force and a Highly Profitable Business

Published on: October 15, 2009 11:37 PM
By:  Jpost
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Jerusalem - For Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the religious leader of Shas and the greatest living authority on Halacha for Sephardi Jews, providing kosher food to the public is a holy endeavor, a mitzva.

When a Jew eats kosher food instead of treif, one less sin is committed. The world becomes a better place, at least on a spiritual level. According to Jewish mystics, every mitzva performed by a Jew brings the cosmos one step closer to redemption.

But for the managers of Badatz Beit Yosef, Yosef’s kosher supervision body, providing kosher food is not just a religious act, it is also a lucrative business. And this creates an interesting dynamic. Business success translates into spiritual growth. Doing God’s will by separating meat from milk can also be profitable.

Badatz Beit Yosef is rapidly becoming a dominant force in the kosher supervision world. It boasts hundreds of restaurants, slaughterhouses, bakeries and food producers who subscribe to its services, and it employs hundreds of supervisors, administrators, secretaries and managers.
The organization’s success is due in part to the incredible popularity of the rabbi who stands at its head.

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Yosef, the 89-year-old Torah scholar, known for his photographic memory and his irreverent statements (calling former Meretz party head Yossi Sarid “Satan,” blaming Hurricane Katrina on the Godlessness of New Orleans, describing Arab terrorists as “snakes”), is seen by tens of thousands of traditional-minded Israelis as a both a highly esteemed authority on Jewish law and a down-to-earth leader.

Yosef’s popularity has already been translated into political clout with Shas, the rabbi’s party, steadily garnering hundreds of thousands of votes.

But in recent weeks there has been a new twist to the use of Yosef’s popularity.
Carlsberg Beer, which is under the supervision of Badatz Beit Yosef, printed calendars with pictures of Yosef that were distributed together with Shas’s weekly mouthpiece Yom Le’Yom.

“We were using Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to help us introduce our product to the haredi market,” said a source close to Carlsberg who preferred to remain anonymous because he had not received permission to speak with the press.

“The calendars were distributed only to the haredi community,” said the source, who said that a Jerusalem-based winery also under the Badatz’s supervision had printed a calendar with Yosef’s picture as well.

With more than 20 independent kosher supervision bodies operating in Israel, competition among them is fierce. A business’s decision to choose Badatz Beit Yosef over another kosher supervision might be because of the added value of being able to tap into Yosef’s popularity.

While use of movie stars, sports stars or other personalities to market consumer goods is common, tapping into the popularity of a rabbinical figure to sell a product is not an accepted practice.

Gadi Margolit, a senior manager of Trio, an advertising firm that specializes in the Arab, Russian and haredi markets, said the use of Yosef as a marketing technique was wrong-headed.

“A rabbi is supposed to be a respected, sacred figure,” said Margolit. “He should not be commercialized. Exploiting someone like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to sell beer is liable to antagonize a lot of people.”

However, a source in Badatz rejected the criticism.
“No one is trying to use Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to sell a product, and I doubt that anyone will buy beer just because a picture of the rabbi appears in a calendar. But people do rely on the rabbi to provide them with high-level kosher supervision.”

Although Badatz Beit Yosef was created 15 years ago, it did not become a viable business until about eight years ago, when Shas’s Ariel Attias, who is now construction and housing minister, helped set in motion a transformation.

“Until that time, the Badatz was not run like a business,” said a source close to the Badatz.
Attias, together with Yosef’s son, Moshe, turned the Badatz into a highly profitable business by charging more and by streamlining the organization.

“If you set out to be a charity that helps people, then you might have pure intentions, but when donations dry up, your hands are tied,” the source said. “But if your mind-set is business savvy, you can help people while turning a profit. And you don’t have to rely on the largesse of donors.”



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Read Comments (13)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Oct 16, 2009 at 12:01 AM Anonymous Says:

This is bit over the top. Aside from his rather bizzare comments on a number of issues, Yosef's beer endorsements are totally inappropriate. whats next? Maybe he will be endorsing Dan Hotels for that "bein hazamin" spring fling or ED medications. Maybe the sephardi don't care but to this old fashioned litvak, being a rav used to mean somthing.

2

 Oct 16, 2009 at 12:11 AM Anonymous Says:

Even though the Beis Yosef Hashgacah follows some chumras, there are many more kulas which could be problematic for litvashe and especially chasideshe yiddin. For example, when it comes to meat and chicken, do your really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware and comply with the chumras of the Rama, Prei Megadim and other gadolim in matters of hashgacha.

3

 Oct 16, 2009 at 07:35 AM Anonymous Says:

well i heard they do comply with the ashkenazic chumras, still it's a problem a hashgocha becomes money profit now you enter in all the politics etc... thats maybe why badat beit yossef it's a really weak hashgocha.

4

 Oct 16, 2009 at 07:03 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Even though the Beis Yosef Hashgacah follows some chumras, there are many more kulas which could be problematic for litvashe and especially chasideshe yiddin. For example, when it comes to meat and chicken, do your really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware and comply with the chumras of the Rama, Prei Megadim and other gadolim in matters of hashgacha.

Why should these mashgichim know any less than any other Mashgichim? Rav Ovadia, Shlita, most definitely is aware of these Chumros, and if he feels that they are necessary to follow, he'd have his Mashgichim follow them.

5

 Oct 16, 2009 at 09:36 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #3  
Anonymous Says:

well i heard they do comply with the ashkenazic chumras, still it's a problem a hashgocha becomes money profit now you enter in all the politics etc... thats maybe why badat beit yossef it's a really weak hashgocha.

As far as I know the Bais Yosef meat is acceptable to ashkenazim and in fact the people who only eat Bais Yosef meat don't eat ashkenazi glatt mehadrin meat. Even the Bais Yosef definition of bishul yisroel is more machmir than the Rama's.

6

 Oct 16, 2009 at 09:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
Anonymous Says:

Why should these mashgichim know any less than any other Mashgichim? Rav Ovadia, Shlita, most definitely is aware of these Chumros, and if he feels that they are necessary to follow, he'd have his Mashgichim follow them.

The issue is that whats a "chumrah" for most regualr yidden might not be viewed as important by Rabbi Yosel's followers in the ashkenazic community.

7

 Oct 16, 2009 at 06:11 AM Just Thinking Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Even though the Beis Yosef Hashgacah follows some chumras, there are many more kulas which could be problematic for litvashe and especially chasideshe yiddin. For example, when it comes to meat and chicken, do your really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware and comply with the chumras of the Rama, Prei Megadim and other gadolim in matters of hashgacha.

Your comments make it seem you are knowledgable in Kashruth laws, while you are obviously not. In kashruth, the Rama and Pri Megadim are almost always more Machmir then the Bet Yosef, and if anything, Sepharadim shouldn't eat any Ashkenaz Hashgacha as it definetely is not up to par with the Bet Yosef's rulings.
Anything you might have heard about not eating His Hashgacha, is politics at it's best and business as usual

8

 Oct 16, 2009 at 03:39 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Even though the Beis Yosef Hashgacah follows some chumras, there are many more kulas which could be problematic for litvashe and especially chasideshe yiddin. For example, when it comes to meat and chicken, do your really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware and comply with the chumras of the Rama, Prei Megadim and other gadolim in matters of hashgacha.

Sefardim actually have a lot of chumras when it comes to meat and do not rely on many of the Rema's leniencies. There might be other issues with their meat hashgacha, but their official policies and halakhas should not be an issue

9

 Oct 16, 2009 at 02:43 AM Anonymous Says:

Sefardi glatt is actually stricter than Ashkenazi. However, in terms of integrity, Rav Landa's hashgocho, which he provides at cost (only mashgichim are paid, not the Rav) is head and shoulders above the rest.

10

 Oct 16, 2009 at 02:26 AM STOP THE RACISM Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Even though the Beis Yosef Hashgacah follows some chumras, there are many more kulas which could be problematic for litvashe and especially chasideshe yiddin. For example, when it comes to meat and chicken, do your really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware and comply with the chumras of the Rama, Prei Megadim and other gadolim in matters of hashgacha.

I think your statement is a little ridiculous, and even a tinge racist "do you really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware..." why would you believe they are any less competent then their Ashkenazic counterparts? Maybe it would be problematic for an Ashkenazi to eat at these eateries, but on that note it is problematic for a Sephardi to eat at places that hold there Hashgacha.

11

 Oct 16, 2009 at 11:40 AM Anonymous Says:

There is a difference between Badatz Bet Yosef - ie Rav Ovadia's hashgacha - and Bet Yosef meat - which means it follows the psak of Maran and not the Rema

12

 Oct 16, 2009 at 02:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
Anonymous Says:

Sefardim actually have a lot of chumras when it comes to meat and do not rely on many of the Rema's leniencies. There might be other issues with their meat hashgacha, but their official policies and halakhas should not be an issue

You're referring to glatt. The Beis Yosef (the mechaber) says non-glatt meat is treif, and the Rema says it is "ibud momon yisroel" - a waste of Jewish money to pasel non-glatt meat. Today most shechitas only use glatt, like the Beis Yosef.

There's another issue with Badatz Bet Yosef's meat. He uses falasha shochtim, and many of them did not undergo geirus based on his psokim. If you hold (like many rabbonim) that the falashas need to do a full geirus, their meat should not be eaten. This does not reflect on other products, strictly on chicken, turkey and meat.

13

 Oct 17, 2009 at 09:22 PM Lawyer Says:

Reply to #10  
STOP THE RACISM Says:

I think your statement is a little ridiculous, and even a tinge racist "do you really believe the Beis Yosef mashgichim are aware..." why would you believe they are any less competent then their Ashkenazic counterparts? Maybe it would be problematic for an Ashkenazi to eat at these eateries, but on that note it is problematic for a Sephardi to eat at places that hold there Hashgacha.

It has nothing to do with racism. If you review the entirety of Yoreh Deah, you will see that in some areas the Sephardim are more machmir and in other areas the Ashkenazim are. Each group is entitled to rely on their own poskim -- the Rema and Beis Yosef certainly have broad enough shoulders.

The problem starts where one group wants to eat the hasgocha of the other. Rav Yosef's hasgocha is certainly entitled to rely on the Beis Yosef bein le kula bein le chumra, but I as an Ashkenazi have to be wary. Same thing in reverse.

(I have a friend who is a Sefardi, lives in the U.S.. He does not eat in most restaurants because most hasgochos in the U.S. rely on kulas of the Rema in bishul yisroel which the Beis Yosef does not agree with. Nothing wrong with that -- and hardly racist.

In EY, bishul akum is much less of an issue, so I assume he would eat in a restaurant staffed by yidden there.)

14

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