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The Jewish Report Editorial

Fighting the battle within while the external one rages

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It is Israel Apartheid Week and there are unpleasant things happening on university campuses in South Africa. From the reports I have been getting, our students have behaved with dignity and respect. As for the anti-Israel lobby, I am not sure how vandalising their universities can be seen as respectful.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Mar 15, 2018

However, while this has been happening on campus, a large percentage of the Jewish community are oblivious to it because they are still fuming about the Stan & Pete scandal.

And what started out as one caterer, albeit the largest and oldest, having been caught with treif food, it has now become a much bigger and more painful witch-hunt.

I do understand that this debacle hits the very core of what makes us Jewish, as I said last week. Kashrut is a central law in Judaism. This is not something to be taken lightly – and it certainly isn’t being taken lightly.

I believe that the Chief Rabbi and the Beth Din got the fright of their lives and are doing everything they can to rectify the situation. And so they should. It is not acceptable that mashgichim don't know the difference between kosher and non-kosher chicken. It is not okay that many of them would probably not even be able to differentiate between pork and beef ribs in a basting. Why would they? They have never had to come in contact with pork or non-kosher chicken.

But just how easy is it to pull the wool over someone’s eyes if they haven’t been trained to distinguish between treif and non-treif meat? Surely, they needed to know these differences? Their training cannot be based on trust.

The truth is, in today’s world, trust is hard to come by and cannot be the basis of supervising kashrut laws.

As I write this, however, I am sure that the Beth Din is rewriting its training courses and that mashgichim will be learning new things in order to avoid such a scandal happening again. They are sure to become experts in telling the differences, among other things.

I truly believe that the Chief Rabbi, together with the Rosh Beth Din, Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, and the Beth Din, have the community’s interests at heart.

It seems, though, that my opinion is not a popular one.

I am stymied by the ugly sentiments out there over this issue. It seems as if there are people who almost take pleasure in seeing people fall, fail and make mistakes. They seem to revel in the pain and concern of others.

Last week, there were people who had known and worked with Stan & Pete’s Jeff Schull, and defended him. They were lambasted on social media – in some cases, to the point of having to back down because the vitriol was so bad.

G-d alone knows how they would react to Schull himself.

In his case, we know there were treif chickens found in his catering company’s kitchen. Yes, the buck does stop with him; of that we have no doubt. But do we know exactly how they got there? Do we know 100% that he is guilty? Not that I am aware of…

He hasn’t yet been tried and found guilty. So, why have we already tarred and feathered him, ridiculing everything the man has done?

The finger-pointing and derisive comments didn’t stop there. What about the mashgiach involved? And other mashgichim? The Chief Rabbi and the Rosh Beth Din have also been lambasted in conversations and on social media.

I agree that a wrong has been done – and it is really serious – but who are we to condemn people? We are not behaving in a way that is befitting of those who are meant to be a “light unto the nations”. What this scandal has done is pit community member against community member. It has caused the public shaming and bullying of our own people by us.

I totally agree that this is a wake-up call for our community, and the Beth Din and Chief Rabbi have a lot of work to do to fix the situation. But we can’t let this turn us into bullies and people who enjoy the pain of others. We are not those people. We are compassionate and look after our own and others. Let us think for a moment before continuing in this vein. Please can we work together for the good of the community.

Shabbat Shalom!

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