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Director of kosher agency start-up resigns over “offensive” comments

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A director of the recently formed new kosher hechsher resigned in the same week of its launch.

Akiva Mallett of Kosher Certified South Africa (KCSA) resigned with immediate effect following the revelation of offensive comments made last year directed at Kenny Rabson, board member of the Union of Orthodox Synagogues (UOS), and Rabbi Dovi Goldstein, managing director of the Beth Din’s kosher department.

Mallet, an experienced mashgiach (kosher supervisor) was summoned to a hearing to answer to charges involving an alleged breach of the mashgiach code of conduct, whereby he allegedly provided kosher advice and guidance to a non-certified caterer.

He refused to attend the hearing, and instead sent a bitter, hurtful email to Rabson and Goldstein. This followed what he described as years of frustration with the UOS and the kosher department in having the working conditions of mashgichim satisfactorily addressed, as well as other issues.

In it, he said he wouldn’t subject himself to a “mafia-style kangaroo bush-court system”. He accused Goldstein of being a liar, and said he had no faith in Rabson (referring to the mashgiach code of conduct, which had yet to be amended, and the multiple times that working conditions were raised and remained unresolved).

“This from a religious organisation. The more I read books on the Holocaust, the clearer it appears [that] Hitler didn’t want to kill all the Jews, just the bad ones, think if you fit in that category.”

Mallett was quick to apologise on Facebook to Rabson and Goldstein, and asked to be judged favourably in his moment of weakness and frustration.

In a letter addressed to the Jewish community on a KCSA letterhead, he said, “KCSA values truth, integrity, transparency, and accountability above all else. In order for KCSA to be a credible organisation, we hold dear the need for accountability and transparency. Therefore, in light of my offensive statements, which were recently published in the SA Jewish Report, which I recognise were deeply hurtful to Rabbi Dovi Goldstein, Kenny Rabson, and the entire Jewish community, I hereby resign from the board of KCSA with immediate effect.”

He said he hoped the community could find it in their hearts to forgive him.

KCSA was launched last week to compete with the Beth Din, the country’s foremost kosher certification under the UOS. The recently formed business describes itself as a kosher certifying agency under the halachic supervision of Rabbi Avigdor Bokow, the father of one of its directors, Velvy Bokow.

Its directors insist that starting a new kosher certification isn’t about “sour grapes”, it’s about service delivery aimed at being “affordable, reliable, and available” and it’s about “giving back to the community”.

Directors Bokow and Aharon Bogatie told the SA Jewish Report this week that the business was founded upon “a commitment to transparency”. They have released the results of a survey which they conducted last week which asked consumers whether they would support a new hechsher. Many said they would if prices were lower and the kosher certification was reliable and reputable. Some agreed that competition was healthy. Others said they wouldn’t support it.

“It’s clear from the 81.1% who are supportive – as indicated in the results – that there’s a large contingency of the community that would support a new kashrus authority,” said Bokow. “KCSA has already been approached by two companies for certification, and the relevant application forms are being addressed. We are, furthermore, in discussion with close to a dozen more companies. We look forward to providing a competitive service with the best interests of the community at the fore.”

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