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Governmental Agreements


Rabbi Moshe Leib Halberstadt

Adar I 2, 5771
Recently, a partial agreement was made with a national government by two congregations in the country. There are at least four orthodox congregations in this country, plus at least three other congregations that are not orthodox, but have members who do observe kashrut. This is my question. Is it ethical under halachic rules to permit the situation whereby two congregations are permitted to come to an agreement with the government removing the privilege of other congregations to practice shechita and make agreements with the government. The signed court order included the following statements which I have modified so as to not name the relevant parties: Poultry - the A & B congregations may approve the shechita of poultry to levels necessary to meet the needs, within the country of the local population and visitors who have need for kosher poultry. Congregations A & B have agreed to enter into a good faith dialogue with the Minister regarding whether an exemption for domestic shechita of poultry is still necessary to meet the community’s needs for kosher poultry. Review of the Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code - Animal Welfare Codes are legally required to be reviewed at least every 10 years. However, should the Minister intend to request a review of the legal position regarding shechita, we have agreed that he will first consult with the congregations A & B about any such request and must have regard the need of the country’s orthodox community for access to kosher meat. Shochets - all shochets must be approved by congregations A & B in order to practise in this country.. I am anxious to receive your response and would also ask that you include sources indicating how you have come to your statement. Thank you very much for your kind attention to this urgent matter.
It is not right to answer this question without knowing the situation and the people involved thoroughly. We can only say in principle that it is certainly prohibited to conduct any type of unfair business competition. If the field of Kashrut was in the hands of certain communities it could be considered ”Hasagat Gevul” (literally "infringement of boundary" but often used to refer to unfair business competition) for other communities to withhold their rights and take over the field (see Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 156). There may however be a situation where other communities are also allowed to enter the field when it is an open market (see the commentaries on Shulchan Aruch ibid), but not to withhold from the older communities what was in their hands. There may also be an extreme situation where the local rabbis maintain that the control in the field should be taken away from its present practitioners due to a very low level of Kashrut which may cause Jewish people to stumble and eat non-kosher foods, and the control in the field should be transferred to reliable authorities. The right thing is to consult with local rabbis who know the people involved very well.
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