Thursday, August 02, 2007

Chillul Hashem or Yellow Journalism

Maybe the Jewish News journalists should read this...

The Australian Jewish News has come out with a number of articles about the situation with Rabbi Yossi Engel in South Australia. When I saw the front page of that newspaper I thought that this was another embarrassment for the frum community. After reading the articles (here & here & here), and the accompanying piece by Yossi Aron and Jason Frenkel which explains - very briefly - some halachic aspects of supervision, I have started rethinking how I feel about the situation.

From what I have heard personally, comments that I have read in this and other blogs and from emails I have received I am pretty certain that Yossi Engel acted inappropriately - to say the least. Considering his past conduct and the way he has been behaving over the last few months I feel strongly that he should leave Adelaide asap before he does more damage there. But that does not mean that everything he touches is tainted. I cannot believe that Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, a person of integrity and responsibility, would condone food products that are questionable as far as kashrus is concerned. The AJN quotes him:
“The matter of inspections carried out or not carried out by Rabbi Engel has been pursued and completed and we are satisfied that the current situation regarding the advertised SA products is acceptable,” Kosher Australia’s rabbinic administrator, Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, responded on Sunday June 17.
“We have also been satisfied for some time now that, in practical terms, there have thankfully been no breaches that have occurred that have compromised the ultimate kosher status of the products listed as endorsed by Rabbi Engel/AHC.
“We are further satisfied at this time that any alleged shortcomings that may have existed in past inspection schedules of those products have now been rectified. No updates or warnings, as suggested by you, were therefore necessary.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation – and the matter has for some time now not been 'an issue'.”
The sensational headlines in the AJN just prove that they function like any other newspaper in playing up a story by twisting the facts. The headline of one story, "SA scandal threatens Australian kashrut", is worthy of the worst of tabloid journalism. The supposed question of the kashrus of 3 minor products certainly does not threaten kashrus in this country. Another headline, "South Australian producers' kosher confusion", is more than likely just ignorance. The Jewish News shows each week that their journalists know very little about Judaism and even less about Orthodox Judaism. Because some non-Jewish food manufacturers know and understand little about kashrus doesn't carry any weight halachically.

I asked in the previous post for comments in support of Rabbi Engel or at least in explanation of the events in South Australia. So far I have seen none here or in other blogs. This leads me, and many others who do not live in Adelaide, to assume that he must be "guilty as charged". I am happy to give him a hearing here and present his side of the situation.