The Kosher Divide

In Western Australia we have a Kashrut Authority that is aligned to Kosher Australia in Melbourne.  Given its limited resources and communal based Governance, KAWA does a great job of shomering functions, listing some local delicacies, and keeping the information network running.  No doubt the potential exists for more local manufacturers to be certified, but given the size of the Perth kosher market our expectations have to be realistic.

A number of people live in Perth who are expatriot residents of Sydney and Melbourne.  Locally, we benefit from products that appear on both lists, and can source an ever increasing range of products in general distribution through the supermarkets that are endorsed with the hecsher of Kosher Australia.

Some readers of Jewgle who subscribe to the Sydney based Kosher Consumers Association (KCA) will be aware of the consumer unrest that has resulted from a long period (four years in fact) since the publication of a kosher directory by the NSW Kashrut Authority.  It is symptomatic of a repeated series of allegations that have ravaged the Kosher community of NSW for a number of years.  A lot of the licensing undertaken under the authority of the KA in Sydney is for raw materials and exported product.  However the domestic consumer base in NSW has not been well serviced with the provision of new kosher retail products, and is rightly getting very frustrated with the currency of its kosher list. 

The ill feeling is compounded by the slow and steady progress made by Melbourne.  Now trading as Kosher Australia, they have methodically grown a client base and a product list that is very impressive, and they have displayed sound commercial acumen in the process. 

Some of the calls coming out of the KCA online discussion list are for a single Kosher authority that has national recognition.  The irony is that the early success of NSW was that their Kashrut authority was an exact model of “universal communal recognition” from within their State borders.  A decade ago, the question “is it Kosher?” was relative to your shule membership in Victoria, but united under a single definition in New South Wales.  How times have changed!  Today there are still multiple kashrut agencies in Victoria, but there is also a respect for the various differences between them, nobody questions the professionalism and standards that Kosher Australia maintains for their defined clientele.

So here is a Perth perspective, from Australia’s third largest Jewish community that has a mix of both Sydney and Melbourne products in its kosher basket of goods.  Jewgle bloggers strongly join the call for a single national standard and administration of Kosher production in this country.  We like the model of Kosher Australia, that has its ownership vested in the community, but has its operations clearly managed on a professional and commercial basis, notably free from political interference or Governance that is clouded by potential conflicts of interest. 

Furthermore, we believe that all the proceeds from Kosher certification across Australia should either be reinvested in the growth of more kosher certification resources, and/or shared with a trust fund that can be used to support the school fees of families who are struggling to send their children to Jewish day schools.  If a medium to long term plan was established under the unified control of all Orthodox Jewish communities in Australia, then a substantial investment fund could be developed.  Look at the acheivements of Star K, the Orthodox Union and similar bodies in the United States.  There is no reason why the Jewish community of Australia is unable to replicate this success.  All we need is some unified activity, and some professional management. 

Power to the consumer!  The debate on the KCA may be verging on vitriolic, but it is a valid and potentially very constructive discussion.

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