Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Kof-K, the kashrut agency that certifies Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, is mulling over the idea of not renewing its contract with the ice cream company when its current agreement ends in 2022. The Jerusalem Post, on getting wind of the story, was quick to issue an op-ed censuring the Kof-K for what it deems to be the politicization of kashrut. This is, however, a grave mischaracterization of the decision now before the kashrut agency.

There is nothing wrong with the Kof-K seeing out its contract until the end of the year—which it fully intends to do—and then leaving it to Ben & Jerry’s to find a new kashrut certification agency should it so choose. The Kof-K, like any other business, has the right to refuse service as long as the refusal is not due to discrimination.

There is no doubt that the Kof-K does not like Ben & Jerry’s selective, antisemitic boycott of specific sectors of the Jewish population of Israel (which is, in fact, politicization of ice cream) and as a result, prefers not to do business with the ice cream company. In other words, it is not the Kof-K that would be acting in a discriminatory manner should it not renew its contract, but it is Ben & Jerry’s that is guilty of discrimination for refusing to sell ice cream to certain customers on the sole basis of their nationality and creed. As such, the Kof-K is well within its rights to refuse Ben & Jerry’s custom.

By not renewing its contract, would the Kof-K, as the JPost op-ed has it, be weaponizing kashrut as a political tool? Not at all. Refraining from renewing its contract with Ben & Jerry’s does not constitute a rendering of the ice cream as “treif.” It just means that if Ben & Jerry’s desires kashrut certification when its contract with Kof-K ends, the Vermont-based brand will need to contract with a different vendor.

There is a knee-jerk reaction for those who are supposed to be on “our side,” for example, the Jerusalem Post, to bend over backward to be more Catholic than the Pope. The op-ed says as much, along the lines of: we don’t like what Ben & Jerry’s is doing, but we shouldn’t be like them. The implication is that Ben & Jerry’s is being childish, and if the Kof-K doesn’t renew its contract, it will similarly be acting in an immature manner. The right thing to do is to be above that sort of behavior, suggests the JPost from on high in its assumed role as Big Brother to the Jewish people, an arbiter of right and wrong.

The JPost has framed the pending decision as a conditional threat. “If you go through with your boycott, we won’t renew our contract.” 

But what, exactly, is wrong with that? Does the Kof-K not have the right to discontinue working with an unscrupulous business entity that discriminates and actively seeks to hurt Jews? Ben & Jerry’s proposed boycott is a extreme example of moral turpitude and as such, there is no reason that the company should be trusted. Hence, no reason on earth why an editor's pen should malign and shame the Kof-K in an attempt to force it to do business with Ben & Jerry’s.

Note that the Chief Operating Officer of the Kof-K, Rabbi Daniel Senter, has no intention of removing Ben & Jerry’s existing certification. The ice cream manufacturer has, in fact, done nothing to jeopardize the kashrut status of its products. The only topic in discussion is whether or not the Kof-K will renew its Ben & Jerry’s contract when it expires, or if it will simply allow it to lapse.

Senter said as much to Tovah Lazaroff of the Jerusalem Post. “We have told Ben & Jerry’s that we do not know if we will be able to renew our contract.”

In other words, some of us, for example the Kof-K, think that discriminating against certain Jews is not exactly kosher. And we don’t have to put up with that, or do business with these people. The Kof-K is to be lauded for even considering the non-renewal of its contract with the ice cream monolith.

The ball is actually in your court, Ben & Jerry.

It’s totally up to you.

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