ALBANY, N.Y. (Jul. 7)
A bill which aims to halt the deceptive sale of non-kosher mezuzohs or tefillin to unwary Jewish consumers was signed into law yesterday by Governor Hugh Carey. The new law, drafted at the initiative of the Commission on Legislation and Civic Action of Agudath Israel of America, requires that mezuzohs or tefillin which do not conform with Orthodox Jewish religious law must be clearly labelled “non-kosher.”
Manufacturers or importers of mezuzohs or tefillin, beginning three months from now, will have to affix upon the packaging of these two religious articles the name and address of the “manufacturer, fabricator or importer.” Violators of this law, including merchants who sell these articles, will be subjected to the provisions of the consumer fraud practices section of the General Business Law of New York State. This authorizes the Attorney General to obtain an injunction against the firm conducting such unlawful activities and requires restitution, including all court costs, with the right to sue for civil penalties for each violation.
Rabbi Moshe Sherer, executive president of Agudath Israel of America, described this new bill “a major forward step in the protection of the religious Jewish consumer who for years has been victimized by unscrupulous merchants of religious articles.” He declared that Agudath Israel undertook to correct this deceptive practice by legislation, after it became clear that a large-scale sale of non-kosher mezuzohs and tefillin was taking place in Jewish communities throughout the country.
TO SEEK LEGISLATION IN OTHER STATES
According to Jewish law, a mezuzah as well as the parchment of tefillin must be handwritten by a scribe on genuine parchment according to precise specifications. Agudath Israel, Sherer said, had obtained affidavits from purchasers of mezuzohs which, upon inspection, were printed by letterpress on ordinary paper. Sherer stated that the organization’s Commission on Legislation and Civic Action will carefully monitor stores throughout New York State, once the new law goes into effect, to make certain that it is fully observed. The organization will also seek, through its local chapters, to have similar legislation passed in other states.
Sherer said Agudath Israel enlisted the aid of the prominent Washington attorney, Nathan Lewin, in drafting the bill, which was introduced in the Assembly by Leonard Silverman, co-sponsored by Assemblymen Howard Lasher and Sheldon Silver, and in the Senate by Albert Lewis, Thomas Bartosiewicz, and Linda Winikow.