BUENOS AIRES (JTA) — After Jewish institutions came out in support of a businessman who is vowing to take on what he calls a “kosher mafia” that sets the price of kosher meat, leading Argentine rabbis criticized the accusations that they are involved in artificially raising the cost of kosher food.
The group of rabbis, including Argentina’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yosef Chehebar and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, signed a joint letter on Oct. 19.
“We read with amazement the offensive words from self-designated rabbinical institutions accusing religious rabbis of belonging to a kosher products mafia, a very serious accusation since those terms imply a terrible connotation,” the letter reads.
By “self-designated rabbinical institutions,” the group is referring to the Rabbinical Assembly, which is the international association of Conservative rabbis, and its affiliate in Latin America, the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary.
The two Conservative institutions signed a statement of their own on Oct. 17, claiming that “rabbis have made people hostage of their ‘halachic’ decisions, and together with some businessmen they have created a mafia in the provision and price of kosher food.”
Jewish businessman Roberto Goldfarb, who runs the Diarco market chain, has begun selling kosher meat in his stores for about half the normal price.
The Orthodox rabbis argue that they do not set prices and only provide kosher certification services. The debate comes at a time of high and increasing inflation in Argentina, estimated at a rate of about 40% in 2020.
“It is regrettable that, in difficult and sensitive times, they take advantage of the hard economic situation to undermine the image of the rabbis and divide the community, which tries to remain united. Leaders must be responsible and not take advantage of a specific circumstance to obtain some political profit,” the letter reads.