Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Does This Set a New Trend?

Hot on the heels of El Al introducing new separate-seating flights, ynet has the story of a store in Israel that will implement separate entrances for men and women:
Last week, a popular nuts and seeds store at the Bucharim neighborhood in Jerusalem declared it plans to institute separation between men and women shoppers ahead of the Tu B'Shvat holiday during which dried fruit sales are on the rise.
The owners of Pitzuchei Mizrahi said they would arrange separate entrances for men and women, after they were recommended to do so by a kashrut supervisor.
He advised them to prevent a situation whereby men and women customers unintentionally touch each other during the busy shopping hours when the store is crowded.

Now one again, I am going to say that people should not be opposed to this. This store is a private enterprise. If this adjustment to their business model increases their revenue, kol hakavod to them.
But then something in the article caught my eye. It wasn't their rabbi who recommended it, nor was it a series of requests from their clientele. Rather, "they were recommended to do so by a kashrut supervisor". And that made me suddenly wonder if I was on the right side on this one.
Much ado has been made of the lousy job the various kashrus organizations supervising the Rubashkin's did given the obvious abuse of the workers in that plant. The reply has always been simple: they were there to make sure the meat was kosher, not to inspect working conditions. And although it's annoying to admit it, they are right. The job of a mashgiach is to make sure Jewish dietary laws are being observed.
But if that's truly the case, then why did the mashgiach for this store feel a need to make a recommendation that has nothing to do with kashrus. What do separate entrances have to do with whether or not I can eat the food from this boutique? And doesn't this contradict the protests from the chareidi establishment to date that they had no responsibility for the human and animal abuse that was going on at Agriprocessors because it had no relevance to whether or not the meat was kosher?
I still believe a business, whether it's Israel's national airline or a humble shop in Yerushalayim, has a right to run its business however it likes just as I, the customer, have a right to choose whether I will patronize that business. But will it stop there or will separate entrances soon become a requirement for those businesses that wish to be certified as kosher? Is this just a clever change in a private business model or a portent of new chumros to come?

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