The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

Masorti Wine Supervision

Kiddush. Havdalah. The Passover Seder.  A Brit Milah.  A Wedding.  We use wine to sanctify these moments.

Grapes are one of the seven species of fruit and grain native to the Land of Israel, and winemaking in Israel is a thousands-year-old industry. The first Zionist pioneers revived the Jewish tradition of winemaking in Israel, and today, there are hundreds of wineries in Israel, from boutique wineries making hundreds of bottles a year to large wineries like Carmel who export their wines around the world.

Because of its role in Judaism’s core life-cycle events, Judaism has a strict set of rules regarding wine beyond the normal rules of kashrut–rules that are meant to insure that wine is not only drunk in holiness but is also made in holiness. This requires the utmost attention to the way we treat the land and the fruit it gives us, to the way we treat the people who work that land, and to the intentions we have in making the wine.

In Israel, all wine, in order to have the word “kosher” on it, must not only abide by the restrictions recognized universally by Jews as the restrictions necessary with wine, they must also abide by the various stringencies enforced mainly by Ultra-Orthodox religious authorities.

As in so many other areas of religious life in Israel, the Masorti Movement could allow for a middle ground, one that does not insist on maintaining only the strictest interpretation of Jewish law, as long as other interpretations are equally valid in halacha. While we are prepared, and indeed started to provide Masorti supervision to ensure that wine, so central to our religious life, was treated with the proper attention to Jewish values while also being consistent with modern interpretation and values, we have been barred from doing so for two years as the court sorts the issue out.