February 26, 2024
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Ethiopian Workers to Return to Barkan Wineries Following Public Outcry Over Status

(JNS) Barkan Wineries has announced that its Ethiopian workers would return to work on kosher wines following an outcry over a decision by winery ownership to fire them due to doubts as to their status as Jews.

Last year, Barkan’s management decided to upgrade to the most stringent Israeli kosher certification, issued by the Eda Haredit ultra-Orthodox kosher certifier. According to Barkan, the certifiers required the company to prevent Ethiopian workers from touching the wine at certain points in the winemaking process because Jewish law forbids the consumption of wine handled by non-Jews.

An exposé by Israel’s Kan news station revealing Barkan’s ban on Ethiopian employees handling the wines sparked national outrage over the implication that Ethiopian Jews were not in fact Jewish, and raised condemnation of the company for discriminatory practices. Israel’s Chief Rabbinate recognizes the Ethiopian community as Jewish, and Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef called the ban “pure racism,” vowing to “act on the matter under the full extent of the law.”

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