Kosher Pizza Dispute Settled in Rabbinical Court

Basil Pizza in Crown Heights (Screen shot via Google Maps)

Last month, when co-owner Danny Branover of Basil Pizza & Wine Bar in Crown Heights learned another pizza parlor, Calabria, would be setting up shop across the street, he sued in the local rabbinical court, Beit Din, reports Michelle Honig of The Forward.

In arguing that Calabria’s “speciality” pizza resembled Basil’s, Branover cited the Jewish law of Hasagat Gevul (literally, “infringement of boundary”) which, writes Honig, “is often used to prevent unfair competition or business practices.” She adds:

In this, traditional Jewish law runs counter-cultural to American capitalism. Not only is unbridled competition a no-no, but the businessmen agreed to follow a rabbinic ruling that, in truth, has no legal standing in secular society.

Calabria said in response that its “Roman-style” pizza was nothing like the Nepolitan-style pizza at Basil. The court ruled – in a decision written in Hebrew and Aramaic – that the new eatery could not sell its specialty pizza “without unfairly competing” and instead, can offer regular, “New York-style” pizza. Calabria complied and opened its door in early March.

But how much influence does Hasagat Gevul really have in Hasidic Brooklyn? How much should it have in U.S. society? Honig looks into the highly debated issue and how much power Beit Din wields. Go to The Forward to read more.

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