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New York…Major kashrus agencies are increasingly forging ties with all segments of the core-kosher market. The agencies are also said to be working closely with other kashrus groups in an effort to project unity and espousal of high kashrus standards. As part of its Harry H. Beren ASK OU Outreach program, several hundred participants in Boro Park heard a group of rabbis discuss kashrus issues. The OU Kashrus Department held similar seminars in Monsey, Flatbush, Far Rockaway/Five Towns, and Los Angeles. Participants said there was a concerted effort to demonstrate the OU’s close working relationship with other Orthodox and Chasidic kashrus groups. The OU leadership in the past several months has also visited with Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe of Kiryas Joel in Upstate, New York. It also met with the Sephardic sage Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Jerusalem, to forge better ties with the Sephardic community, who rely on the Bet Yosef certification. Observers say that there is “unprecedented cooperation amongst the kashrus agencies despite the competitive environment.” They say that this is an extremely positive development for the kosher consumer who must negotiate “the complex kashrus maze.” One rabbi familiar with the kashrus scene said: “The good news is that there is more uniformity of standards than ever before.”
Jerusalem…Nikur (“deveining”) involves removing certain forbidden veins and fats from cattle. They are extremely prevalent in the hindquarters, and due to the complexity involved in their removal, this part of the animal is generally not sold as kosher. In an exclusive interview with Kosher Today, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar claimed that all kosher meat in Israel routinely includes the practice of Nikur. The Sephardic Rishon Letzion said that the nikur requirement was part of the steady upgrade of kashrus in Israel. The Chief Rabbi has a reputation of being tough on kashrus, a source told Kosher Today. “When he was rabbi of Tel Aviv, he withdrew certificates from establishments that were open on Shabbos, ending a practice that was known in some circles as the 6-day certificate.
Chicago…by Staff Reporters…Does plain roasted kasha require kosher certification? How about Sun dried tomatos without any flavors or added oil coatings, which usually are listed in the ingredients? These are some of the questions addressed to the rabbinic team at the Chicago Rabbinical Council via Twitter. According to Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, its Kashrus Administrator, social media is increasingly being used by the agency to transmit kashrus alerts and solicit subscriptions for their kashrus newsletter. Several rabbis involved in kashrus say that they “keep in touch” with many customers and even companies they supervise via Facebook. But social media is just at the early stages for the industry as a whole, industry sources say. Sam Davidowitz, the IT specialist at the Orthodox Union (OU), says that despite the agency’s comprehensive Web presence, there is still very little activity through social media. Rabbi Zechariah Senter of the Kof-K Kosher Certification agency said that most of the communications by consumers with the agency “is still through e-mail.” Many in the kosher industry believe that “it is only a matter of time” when social media plays more of a role in the growth of kosher. They say that there already is a network of “kosher foodies” that use social media extensively, even offering up-to the-minute alerts about specials in the neighborhood. Rabbi Fishbane believes that the kosher agencies should begin to promote social media like Twitter to expand their reach to the kosher market.
By Menachem Lubinsky
New York…With the summer travel season looming, leading kashrus officials in this country are preparing to respond to inquiries from travelers about kashrus overseas. While generally being familiar with symbols and organizations here, many vacationers find it hard to negotiate the standards and symbols overseas. What is fascinating, say kashrus officials, is that Israel is the most confusing. While the majority of Israel’s food establishments have certification by either the Chief Rabbinate or the local Rabbinate, the standards may vary from case to case. It is particularly perplexing to travelers who covet glatt kosher. Some establishments routinely interchange Glatt with Mehadrin, adding to the confusion. Then there is Bet Yosef glatt which is not always accepted by many Orthodox Jews. The certification by the Orthodox Union (OU) of some establishments (hotels and restaurants) in recent years has given American travelers and Americans living in Israel “a level of comfort.” One observer noted that at such high-end restaurants as Papagaio and Red Heifer, English was the language spoken. “It’s like you closed your eyes and imagined you were at an upscale restaurant in Manhattan.” It is also important to such popular hotels as the Ramada and Plaza in Jerusalem who attract American Orthodox Jews.
A leading kashrus official in Israel told Kosher Today that American tourists seeking the highest standard of glatt are aware of rabbis and agencies that meet their standards. He mentioned Rabbi Moshe Landau of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Avrohom Rubin of Rehovot and the Eda Hachreidit as examples of some of “the more acceptable certifications.” The rabbi acknowledged that certificates hanging in food establishments can be confusing, especially to tourists with limited command of the Hebrew language.
By Menachem Lubinsky
Jerusalem…The ongoing boycott by many Orthodox Jews of Strauss Dairies has nothing to do with the kashrus of the products of one of Israeli food giants. According to Idele Ross, the Bureau Chief of Kosher Today in Israel, the boycott came after Strauss Dairies changed its stricter mehadrin kashrus supervision from that of Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landau, Chief Rabbi of Bnai Brak and respected authority on kashrus supervision to that of Rabbi Avraham Rubin whose ‘Badatz Mehadrin‘ is said to be particularly prestigious. Charedi media, says Ross, are reporting that many groups believe the new arrangement is a serious affront to the stature and reputation of Rabbi Landau. Strauss Dairies said in a statement that the changes are being made because Rubin’s certification is more convenient for them. Rabbi Rubin was the former kashrus administrator for the OU in Israel. The new supervision pertains to Strauss’s new line of soft white cheeses being produced specifically to the stricter requirements of the mehadrin community, precisely the group that is now calling for a boycott of Strauss products. Apparently, says Idele Ross, many rabbis affiliated with the Gur and Chabad Chasidic movements were employed by Rabbi Landau. The religious daily Hamodia, associated with the Agudas Yisroel organization, published a statement from Rabbi Landau notifying the public of the Strauss decision. Strauss defended its new arrangement as something that was done with Rabbi Landau‘s consent.
By Menachem Lubinsky
Chicago… A bottle of Scotch at a Kiddush in Monsey is quickly removed by the local rabbi after he had received word that the kashrus of the brand was in question. This scene has been repeating itself with increasing frequency, prompting the Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) to establish a Liquor Committee. According to Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, the executive director of AKO, the purpose of the committee will be “to keep up with the latest fast developing changes in the liquor world and how it affects its kashrus status.” Three sub-committees were formed to focus on Scotch, Beer, and American and Canadian whiskeys. AKO is preparing to host a Vaadim (local kashrus committees) Convention in Dallas on February 22 and 23. Over 60 representatives from the local kashrus committees will be meeting to discuss standards that affect their respective jurisdictions including; Savannah, Oregon, San Antonia, Nova Scotia, Florida, Houston, Detroit, Kansas, Waterbury, Minnesota, Atlanta, Chicago, and New York.