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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘KOSHER’

In the Kosher Trenches: The Work of KosherQuest

Monday, September 5th, 2016

What does a man who is rav of a shul, overseer of two eruvim and the executive director of a school do with his spare time? Well, if you are Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of North Hollywood, CA you dedicate yourself to helping those with kashrus questions.

Rabbi Eidlitz is a busy man – he has a full time job as the executive director of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu in Los Angeles, in addition to his responsibilities as the rav of Beis Midrash Mordechai Yaakov, a congregation of about 150 people, and as the rav hamachshir of two eruvim in the Greater Los Angeles area. Yet Rabbi Eidlitz carves out about two hours every day to attend to the needs of the millions of visitors to KosherQuest, the website of the Kosher Information Bureau, a job for which he receives no financial compensation whatsoever. He sees KosherQuest’s work as his way to express his dedication to klal Yisrael.

The idea behind KosherQuest was born when, back in 1977, Rabbi Eidlitz was teaching a class on kashrus to seminary girls in Northern California. The girls asked a lot of practical questions, and Rabbi Eidlitz suggested calling up different kosher certification agencies. The girls called a number of agencies, large and small, but found that they would only answer questions regarding the particular products that they certify, but had no answers for general kashrus questions. Rabbi Eidlitz encouraged his students to do their own research. Under his guidance, they explored the local supermarkets and took notes on the kosher items. They also contacted the manufacturers of the products for additional information.

Slowly, Rabbi Eidlitz’s class complied a shoe box, and then two boxes, full of index cards with information about various products. Before long, people began calling Rabbi Eidlitz with their kashrus questions. Surprised that no other organization provided comprehensive kashrus information that was not limited to a specific company or hechsher, Rabbi Eidlitz decided to make the information stored in the shoe boxes available to the public, first through the phone, and then online. Thus, KosherQuest was born.

Over three decades later, KosherQuest remains unique in its breadth. Over a thousand kashrus agencies and individual certifiers are listed in its database of hechsherim. Rabbi Eidlitz does extensive research on each one of them before including it in his list, making sure it meets his standards of reliability. In addition, he advises new agencies that are starting out in the field of kosher certification.

To keep up with the times, KosherQuest has recently released a new app, available for both Android and iOS, making it even easier for those with kashrus questions to use its services, which are provided completely free of charge.

Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz

Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz

KosherQuest also sends out a weekly email newsletter with the latest kashrus updates and alerts. Whenever inadvertent errors happen, the kashrus agencies are quick to notify the community. Rabbi Eidlitz explains that sometimes the manufacturer prints a kosher symbol on a label by mistake. Once a company printed an OU on pork and beans. Another time, a store on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn was selling treif food in packages with a chassidishe hashgacha. It turned out that it was a halal store which did a lot of business with kosher companies and had purchased a labeling machine from one of these companies, not realizing that everything the machine printed had that hechsher. Once mistakes like that are discovered, kosher alerts are immediately placed on the KosherQuest website. “If there is an error, [the kashrus agencies] want people to know so that nobody is nichshal because of them,” says Rabbi Eidlitz.

Visitors come to KosherQuest from all over the world, and many contact Rabbi Eidlitz directly with their questions. Once,Rabbi Eidlitz even received a phone call from the Pentagon at 2:00 a.m. The Pentagon urgently needed a database of kosher products as they had been sued for not providing kosher food to their Jewish soldiers who were dispatched to Iraq. With Rabbi Eidlitz’s help they were able to send thousands of kosher ready-to-eat meals to soldiers. Since then, the Pentagon has been in touch with Rabbi Eidlitz whenever a kashrus issue comes up.

Many kosher consumers consult KosherQuest while traveling, as they find it difficult to identify kosher food in an unfamiliar location. Others live in places with small Jewish populations all year. Having the kashrus information accessible to them “affects their quality of life,” says Rabbi Eidlitz.

Some people who visit the site or contact Rabbi Eidlitz for information are not even Jewish. They prefer to buy kosher food because they trust the integrity of the certifiers. For example, many Muslims, including those who serve in the army, request kosher food when halal food is unavailable. Others rely on kosher symbols because of severe food allergies. “Some product was labeled non-dairy, and highly allergic people almost died,” recalls Rabbi Eidlitz. They turned to KosherQuest for product information because they know that if something is labeled pareve then it truly is pareve, with no dairy ingredients whatsoever. Some people have to avoid even dairy equipment due to their allergies, and they appreciate the “dairy equipment” label on kosher products.

Living in Los Angeles, Rabbi Eidlitz has received inquiries from movie producers. They wanted to know if ostrich eggs were kosher because they wanted to use them in a movie involving Jews. Rabbi Eidlitz had to disappoint them – ostrich eggs are not kosher.

In addition to general kashrus questions, Rabbi Eidlitz is sometimes contacted for information about specific chumros or minhagim. Familiar with many of them, he is able to provide the needed information to his callers. For example, when a Chabad callers ask about their own minhagim Rabbi Eidlitz is able to tell them if the product meets the requirements of the Shulchan Aruch Harav. When a litvishe caller asks whether a dairy product is chalav yisrael, Rabbi Eidlitz specifies whether the milk used in the product is fresh or powdered, since some hold that chalav yisrael doesn’t apply to powdered milk.

Yehudis Litvak

Questions Surround New Kosher Food Booth At New York State Fair

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

SYRACUSE, NY – The Great New York State Fair opened for its 175th year last week and for the first time it features a kosher food booth.

Catering by The Oaks, a Syracuse-based food service run by the Sodexo company, is the vendor serving an all-dairy menu including deep-fried potato knishes ($4), deep-fried apple or cheese blintzes coated with cinnamon and brown sugar or drizzled with strawberry topping and powdered sugar ($4), deep-fried matzah balls ($4), as well as bagel and lox sandwiches ($6).

For those favoring a healthier option, the knishes and blintzes can be ordered as a baked selection, and gluten-free citrus salmon lettuce wraps ($10) and chopped Israeli salad ($2) will be part of the menu as well.

The concessionaire said the pricing is in line with non-kosher fair food.

“What we did was take the cost of the product, the fees and expenses that we pay for being at the fair, and what is in line for what the market is,” said Jarrod Charsky, general manager of Sodexo and The Oaks in Syracuse. “I can tell you our price point is probably lower than our competitors at the New York State Fair. We want to make it where everyone can try the food…. we want to make it exciting, we want to make it where everyone will want to try this. We want to go on the theme of deep-fried fun food for people who are willing to try new things.

“When I designed this menu I wanted to add to the fun and add to the fair theme. Deep-fried is always a great thing at the fair. Everyone always loves deep-fried stuff, kind of like a nice little carnival menu.”

According to people involved with setting up the kosher kiosk, which is shomer Shabbos, the contract apparently was selected by the acting state fair director and the director of the concessions and exhibits office at the fair. But is the size of the contract large enough that it should have been offered for competitive bidding?

Rabbi Aaron Metzger, director of kosher law enforcement for the state, said he could not comment without agency officials providing approval. Agency officials declined to make Rabbi Metzger available to comment for this story.

“I was contacted by a representative from the governor’s office about three or four months ago to see if we could make it happen and I spoke to the caterer that does the catering at Menorah Park, which is Sodexo,” Rabbi Evan Shore, spiritual leader at Shaarei Torah Orthodox Congregation of Syracuse and mashgiach for the kosher kiosk, told The Jewish Press.

“I asked them if they were interested. We then met with the acting state fair director and after some back and forth they went back to Menorah Park, a senior citizens home, and they contracted out to Sodexo as their caterer.”

Charsky agrees with Rabbi Shore’s recollection. Rabbi Metzger, he said, “approached our rabbi [Evan Shore] and then our rabbi came to us [Sodexo] and he said I think this will be a wonderful thing because we’re the only kosher caterer in Central New York. Rabbi Metzger put us together with [state fair officials].”

One obstacle the concessionaire has to contend with is that the kiosk’s food is chalav stam rather than chalav Yisrael, which means a number of Orthodox fairgoers have to bring their own food.

“The Oaks serves chalav stam at its Menorah Park facility,” said Rabbi Shore. “That is why the fair [is] chalav stam.”

The kosher food booth is not located in the International Food Pavilion but rather in the Horticulture Building on the fair’s 375-acre grounds. This is just feet away from where Chabad-Lubavitch of Central New York has a bustling education booth where Rabbi Yaakov Rapoport and his son put tefillin on fairgoers and hand out pamphlets about Judaism.

Asked by The Jewish Press about the chalav stam situation, Rabbi Rapoport chose not to directly respond.

“I’m not commenting,” he said. “I’m not involved with it and I have no comment to make on it.”

In an effort to determine whether the venue comes under competitive bidding stipulations, we pressed for a Request for Proposal (RFP) and were instructed by state fair officials to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request in order to receive the information. (The state fair is run by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.)

We received the following response:

“The Department of Agriculture and Markets acknowledges receipt of your recent Freedom of Information request for the RFP for a kosher vendor, all responses to the RFP and the submitted application, the application by The Oaks@Menorah Park and the acceptance letter by the state fair,” wrote Rick Arnold, the records access officer for Agriculture and Markets. “I am also looking for the financial arrangement between the state fair and The Oaks.

“The Department is in the process of searching for and obtaining these records. Once the records are reviewed, a determination as to the extent to which these records may be released will be made as soon as possible, at which time you will receive copies of the requested records after payment for copying costs, if any, is received. If one or more records will be withheld or withheld in part, a statement explaining the reason(s) for denial of the release will be provided.”

The agency has until September 12 to respond to the FOIL request. The fair runs until September 5, so an answer is likely to be forthcoming after the fair closes.

Other potential vendors that have expressed interest in bidding for the concession include Teaneck, New Jersey-based Five Star Caterers; Jonathan Katz, owner of Queens-based Kosher Sports, which operates the kosher food concession at Citi Field; and Strikly Kosher, Inc., which manages kosher vending operations at several sports venues including Yankee Stadium.

Marc Gronich

The Kosher Meat Boycott Of 1902

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

“In mid-May, 1902, the retail price of kosher meat on the Lower East Side of New York jumped from 12 to 18 cents per pound. In the Gilded Age, such dramatic price fluctuations were common as great ‘trusts’ – oligopolies controlled by industrial barons –cornered the market on commodities such as beef, steel and oil. In response to the rise in beef prices, for a week the small retail kosher butchers of New York refused to sell meat, their way of protesting the Beef Trust’s arrogance. However, the butchers’ boycott failed to bring wholesale prices down. Consumers had no choice but to pay the increase at the meat counter, or do without beef.

“Influenced by the emerging labor and women’s suffrage movements, Jewish homemakers on the Lower East Side began to agitate for a strike against kosher meat. Fanny Levy, whose husband was a unionized cloakmaker, and Sarah Edelson, who owned a small restaurant, mobilized the neighborhood women by going door-to-door to persuade them not to buy kosher beef, and to urge their neighbors to do the same.”[i]

“On May 14, these two women organized a meeting on the Lower East Side to rally support for the proposed boycott. The next day, tens of thousands of Jewish women took to the streets and demonstrated their outrage. Riots broke out as women attacked butcher shops and customers. Police officers tried to protect butcher shops, but protesting women grabbed meat and threw it out into the streets, even dousing it in gasoline and setting it on fire. Police arrested 85 people, three quarters of them women. Encouraged by the Lower East Side, women in other neighborhoods began their own boycotts.”[ii]

The May 18, 1902 edition of The New York Times had the following headline on page 3.

WOMEN RESUME RIOTS AGAINST MEAT SHOPS

Brooklyn Police Take Twenty-two Prisoners in Street Fight.

LOWER EAST SIDE DISTURBED

 

Business Places Attacked, Customers Assaulted, and Meat Thrown Away in the Borough of the Bronx.

The accompanying article said, in part:

The kosher meat riots which started on Thursday night in Manhattan were taken up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn last night resulting in several butchers’ shops being attacked. The attack was made along Seigel Street, and half a dozen stores had show windows broken and the proprietors were compelled to close their doors. It was not until the Jewish Sabbath was at an end that the attack was made.

A mob of 500 then went through the densely crowded Hebrew quarters, and at Graham Avenue and Seigel Street, Joseph Seleskv was selling meat in alleged violation of the agreement to fight the wholesalers. He refused to close up, and his place was practically wrecked. It was then that he closed up….

At 10 o’clock the trouble in the streets became so acute that the reserves from the Hamburg. Herbert and Greenpoint stations were ordered out under Inspectors Druhan and Brennan. The police, numbering nearly 400, attacked the crowd of over 2000 persons and dispersed them by using their clubs freely. During the charge cobblestones and other missiles were thrown. Women leaving butcher shops had their meat taken from them.

Twenty-two prisoners, all of them women, were taken, and until the patrol wagons arrived a drug store at Manhattan Avenue and Seigel Street was turned into a temporary police station.

RIOTING IN THE BRONX

In the Bronx the women threw meat that had been bought of kosher butchers into the street after they had taken it away from persons who had purchased it; coaxed, inveigled persuaded and forced intending purchasers not to buy, and in two instances were arrested for mischievous work….

Dr. Yitzchok Levine

New Bill Revokes Get-Refusing Inmates’ ‘Mehadrin’ Kosher Food, Boarding Privileges

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

The Knesset on Wednesday debated a bill submitted by Habayit Hayehudi Chair MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli revoking the special privileges of prisoners who refuse to grant their wives a get-religious divorce. The bill singles out Orthodox Jewish prisoners who are entitled while behind bars to stay in the prison’s “religious” section, participate in Jewish studies, and eat a stricter-standard “kosher l’mehadrin” meals. The idea is to use the loss of these privileges to force the prisoner to set his wife free.

To be clear, the law does not deprive the Orthodox inmate of his basic Jewish needs, it merely takes away elements of his “ultra-Religious” lifestyle.

Some Orthodox prisoners are actually sitting in jail for their refusal to grant the get, so that by freeing their wives they can set themselves free. But in the case of these Orthodox men, prison often resembles their normal everyday life, and in some cases may be an improvement — in prison they can sit and learn all day with a group of other Orthodox men, celebrate Shabbat and the holidays, and not have to worry about parnossah (making a living). MK Moalem hopes that removing those prisoners’ ability to live a full Jewish life behind bars and inserting them in the general population might help change their outlook on life in prison.

MK Moalem-Refaeli said, “A man who turns his wife into an aguna and refuses to obey the judges’ order to stop abusing her is not truly a man who values halakha and maintaining a Jewish lifestyle. He tramples the most essential Jewish principle, Love your fellow man as you would yourself, only to make his wife’s life miserable. Therefore he is not worthy of enjoying the plethora of privileges prison affords religious inmates.”

JNi.Media

High Court Sides with Rabbinate, Rejects AG Push for ‘Alternative’ Kosher Certificates

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday embraced the position of the Chief Rabbinate on the Law prohibiting kashrut fraud, that a business may not present itself in writing as kosher, with or without the use of the word Kosher, unless it receives a kashrut certification from the only legally authorized body — the chief rabbinate, Walla reported. The decision dealt a severe blow to alternative kashrut certification services which have been operating in several Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, as well as food service businesses that keep kosher but do not carry a certification.

The appeal to the Supreme Court came from the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, in the name of two Jerusalem restaurant owners, Shai Gini and Yonatan Vadi, who argued that the food they serve is kosher despite the fact that they do not carry a kashrut certification from their local rabbinate. According to the appellants, there’s no problem with their presenting their food as kosher because it is. They appealed to the high court after their local Rabbinate levied fines on them based on the common interpretation of the kashrut fraud law, namely that only Rabbinate-certified food is accepted as being kosher.

The former AG, Yehuda Weinstein, reinterpreted the law following the appeal, ruling that the state may no longer fine restaurant owners who present kosher certificates from private kashrut services, and must cancel the fines that have already been issued. The AG only required that the restaurants in question not claim that the alternative certifications for their businesses had been issued by the Rabbinate.

In a rare exception, the Supreme Court permitted the Chief Rabbinate to present its case separately from the AG, and eventually accepted its position in a two to one ruling that the Rabbinate is the only statewide accepted authority on kashrut. The two justices in the majority were Noam Sohlberg and Elyakim Rubinstein. Justice Uri Shoham sided with the AG.

The Justices decided to limit their ruling to the next two years, subject to a system-wide change the court is demanding of the Chief Rabbinate, to reexamine the relationship between the certifying kashrut supervisor and the business he is auditing, so that they do not depend financially on the business they are expected to monitor. Justice Rubinstein suggested that “should this not be resolved in a significant and serious way, the entire subject may be reopened.”

Both Chief Rabbis commended the court’s decision; Rabbi David Lau said that a decision to permit alternative certificates, some of which are fictitious, would have led to a serious misleading of the public; Rabbi Yizhak Yosef said that the Chief Rabbinate regularly goes out of its way to make the kaashrut maintenance easier and cheaper for food service businesses.

MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) said it was “refreshing to see a conservative approach on the part of the Supreme Court,” and praised the majority justices on overcoming their tendency for activism. The MK said he yearns for a time of “more balance in the relationship between the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government.”

JNi.Media

Yeshiva Suing Arab Manufacturer Who Faked Kosher Certification

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Yeshiva High School Mekor Haim has sued Primo, an Arab-owned company from the Jerusalem industrial park Atarot, for selling it packages of sugar with a kashrut certificate of the Jerusalem Chief Rabbinate — even though Primo lost its certification five years ago. The packages in question also bear the name and insignia of the Batdatz (Haredi) certification, but without the word for “under the supervision of.”

The plaintiffs say they sustained damages of about $100 to $150 each after having bought a large quantity of the Primo sugar, but they seek punitive damages of about $1.2 million.

David Israel

Berlin’s Newest Kosher Supermarket Ignores EU Anti-Israel Orders

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Germany’s answer to the European Union’s order to label “Green Line” goods was to allow the nation’s biggest kosher supermarket, Daily Markt, to open in Berlin.

In the heart of the nation where Jews once feared to tread, one can shop “blue-and-white” – and find quite a few products from Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.

The initiative comes as a joint effort by German business owner Asan Mytev – who is not Jewish – along with several Jewish entrepreneurs and the assistance of Berlin Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal.

Located in the Chartlottenburg district, the store stocks only kosher items – a boon for those who until now have had to really search for such products.

“We will not be deterred by the security situation,” said Evgeny Bort, co-partner and store manager. “It doesn’t scare us and we don’t linger on it or pay attention to it. We cannot let terrorism stop us and interfere with our lives.”

Rabbi Teichtal likewise noted, “Although in the past our people have faced very difficult times in Europe in general and in Germany in particular, the necessary arrangements for maintaining Jewish life were always made. Although the situation today is quite different, we are still facing security challenges – but they do not discourage us.

“The new supermarket is another addition to the current line of Jewish institutions in the Berlin community which together enable us to maintain a full Jewish life in the city. As observant Jews we see this not only as a duty but also as a privilege.”

Bort acknowledged that some customers were critical of the decision to stock Israeli items, but dismissed the feedback.

“We have many customers who respond negatively … We tell them that this is none of our concern and that we are here to assist all those who wish to shop for kosher products but find the task to be very difficult.”

Why would a non-Jew want to open such a store? Mytev explained, “Until now, anyone who wanted to buy kosher products was forced to visit several different stores in order to find them all… In fact, for all of those customers who wish to buy only kosher products, the seemingly simple task of grocery shopping is actually a very difficult one.

“The Daily Markt provides them with a solution to this problem, enabling them to buy all kinds of kosher products under one roof.”

Due to the size of the business, the partners say they can also afford to offer “decent prices” despite the cost of imports.

“We have decided to sell everything here and to import goods from all over the world – from Europe, the U.S. and also from Israel,” explained Bort.

Surprisingly, almost half of the store’s non-Jewish clientele shop there “because of our affordable prices, regardless of the kosher issue… Also a large number of our non-Jewish customers come here because of our ‘parve’ products, which are known to be lactose-free.

“Like in the United States, the local population in Germany is also starting to realize that kosher is a standard for high-quality and healthy products.”

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/berlins-newest-kosher-supermarket-ignores-eu-anti-israel-orders/2015/12/03/

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