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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘OU’

Canadian Girl Guides Cookies Go Kosher

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The famous Girl Guides cookies now have the OU approval as being kosher thanks to an all-Orthodox troop in Canada, but their chocolate mint cookies still are on the forbidden list. All Girl Scout cookies in the United States have been kosher for at least 20 years, said organization spokesman Stewart Goodbody.

When the 31 Jewish girls established the 613th Thornhill Pathfinder Unit  in Thornhill, Ontario, a heavily Jewish suburb north of Toronto, the first question member Sara Silverman asked was, “When do we start selling cookies?” according to the Girl Guides of Canada. But the troop could not bring the cookies into the synagogue where they met.

The unit “badly wanted to raise funds for Girl Guides and for camps, trips and other activities,” noted the Guides this week on its website. The unit’s leader wrote the organization, asking how to make the iconic treats kosher.

The Guides said they worked closely with the cookies’ manufacturer, Dare Foods Ltd., and found there was nothing non-kosher in  the ingredients in their classic chocolate and vanilla cookies sold in the spring.

All that was required was formal certification. Recently, the Guides confirmed that the spring cookies would be certified under the auspices of the Orthodox Union (OU).

The process was “a relatively simple and fiscally feasible endeavor,” the Guides said.

There will be no similar fate for the time being for the group’s chocolate mint cookies, sold in the fall, because of non-kosher ingredients in their coating, the group said.

“It feels like our unit has made a difference,” Avigail Rucker, a 12-year-old Guide, told The Canadian Jewish News.

OU Reverses Position and Says Quinoa Can Be Kosher for Passover

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

The Orthodox Union (OU) has re-studied its ban on “superfood” quinoa fit to eat on Passover and now says it is perfectly all right to consume it on the holiday without fear of violating the Ashkenazi custom that prohibits eating “kitniyot,” which are grains such as rice, corn and peas.

The Kosher Today publication reported this week , ”Following extensive research and on-site investigation of cross-contamination issues by OU Kosher personnel at all quinoa growing areas…as well as the collection, washing and milling stations of quinoa, OU Kosher is recommending quinoa for Passover, when processed with special OU Passover supervision and bearing the OU-P symbol.”

What changed in a year?

The Jewish Press reported here last March, “It seems that in South America, where it is grown, a wind might blow a grain of barley into cultivated rows of quinoa. Barely, like wheat, is prohibited by the Torah for use on Passover. That is enough for the OU to rule that quinoa is not kosher for Passover.”

The Baltimore-based Star-K kosher supervisors ruled differently. “Rav Moshe Feinstein said we weren’t to add on to the rules of kitniyot, so I don’t know why anyone would,” said Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of Star-K, referring to the esteemed posek of Jewish religious law who died in 1986. “And what’s more telling of this ridiculous debate is that quinoa is a seed, not a legume.”

Last year, Rabbi Genack said, “We can’t certify quinoa because it looks like a grain and people might get confused. It’s a disputed food, so we can’t hold an opinion, and we don’t certify it. Those who rely on the OU for a kashrut just won’t have quinoa on Passover.”

Well, quinoa hasn’t changed; it still looks like a grain, but the OU apparently is basing its new policy, which just happens to bring it line with the far from lenient Star K, on OU supervisors walking in the fields in South America to make sure winds do not pick up a nasty kernel of wheat a couple of miles away and plop it down in the middle of quinoa field.

“It is only recently that quinoa has become popular outside of its high-altitude growing area in the Andean mountain region of South America,” Rabbi Genack said. “Known for its nutritional qualities, it has been referred to as a ‘superfood.’”

The United Nations proclaimed 2013 as “The International Year of Quinoa.”

Where to Find Leadership

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

In his Sept. 27 Jewish Press front-page essay, Dr. Marvin Schick (“Best of Times, Worst of Times”) decried an apparent lack of leadership in our community, in particular the ability of our community to advocate on matters related to gay marriage and tuition.

While it is true that today’s activists cannot match the talent and results of the late Rabbi Moshe Sherer and there is no living posek in America today who can match the near-universal respect commanded by Rav Moshe Feinstein, my generation should not be dismissed as a silent one fighting for lost causes.

When it comes to private school tuition, the constitution limits the government’s ability to assist our yeshivot; any attempt to expand funding beyond current proposals such as tax breaks and mandated services reimbursements would likely be defeated in court.

A more detailed list of proposals was outlined by New York State OU Political Affairs Director Jeff Leb in a March 22 Jewish Press op-ed titled “The Most Important Jewish-School Funding You’ve Never Heard Of.” Until these proposals are implemented, we should recognize that the solution for tuition affordability lies primarily within our community, not with the government.

On certain public policy issues, Orthodox opinion stands in sharp contrast to the views of most American Jews. If gains in same-sex marriage and transgender legislation cannot be reversed, how do we interact with a public whose views increasingly contradict ours? Is it still possible to work with public officials who are openly gay if we agree on other policy subjects?

Instead of attacking practitioners of other lifestyles, our time would be better spent defending our right to practice shechitah, brit milah and religious accommodation in the workplace.

Now let’s turn to the askanim who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “act as if candidates for major office are our best friends.” With the growth of the Orthodox community in New York, any candidate seeking to win citywide elected office has a frum staffer by his or her side.

Assuming your goal is to advocate for the community through the political process, there are two ways to do this as an individual. If you are independently wealthy, you open up your wallet and donate. If you’re an idealistic recent graduate with an interest in advocacy, how do you get a candidate’s ear? By putting in your time, at very little pay, setting up meetings for the candidate with rabbis and lay leaders, collecting signatures, and educating the candidate about topics that matter to the community.

At age 18, Manny Behar was a freshman at Yeshiva University with an eye toward politics. His first campaign was Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s failed 1972 presidential bid. Jackson symbolized the ideological center of his party, situated between racist southerner George Wallace and liberal George McGovern.

Although Rabbi Behar’s first race was a loss, he subsequently worked for City Comptroller Liz Holtzman, Queens Borough President Claire Schulman, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and State Assemblyman Rory Lancman. As executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, Behar advocated fiercely for the community.

In partnership with elected officials, Behar tackled companies adhering to the Arab boycott of Israel, assisted shuls and yeshivas with zoning permits, provided job and housing assistance to Soviet Jewish immigrants and much more. He never rose to the national stature of an Abe Foxman or a Malcolm Hoenlein, but I would like to think he is making a difference on the local level. Having grown up in Queens and attended shul with him, I consider Manny Behar my political mentor.

Considering the preponderance of chassidic rebbes who, in Dr. Schick’s words, “scarcely have a following,” anyone can wear a bekishe and shtreimel, pronounce takanos nobody will observe and claim yichus. True chassidic leadership rests on having a real following, connecting with the larger Jewish world, and leaving an impact on the growing body of halachic and cultural thought.

To be a gadol one’s last name doesn’t have to be Feinstein, Kamenetsky, Kotler or Soloveitchik. The younger generations of rabbis in those illustrious families certainly qualify for gadlus because they were raised in households with a deep appreciation for Torah, but I would like to believe that, im yirtzeh Hashem, my children will have the same opportunities for religious leadership as members of these families.

Wonder Bread Gets OU Kosher Approval

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

Wonder Bread, fresh off its post-bankruptcy revival, will get kosher certification in the New York area from the Orthodox Union (OU), according to an OU bulletin.

The kosher Wonder Bread won’t be sold everywhere, but approved products will bear the OU’s symbol on their packaging. Previously, Wonder Bread was certified by the Triangle-K, which is not as widely accepted by kosher consumers as the OU, the New York Jewish Week reported.

Flower Foods, which acquired the Wonder Bread brand during the Hostess brand’s recent bankruptcy fire sale, is a “very old and important OU account,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the OU’s Kashruth Department.

Jewish Institutions Awarded $9 million in Federal Security Grants

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Approximately 90 percent of the $10 million in funding for non-profit organizations announced by the Department of Homeland Security to help nonprofit organizations protect themselves from terrorism went to Jewish institutions this year.

The total amount of grants, announced Aug. 29, is slightly up from last year’s $9.7 million, while the total Preparedness Grant Program budget for this year amounts to $968 million.

“The Department of Homeland Security has demonstrated a great commitment to protecting at-risk communities,” said Michael Siegal, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees.

The Jewish Federations of North America and the Orthodox Union were instrumental in making sure the Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant program was continued.

Since Congress established the program in 2005, a total of $138 million has been distributed across the country to help at-risk nonprofits acquire and install physical security enhancements and undertake preparedness training, the JFNA announced.

“Since September 11, nonprofits generally, and Jewish communal institutions specifically, have been the victim of an alarming number of threats and attacks,” said William C. Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of Jewish Federations.

Man-Made Meat? A fence for Wisdom is Silence

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

After years of research and development, a man-made hamburger was publicly tasted for the first time last week. The burger was not animal flesh, instead it was grown in a laboratory. However, it was grown in a way that mimics the way animals grow their own flesh. Thus, it was pretty close to dead animal meat in flavor and texture.

This incredible scientific breakthrough prompted a plethora of questions. For the religious community with rituals and laws attached to the eating of meat even more questions were asked.

It seemed that one could hardly browse the Internet for five seconds without seeing a juicy soundbite (sorry, couldn’t resist) about whether the meat was kosher or whether is was meat at all. Chabad’s website had one approach. OU had another approach. Reuters had a third opinion in their article. NBC added another view.

I must have been asked by a dozen people what to make of the man-made meat mystery.

This is what I think. No one has any idea what they are talking about. Non-scientists have no chance of understanding the precise manner in which this meat was manufactured. I have tried to understand how it all works and it is almost impossible to find the full technical explanation with all the requisite background information. A very smart scientists tried explaining it to me, but even after I got the gist of the process I had more questions about stem cells and other background than I had before he explained it to me. I am pretty confident that Chabad, OU, the Reuters people, and even NBC News reporters don’t have a clue how this meat is made.

Sure, they  say “don’t rely on this for halacha” or something to that effect, but that makes things even worse. Why offer a meaningless opinion that is based on ignorance? It seems to make a mockery of Jewish law. But Jewish law is very serious and serious people will offer serious opinions on this matter. The proper response for almost the entire population of planet Earth to these eternal questions about man-made meat is “I am not qualified to render an opinion on this matter.”

Without a thorough understanding of how the meat is made, any discussion of the halachic ramifications of the meat is not even conjecture. It is pure fantasy. Further, deciding the halachic status of this issue will require a breadth of Torah knowledge that is possessed by a mere handful of people on the planet. You can’t pasken this shyla with Yad Moshe, Google, or the Otzar. This is a brand new question of Jewish law and will need serious investigation into the science and the various tenuously analogous precedents in Jewish law. The Torah does not discuss synthetic meat. And even if it did, who says this meat would be the same as the synthetic meat found in Jewish law?

The only way this question can be seriously answered is with a conference of scientists and rabbis who fit the descriptions above. Scientists who can thoroughly explain how the meat is made and Torah scholars who know kol haTorah kula will need to decide this issue. Anyone else jumping into the discussion is wielding a knife in a nuclear war. It’s that useless.

If I can, I will try to attain a scientific understanding of how this meat is produced and then perhaps I will be qualified to even ask the question to my (qualified) posek. But until such time, I wouldn’t dare wade into this very, very deep pool. I think this is the proper policy under the circumstances. We sound more educated and cutting edge when we admit what we don’t know as opposed to when we pretend we know what we are discussing.

Visit Fink or Swim.

Would You Eat a Kosher, Lab-Grown Cheeseburger?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

When the world’s first lab-grown burger was introduced and taste-tested on Monday, the event seemed full of promise for environmentalists, animal lovers and vegetarians.

Others who had good reason to be excited are kosher consumers.

The burger was created by harvesting stem cells from a portion of cow shoulder muscle that were multiplied in petri dishes to form tiny strips of muscle fiber. About 20,000 of the strips were needed to create the five-ounce burger, which was financed partially by Google founder Sergey Brin and unveiled by Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) hailed the event as a “first step” toward humanely producing meat products. A University of Amsterdam study shows that lab-grown meat could significantly reduce the environmental impact of beef production.

For kosher-observant Jews, the “cultured” burgers could open the door to radical dietary changes — namely, the birth of the kosher cheeseburger. That’s because meat produced through this process could be considered parve – neither meat nor dairy — according to Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher division.

Thus, under traditional Jewish law, the burger could be paired with dairy products, but several key conditions would have to be met to create kosher, parve cultured beef.

The tissue samples would have to come from an animal that had been slaughtered according to kosher rules, not from a biopsy from a live animal, Genack said. The principle underlying this theory is much like the status of gelatin in Jewish law: Though it is derived from an animal, it is not meat (the OU certifies some bovine-derived gelatin as parve). Genack noted another source for viewing cultured meat as parve: a 19th century Vilna-born scholar known as the Heshek Shlomo wrote that the meat of an animal conjured up in a magical incantation could be considered parve.

It may not be too much of a stretch, then, to apply the same logic to modern genetic wizardry. But kosher chefs aren’t heating up the parve griddles just yet.

The lab-born burger, which cost $325,000 and took two years to make, is still a long way from market viability, kosher or otherwise. If mass produced, it could still cost $30 per pound, researchers said.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Jeff Nathan, the executive chef at Abigael’s on Broadway, a kosher restaurant in Manhattan. “Until it’s in my hands and I can touch it, smell it and taste it, I don’t believe it.”

Even if cultured beef became commonplace, consumers still might not be interested, said Elie Rosenfeld, a spokesman for Empire Kosher, the nation’s largest kosher poultry producer. “Parve burgers made of tofu and vegetables have been on the market for years,” Rosenfeld said. “But customers are still looking for the real deal, a product that’s wholesome and genuine.” Nevertheless, Nathan sounded an enthusiastic note about the potential for parve meat.

“I’m all for experimentation and science,” he said. “Let’s see what it tastes like.”

Israel Hotels Attracting Tourists with OU Kosher Certification

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Israeli restaurants and hotels are more interested n seeking kosher certification from the American-based Orthodox Union (OU) in order to attract foreign tourists, according to the Kosher Today newsletter.

It said that many American Jewish tourists generally are more familiar with the OU than Israeli rabbinic certifications.

The OU operates in Israel in an office near downtown Jerusalem and has several kosher supervisors.

Not all restaurants are willing to accept OU supervision. Kosher Today noted that the La Cuisine restaurant decided to forfeit its OU certification for Passover rather than agree to its requirements for proper cleaning of the facility before the holiday.

Printed from: https://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-hotels-attracting-tourists-with-ou-kosher-certification/2013/05/07/

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