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Are Kashrus Professionals Adequately Prepared? -

by Rabbi Avrohom Juravel<br /> <br /> <I>Rabbi Avraham Juravel, a Rabbinical Coordinator for the “OU”, has spent 30 years in the kashrus field. His articles appear periodically in KASHRUS Magazine, in Jewish Action and in The Jewish Homemaker. His last piece in KASHRUS was in January, 2004, “After which cheese do I have to wait”.</I> <br /> <br /> When an amateur undertakes to do the job of a professional, he may succeed partially, at times fully, and yet, and this is much more common, he may fail miserably. This is true in the construction business, the plumbing business, and it also holds true for kashrus. <br /> When mashgichim are sent on jobs without first receiving adequate training, or when kashrus administrators become administrators without first having learned kashrus from the bottom up and then they set up a certification program for a facility making products about which they know almost nothing, all the ingredients for a kashrus disaster are present and accounted for. <br /> With even the very best of intentions, their kashrus system will fail. I’ll grant that there may be a “honeymoon” time when all goes fine. The owner and the staff go along with “the rabbis” and the kashrus team looks successful. But, eventually it has to happen. It always does. <br /> In my nearly thirty years of working in this field, I have seen them when they fail and someone has to pick up the pieces. The well-meaning certifying rabbi. Sometimes he even has Torah credentials. But when he goes in over his head, the roof can cave in. When it does, he’ll blame “them”. <br /> “We have adequate safeguards.” <br /> “They fooled me.”<br /> “I could not have known.”<br /> “I never expected ...” <br /> We almost never hear King Shaul’s word, “Chatasi - I sinned.” It is just not part of the vocabulary.<br /> Let us examine some common mistakes which are attributable to kashrus professionals who are woefully unprepared for the demands of their job.<br /> 1. I was asked by a well-accepted local vaad hakashrus to review some of their certified establishments. One of them was at the meat department of a supermarket. <br /> There was one section of the supermarket that was kosher, where only kosher-made meat was received. The mashgiach checked in every delivery. The whole kosher section, including the refrigerators, freezers, meat cutting room, etc. was opened in the morning by the mashgiach, closed in the evening by the mashgiach, and supervised the whole time by the mashgiach. On the surface, it sounded and looked like the perfect setup. Sadly, however, a major failing was discovered.<br /> While examining the various packages of meat in the showcase, I noticed some slices of beef liver. To my utter dismay, there was fat on the slices. The fat had not been trimmed off before the packaging. The package had the warning label on it that said that liver must be broiled before it may be eaten. There was no warning label on there saying that the fat must be removed before broiling. Indeed, that fat was chelev d’oiraisa, fats forbidden by Torah law, punishable by Koreis. <br /> Upon investigating this matter, we learned that the supplier had never been asked to provide trimmed raw liver. Beef liver was ordered and beef liver was sent and properly received by the mashgiach. Since both the mashgiach and the kashrus administrator knew nothing about nikur (deveining), this chelev d’oiraisa was consumed by an unsuspecting public for what must have been years. A whole town was asked to kasher their utensils. <br /> Sadly, this is what happens when well-meaning untrained people try to do the job which should be reserved for experts.<br /> 2. At a convention that lasted for several days, a very elaborate breakfast buffet was served every day. This included an assortment of fruit, vegetables, cereals, cheeses, omelets, pancakes, French toast, etc. Every hidur (halachic stringency) was adhered to. Pas yisroel, cholov yisroel, as well as b’dikas tolaim and bishul yisroel were taken care of to the highest standard. Unfortunately, something serious and totally avoidable had been overlooked.<br /> Breakfast is normally followed by lunch. Lunch on one of those days was fleishig. The best quality aged swiss cheese was on the breakfast buffet. After eating swiss cheese, one must wait six hours before eating meat, just like one waits six hours before drinking milk after meat. Here again, the mashgichim and administrators either did not examine the menus in depth, or they did not understand what they were reading. A mashagiach must always ask and a rav must always be prepared.<br /> 3. A large conference for kashrus people was taking place in a non-kosher hotel. A caterer was hired to feed all of the attendees. A mashgiach was hired to supervise the kitchen and the caterer. All food was cooked in the caterer’s commissary and had only to be re-warmed at the hotel and be served. The rav hamachshir was not very experienced and the mashgiach was even less experienced, so much so that there almost was a catastrophe in the kitchen.<br /> That afternoon, I decided to have a look at the kitchen. I inquired as to how the mashgiach had kashered the various pieces of equipment (i.e. the stove, oven, table, sink, warmer etc.). He informed me that nothing had been kashered. Since all food coming from the commissary was double wrapped, his instructions were to make sure that the foil was not ripped, and that was all. No kashering was required. Everything sounded perfect. <br /> On the way out of the kitchen, in the corner, I saw a very interesting looking steam table. There was a place for the water which was being heated into steam. There was a place for several inserts to be put onto the steam table, and around the rest of this table was a well-scratched, wooden butcher block. I wondered how the metal parts were kashered when they were attached to the wood. Upon asking the mashgiach, he informed me that, “since everything is double wrapped, nothing needs to be kashered.” <br /> While this statement is true with regard to ovens and warmers, it certainly does not apply to a steam table! Double-wrapping helps for dry heat in an oven or a warmer. Where there is water, and the pan touches the water, even triple wrapping will not help. <br /> Here again, we found a rav hamachshir not knowing which kitchen equipment would be used. And here again we have a mashgiach lacking the knowledge and experience to differentiate between a steam table and an oven. <br /> This is totally unacceptable. The time has come for the public to demand properly trained professionals both for those serving as kashrus administrators and as mashgichim. Several minutes or hours of instruction do not suffice to create a professional mashgiach. Sitting behind a desk does not make someone qualified to administer various areas of kashrus. <br /> The “OU” implemented a review system several years ago whereby experienced kashrus professionals are constantly reviewing kashrus systems at “OU”-certified establishments. There is nothing like a fresh set of eyes. The Badatz of the Eida Hachareidis of Yerushalayim is constantly rotating their mashgichim for the very same reason. <br /> The “OU” has made our professionals available to review locally administered kashrus organizations. Anyone can make mistakes. Anyone can benefit from an independent review of what he sees day in and day out. One mistake does not invalidate an agency, but, with proper preparation, the total number of errors can be greatly reduced.<br /> It is time for the public to demand the highest possible standards and the best trained people to insure that true kashrus is available. We have suffered through too many scandals. Let us get properly trained professionals in every area of kashrus. <br />

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