(As reported on Failed Messiah blog) The Jewish Star Calls For Ouster Of Head Of 5 Towns Rabbinical Board
Streit’s ban unprofessionally handled in a manner unfair to Streit’s, Rabbi Soleveitchik and the Jewish community.
Editorial: Change needed at Vaad HaKashrus of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway
It would be a big problem if a portion of an observant Jewish community were to lose faith in, say, kosher food supervision and became less careful about kashruth as a result.
Yet, that’s the kind of risk the Vaad HaKashrus of The Five Towns and Far Rockaway apparently decided to run when, with a month to Pesach, stores under its supervision weredirected to turn away matzo and matzo products made by the iconic Streit’s company.
There was no new or otherwise urgent information about Streit’s kashruth or any belief that the fitness of its products for Passover was in any way compromised. In fact, the Vaad said that Streit’s products could be used on Passover and there was no need to return or replace items already purchased.
As a result, some kosher consumers were confused and worried; others, quicker to sense “politics” at work, were infuriated. When people who keep kosher go out before Pesach to buy a product specifically because it’s just been “banned,” as some did, that’s evidence of a serious failure of public relations, at best.
Yet the Vaad utterly failed to offer a compelling explanation for the sudden action it took with no prior warning to the Streit’s company or its respected Rav HaMachshir (kosher supervisor).
Compounding the perception problem, from the Vaad’s point of view, was that some of its own members, rabbis of shuls in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway, as well as some rabbis in surrounding communities, did not (or could not), even in public, support the action taken in their names.
From the pulpit of the Young Israel of Woodmere, Rabbi Hershel Billet said, “The decision to remove Streit’s from Five Towns stores was a mistake. It was not in the best interest of the kosher consumer who should have had the choice to purchase that product. And it was not done in a manner that was fair to the Streit’s company and its hashgacha. All rabbis in the community who are members of the Vaad must share in the responsibility for decisions of the Vaad. When errors are made it is our responsibility to correct them.” He took care to not pass the buck or push blame for the incident onto any individual.
Here’s how any professional would have properly handled concerns about kashruth supervision at Streit’s: After Pesach, or many months before, privately communicate with the company and its hashgacha, laying out issues and proposing solutions.
Going public should have been the very, very last thing to happen, and only if no other resolution was possible. Instead, the matter was handled in the most unprofessional, hurtful, dictatorial manner possible — this, in a community full of professionals (many of whom, let’s be candid, do not take dictation so well).
Why would someone responsible for kashruth standards do anything to sow doubt in the minds of kosher consumers whose continued “buy-in” to kashruth is essential?
Unfortunately, the question assumes a basic understanding of matters of public perception and public relations — people skills, in other words — that experience has led us to believe does not exist in the current professional leadership of the Vaad.
For that reason we have respectfully and regretfully concluded that, in addition to tightening their own volunteer oversight and inviting renewed input from handpicked lay leaders, the members of the Vaad should share responsibility for the Streit’s fiasco by accepting the resignation of the current head of the Vaad of the Five Towns and Far Rockaway and find someone new.
The same should be done at the Queens Vaad. They are just as guilty.