CAN SOMEONE PLEASE FIND ME A MASHGIACH WHO KNOWS SOMETHING
We attended a dairy catered bat mitzvah party. The family was, and is, rigorously Orthodox. In the goodie bags, they included M &M bags. The mashgiach insisted that the candy was not kosher. I pointed out to him that there was an OU-D on the label. He told me that he was sorry, but the candy was not on his approved list. To be frank, how stupid do you have to be to say that the candy is not kosher? I demanded that he phone his boss/supervisor/rabbi. I do not know what the rabbi said to him, but the candy remained.
The point is that far too often kosher certification agencies supply mashgichim with no training, no knowledge, and, apparently, no brains.
Our rabbinic group once ordered food for a small dinner from a restaurant under the RCBC (Teaneck,NJ). We also asked to have one or two waiters serve the food. The RCBC told us that they would provide waiters who were also mashgichim, but we had to double pay them. Mind you, we were a group of Orthodox rabbis in the first place. All that was needed was for two people to put the food in the oven and then put it out on the buffet table and do a clean-up.
Two high school Yeshiva students showed up. They did not know what they were doing. On top of that, having to pay double really rankled.
Some months later, we hired the same restaurant to do the same thing. The RCBC again told us that we had to hire two boys. We refused. We said we would do the set up and the clean-up, and for sure we did not need two high school boys to be mashgichim for a room of rabbis whose each individual knowledge was greater than those two fellows. Note that the food came in sealed containers ready to go into the oven.
The RCBC refused. We argued and got nowhere. Finally, we told them that we would cancel the order and buy food from a vendor not under their supervision. We phoned the caterer and canceled the order. And just like that, the RCBC relented.
Was the RCBC was over reaching? One has to wonder if the boys actually got double pay or not. Anyone want to bet?
Even though glatt meat is treibured (deveined) at the slaughter house, there are still some other veins that have to be removed by the local butcher. One day, we got a phone call from a young boy who was working in the local glatt kosher butcher store.
The local vaad did not see the need for a full time mashgiach, just a nichnas v’yotzei (come and go) one. The young man had seen us devein meat in a different, and coincidentally not glatt, butcher store. He watched the mashgiach and noted that he seemed to not know how to do it. In truth, almost no rabbis do. It is not their field, unless they work in kosher meat production. Nor do yeshivas train in how to devein meat. The young man said something to us. We asked careful questions. We went to the head of the vaad and suggested that they replace the mashgiach with someone who knew what to do. After two weeks, we again went to the head of the vaad and said that if he did not remove that rabbi, we would go public. The rabbi challenged us on our knowledge. We presented our certification in deveining as issued by the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem. The mashgiach in that store was let go and replaced with someone who knew what he was doing.
Was there fraud involved by selling meat that was not properly deveined? You decide.
We were at an affair where the mashgiach spent much of the night outside in his car watching a ball game. Apparently his conscience was not bothered by his not earning his pay.
DOES THIS ITEM REALLY NEED CERTIFICATION?
We have seen certified kosher toothpaste. We have seen certified kosher laundry detergent and dish soap. The latest craze seems to be kosher vitamins. Often times, a rabbi or an agency rep will say something like this, “While it is true that vitamins do not require kosher certification, it I always better to use only certified kosher vitamins.’
There is a total lack of logic there. On what grounds is it better to use a kosher certified vitamin if the vitamin in the first place did not need certification? Halacha (Jewish law) is abundantly clear that vitamins are not food, they do not satisfy, are not eaten as food, and most of the time taste (a legitimate concern in Jewish law) really bad, and do not require kosher certification. So, again we ask- why is it better to buy certified kosher vitamins? Here is a hint- it is a money maker for both the producer and the kosher agency.
One local vaad ran a campaign to have men have their tefillin (phylacteries- used in morning prayer) checked by a “reputable” sofer (scribe). We shall not argue their use of the word reputable. That was just to make it seem more official and important.
Tefillin never need to be checked. Tefillin have a halachic (Jewish legal) status of always being kosher. There is one exception: if your tefillin have been in contact with water, they need to be checked as water can damage the parchment within.
When questioned, the agency answered in print saying, “Yes, they are always kosher, but don’t you want to be really sure?” Kind of like using kosher laundry soap to wash the tablecloth on which you put your kosher dishes upon which you put your kosher food.
As we said at the start of this paper, we believe in keeping kosher. When we started the Kosher Nexus Kosher Newsletter, our goal was to show people that keeping kosher today is not a hardship. Our motto was, “When kosher news breaks, we fix it.” Unlike other publications who saw disaster behind every situation, we did not, and still do not, “shrei gevalt (scream Oh God!)” at every little thing.
Our approach was totally new in terms of reporting on the kosher scene. We prefer humor to screaming. We want Jews to keep kosher. We do not want to make keeping kosher onerous.
The system, however, is out of control. It needs fixing.