Jerusalem Hotels – Jerusalem Regency

Jerusalem Hotels 1 – Jerusalem Regency

Monday, March 04, 2008

This is the first in a new series, intended to cover Jerusalem hotels, something that should provide useful information for locals and perhaps even more so for tourists.

My first stop this week, was the Jerusalem Regency Hotel, located in the Mount Scopus area of the capital, a short walk from the city’s Hadassah Mt. Scopus Hospital and the Hebrew University Campus.

I arranged to meet with the hotel’s rabbi, Rabbi Chaim Shaltiel, who was prompt, courteous, and offered a wealth of information. Rav Shaltiel has held his position for 16 years, making him well-equipped to provide the facts regarding the hotel’s kashrut as well as personally giving me the VIP tour of the kitchens, cooking and storage facilities and loading platform. We did cover quite a bit of ground and I feel am I have gathered sufficient information to give a report that will present you, the reader, with an accurate picture of the hotel’s kashrut standard.

Rabbi Shaltiel was very clear, telling me that guests should not hesitate to phone him or ask to speak with an on-duty mashgiach either prior to making reservations or while staying in the hotel.

I will say that he put out quite a positive light, exhibiting a sincere willingness to show me the entire operation, offering much information before being asked. It was quite evident to me that the rabbi, who oversees all of the hotel’s religious services and functions as the chief mashgiach, is quite proud of the level of kashrut he and his staff maintain to ensure guests are receiving nothing less than they expect.

Actually, he told me in so many words that the guests must get “first rate kashrut just as they expect regarding the condition of their suite and other hotel amenities.”

Anyway, we began with a chat over coffee during which time he gave me an overview of the hotel’s kashrut operation. The hotel is under the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, and this year, a shmitah year, they have a Shmitah K’halacah addition to their usual regular Jerusalem Rabbinate certification. That is to say there are no shmitah concerns being that all the produce is purchased from non-Jews. There is no produce other than products purchased from non-Jews. Nothing is heter mechira or kedushat shvi’it.

For the most part explained Rav Shaltiel, the meat is glatt (chalak), generally Beit Yosef, but not always. He was very articulate in his explanation, carefully choosing his words, obviously not seeking to mislead anyone. Some of the meat that I saw in the refrigerator during my tour was glatt under the supervision of the Rabbanut, not Beit Yosef, as he explained.

He added that if someone has booked a private event, a wedding or other private event, and wishes to serve something not glatt, they will get it too since the hechsher of Jerusalem Rabbinate does not compel him to use glatt. Generally speaking, the meat served to guests is however glatt but one wishing to make an affair can order other items as well.

During our tour of the cooking facilities, he showed me a box of specialized duck parts for a catered affair which was supervised by the Rabbanut, and not glatt.

All vegetables, referring to greens, are the “Gush Katif” brands to eliminate concern of bugs. There are also special washing stations with soap machines. As soon as the water is turned on, the soap begins to flow and as I saw, all the greens are washed and rinsed before being served.

All dairy products are chalav yisrael, Tara and Tnuva, and the hotel does comply with the rulings of the Rama regarding bishul akum, fear of a non-Jew cooking. Regarding the Beit Yosef, which is more stringent, he stated that while there are rulings permitting leniency, someone who holds by the strict interpretation of the Beit Yosef would have a problem since as is the case in other hotels as well, there are non-Jews handling food in kitchens.

He stated that there are no non-Jews working in the main kitchen, and only Jewish employees light stoves and ovens in the other kitchens as well. There are non-Jews in the other kitchens, and the rabbi reassured me that only the Jewish employees are permitted to light the gas. He emphasized that this is more than a rule, but the day-to-day reality.

As we toured the facilities I was shown a special room with an industrial size electric flour sifter, as all flour is sifted prior to use and the machine is cleaned daily to ensure the mesh filters begin the day in top condition.

There is also a special area with a machine used to check the rice. I have seen the machine operating at food fairs, and it is accepted by many major rabbinical authorities.

Eggs are not purchased in pre-cracked cans as some facilities do, and I was introduced to one of the Jewish dairy chefs who personally cracks and inspects the eggs for blood every morning as the staff prepares breakfast.

It is also noteworthy to point out that the meat and parve facilities are on the 3rd floor, while the dairy is a number of floors down, another safeguard towards distancing meat and milk and avoiding mix ups. The food is transported in closed hot box carts from floor to floor by kitchen staff, Jews and non-Jews alike.

As far as kitchen utensils – every piece I saw or picked up was marked, engraved to signal meat, milk or parve. Cutting boards are color coded, red, green and blue, and the trays and other stainless utensils are either with a hole (dairy) or without (meat). The color on the cutting boards is not paint, but factory die and it is not washed away in the hot pressure wash as is the case with paint.

This explained the rabbi avoids fear that paints will wipe off in the high-temperature high-pressure washes used for the greasy meat pans and so-forth. He does not approve of color coding by paint, and prefers the method of the drilled holes, which cannot be overlooked or wiped away.

Back to food preparations — the meat and parve facilities are on the same floor, but totally independent of one another as one would expect. This includes prep stations, ovens, cleaning areas, and refrigerators and freezers.

Touring the walk-in refrigerators, I saw that all meats and poultry were in marked boxes, everything easily identifiable regarding cut and kosher supervision. I could not find anything stored in refrigeration which did not still display its kashrut tags and various forms of identification, which Rabbi Shaltiel explained are only removed when preparation begins.

Walking through the extremely large pantries enabled me to check many many items and they had reliable kashrut supervisions, cans, sauces, mixes, powders and other ingredients. The supervisions varied from Rabbi Landau, Badatz Belz, Chatam Sofer, Badatz Eida Hareidit, Badatz Sherit Yisrael, Jerusalem Rabbinate and others.

On the loading platform, one member of the rabbi’s staff sits in a small room and monitors incoming shipments. He is responsible for checking incomings goods against shipping manifests and order forms, making certain that the foods have the correct supervision, kosher seals and that the incoming cartons coincide with the shipping manifests. He must stamp each delivery form with the rabbi’s seal and record the date and time they were accepted.

When we entered the office, Rabbi Shaltiel immediately requested to see the day’s incoming orders and the paperwork from all of the previous day’s arrival. It took less than a few moments for the young mashgiach to produce the papers requested and we both reviewed them. I for one was quite impressed just how orderly and efficiently the system is implemented.

The rabbi told me that while it is not a frequent occurrence; some merchandise is sent back if there are discrepancies that create concerns of the kosher integrity of the product. He quickly pointed out that at times, the butcher will also reject a shipment of meat if he believes the quality is below his standard – seeking to show that there are concerns of both physical and spiritual quality if you will.

Before I forget, on a side note, the rabbi stated that the hotel’s synagogue is available to guests at all times, and on Shabbatot there are generally religious services but this is less commonplace during the week, but this depends on the guests.

Citing the upcoming Passover holiday, Rabbi Shaltiel stated that in additional to the year-round kosher standard, all the matzot served will be “shmura” both hand and machine, and there is no shrurya (gebrochs) and no kitniot (legumes), indicating even most Ashkenazim can feel comfortable in his dinning room.

As is my policy, I tried to present the picture that was presented to me, hoping to have provided enough factual data to permit you to decide if the hotel’s kashrut is what you seek. I can say with a modicum of certainty that Rabbi Shaltiel and his staff do appear diligent, and he has expressed a willingness to respond to all inquiries to the best of his ability, stating he will continue to make a concerted effort to meet the demands of the many guests arriving from Israel and abroad.

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