It is obvious from the onset, from the bookshelves bursting with volumes on medical ethics, determining the time of death according to halacha and many volumes of responsa from the generation’s greatest Torah minds, that Rabbi Flegg is well versed in Torah and medical ethics, and it quickly became apparent that his abilities in his capacity chief mashgiach in the medical center are no less impressive. While veteran mashgiach Rabbi Zechariah Pollack, who has been with SZMC for 40 years, inheriting the position from his father Rabbi Ephraim Pollack, is well in control of the kashrus situation, ultimately, Rabbi Flegg is responsible for the operation, overseeing all the subordinates that make up the kashrus team.
I was greeted by Rabbi Moshe Flegg (הרב משה פלג), who hails from Canada, a resident of Israel for 39 + years, and rabbi of the medical center for over a decade.
I was privileged to sit with both of them, as well as Ephraim Rudel, a somewhat more boisterous personality, a native Israeli and Jerusalemite who sports a kippa sruga. Rudel is the head of the hospital’s food services, playing a vital role in ordering and the running of the kitchen, working in harmony with Rabbi Pollack and Rabbi Flegg, bringing patients, staff and visitors alike a medical center that incorporates an extremely high kashrut standard, one that is commensurate with a prominent medical center in the Jewish capital. Ephraim greeted me warmly, excited to provide data that will share his excitement regarding the hospital’s kashrus standard with you. He drives the point home, loud and clear, that kashrus does not take a back seat to quality, taste or any other of the concerns of kitchen staff. Ephraim quickly produces bills of lading and other documentation attesting to the mehadrin ingredients that are purchased by him for the kitchens. He turns to Rabbi Pollack, whose eyes emit a gentle yet potent sparkle, the kind you find in the old time Jerusalemites who exhibit that special vibe. Let’s begin with the basics if you will. All poultry and meat products are purchased from the Glatt Ohf Company and are under the supervision of the Eida Chareidit. All other raw ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, are also under the Eida, as are dairy products. Moving to the kitchen, and there are three, the hospital proudly boasts not only Jewish cooks, but Shomer Shabbat Yirei Shamayim (G-d fearing) individuals responsible for the major culinary undertakings. Of course there is a meat and dairy kitchen, but there is also a medical kitchen if you will, where special dietary needs of the patients are addressed. This is the only kitchen permitted to operate on Shabbat, and of course, in consultation with the medical and rabbinical staff. Elsewhere, the food for the staff, guests and visitors, is all prepared before Shabbat, and placed on hot plates before candle lighting to eliminate any fear of any chilul Shabbat under the most stringent standards. Well let’s not forget the other six days. Not to worry – the standard is maintained week-round. The mashgiach arrives in the morning between 5:30am-6:00am. Rabbi Flegg points out that the medical center pays for a taxi, to make sure he is not delayed since bus service at that early hour is not always reliable. The point is that the mashgiach is present when cooking begins, despite knowing his cooks are Shomer Shabbat. Rabbi Pollack explains there is no such thing as the kitchen operating without a mashgiach present, always there to supervise and to consult should a question arise.
I will jump around a bit in the course of this article, as is my norm, but one of the things that really impressed me is the fact that the vending machines selling snacks, drinks and an array of hot drinks are all under the Eida Chareidit as well. The milk powder is chalav yisrael as well, as are all ingredients. The rabbinical division of the medical center is concerned with much more than the basic kashrus concerns, and also addresses the families who accompany the patience, realizing they too require a hot meal. As such, Rabbi Flegg explains that the staff cafeteria is available to families, on weekdays, Shabbos and Yomtov, and meals are provided at a very subsidized price. While I was not asked to mention this next point, I feel it is appropriate. Many of those who benefit from the Shabbos meals are unaware they are expected to pay before or after Shabbos. Having been at the receiving end of this marvelously giving opportunity, when I was served an impressive portion of chulent I did inquire, and was told we are expected to pay after Shabbos. Rabbi Flegg and his staff will never run after someone to make collection, but I believe some of those who do not pay are unaware that they are expected to do so, therefore I am making the point here. Quite honestly, this report should be dry and to-the-point since there is little to share other than the kashrus is Eida Chareidis level. Do not however confuse this with being under the Eida Chareidit, which the hospital is not. It maintains its own internal kashrut. By the way, did you know that hospitals in Israel do not have kashrut from the local rabbinical councils. Next time you enter a hospital and eat, perhaps check out who gives supervision and on what standard before sitting down in a cafeteria. The kitchens adhere to bishul yisrael, chalav yisrael, mehadrin in every aspect of the word. Adherence to Shabbos is no less a priority that a patient’s medical condition and in short, one hopes to never require the services of the hospital, except for childbirth perhaps, but it is nice to know that such a marvelous institution offers what one would expect in Jerusalem, the Holy City. Since I mentioned childbirth [like that segue], let me convey the impressive statistic that Shaare Zedek boasts over 1,100 deliveries a month, the same as Hadassah Ein Kerem, Hadassah Mount Scopus and Bikur Cholim Hospitals combined. The moms are just pleased with the professional care, the modern unit, and for those also seeking a religious environment, the package is complete. It is not just mehadrin food, but a Shabbos atmosphere. Regarding my comment that the rav seeks to address the needs of patients, one of the other facts I picked up during out extensive interview and tour was that there were 18 Pessach sedarim. You see, many hospitals in Israel have a Pessach seder because it is expected, but in SZMC, they realized it is not enough. Rabbi Flegg explained that anyone who is medically cleared to leave the medical center for 24 hours will obviously do so, preferring to spend seder with family. Therefore, one may assume those hospitalized for Yomtov in many cases are truly infirmed and perhaps not ambulatory. As such, they try to hold no-frills sedarim between departments, a version that will fulfill one’s halachic requirements but taking into account many patients are unable to remain at such an event for a prolonged period. The seder held for the new mom’s for example lasted over three hours, since the rav and his staff realized these moms are most likely into a real Yomtov, and physically capable of taking part. Rabbi Flegg did not rely on volunteers, but 18 people were paid and the operation was undertaken and completed with success. And since I am adding some holiday trivia, on Purim, megilla was read for patients both at night and in the morning in no less than 30 locations throughout the medical center in addition to the minyan in the shul located on the 8th floor. Anyway, back to kashrus. The bread, rolls, pitot and cakes are from Angel’s and Ya’aleh, both under the Eida Chareidit. Two hours before candle lighting, the Shabbos mashgiach arrives, permitting him adequate time to review everything and make last-minute adjustments in preparation for the holy day. The mashgiach lives in the hospital on Shabbos, making certain that he is available in the event of a problem. The same holds true for yomim tovim of course.
Another kashrus-awareness policy includes the preparation of the meals/snacks for nursing staff on the night shift. By the time the kitchen closes at 10:00 PM, the coolers and thermoses are filled and brought to the main storage facility of the head nurse, who has them distributed at 1:00AM. The kitchen is closed at night and there is no need for anyone to enter, and therefore, no surprises in the morning. On erev Shabbos, the special volunteers from Shalva arrive, and they take the 3,000 Kiddush rolls and bag them, two to a bag, providing lechem mishne on every tray for patients on Shabbos and Yomtov. I must add, the kitchen and rabbinical staff did not have enough words of praise for these marvelous girls, who carry our their weekly task with an added measure of exuberance. Pesach is a major undertaking for any major institution, hotels and hospitals, so safe to say in SZMC, it is quite an undertaking. Every room, kitchenette on the floors are kashered, not to mention hundreds upon hundreds of electric water pots and much much more. The hospital’s kashrut standard is not compromised in any way on Pesach, providing food for patients, families, staff and guests as is done year round. Come with me please to the main floor, the main entrance, located on the 4th floor. There we find the cafeteria, proving mehadrin dairy food for visitors. As you can see from the teudat kashrut, the rabbi explains the food is mehadrin and it adheres to the strict dictates of the Beit Yosef regarding bishul yisrael for Sephardim. There are items for sale that are not mehadrin, closed packages, such as Elite chocolates, but this is clearly explained in the kashrut certificate.
Amazingly, in addition to the mashgiach responsible for the cafeteria, there is another Jewish employee who is present at all times to light stoves and engage in other tasks to make certain the food adheres to bishul yisrael since the cooks at this location are not Jewish. CERTIFICATE TRANSLATION All cooked items, sandwiches, cakes and cookies located in the 4th floor cafeteria are kosher l’mehadrin and are ‘bishul yisrael’ for all. Regarding fruits and vegetables, there is no fear of shmitah, orla, and necessary tithes have been taken. The facility is under the constant supervision of a mashgiach who is Torah observant and G-d fearing. NOTICE: All pastries are dairy or prepared on daily vessels! The closed items, including sweets and beverages are not under this supervision and the buyer should take notice of the kashrut supervision of these items. Expires on Rosh Chodesh Av 5769. Rabbi Moshe Flegg Medical Center Rabbi
Similar certificates appear on the various floors, such as outside the emergency room, attesting to the kashrus of the “Milk” stands that sell hot and cold drinks, cakes, cookies, burekas and sandwiches.
And while we are at the emergency, I must add. I saw a really cool machine, a first for me, that permits one to connect one’s cellular telephone and charge it, for payment of course. If you are in the hospital and your cell phone is running out of juice, paying a few shekels is a welcome opportunity rather than being rendered phone-less, an unthinkable fate for the average Israeli. While a patient may rent a television, there is not TV in the 4th floor cafeteria even though the operator who contracts the space from the hospital thought it would enhance the atmosphere and business. Rabbi Flegg explained however that a television would make the cafeteria ‘off-limits’ to too many observant visitors, and therefore, it was a non-starter. Well, I think you get the picture. SZMC I believe is a pristine example of a kosher hospital, one that we are Jerusalemites are proud to call ‘ours’.