New Kashrut Agency in Israel, 3rd Shuk Tour & OU-Israel

kosher-report1A New Kashrus Agency in Eretz Yisrael
It was by all accounts a historic event, the launching of a new kashrus agency in Israel, one that enjoys widespread support. The event was hosted in Bnei Brak’s Vishnitz Hotel on Tuesday, August 11, 2009.

All chassidic bodies have joined force, explaining they have created a hechsher that will integrate the hidurim of all the respective groups incorporated in the effort.

The new agency is being called Badatz Kehillot HaChareidim in Eretz Yisrael, the product of a year’s work. The official date of the launch of the new agency is 21 Av 5769. Organizers believe that from its inception, the new agency will be directing products at 30,000 families. 

The directors of the agency will be Admorim, the Rebbe’s of the respective chassidic courts, who have handpicked the rabbonim who will represent them on the board. The list of rabbonim on the new Badatz include Rav Zoldon (Haifa), Rav Pessach Horowitz (Ashdod), Rav Chaim Schwartz (Netanya), Rav Shraga Feivel Weinberger (Bnei Brak), Rav Eliezer Koenig (Tzfat), Rav Nachman Berlind, Rav Yeshayahu Brizal (Jerusalem), Rav Rozovsky (Rosh Yeshiva Slonim), Rav Mordechai Eichler, Rav Binyomin Adler, Rav Yoroslovsky (Chabad), Rav Meir Weiss (grandson of Erlau Rebbe Shlita), Rav Simcha Rabinowitz (Ramat Shlomo), and Rav Shamai Gross (Jerusalem).

A number of other rabbonim, currently out of the country, are expected to join in the future, Chareidim reports.

The rabbonim running the organization are reported to be veterans to the kashrut industry and represent an array of expertise. Rav Schwartz for example, has been responsible for kashrus in the Laniado Hospital in Netanya as well as the Ganei Sanz Hotel. The organization plans to begin by addressing schita.

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Only a few participants are in the photo - a camera shy group

Only a few participants are in the photo - a camera shy group

3rd Shuk Tour
Baruch Hashem, on Tuesday evening the third JKN shuk kashrut walking tour pounded the pavement, and participants expressed satisfaction, with a feeling the time was well spent, learning the ins-and-outs of the kashrut maze in Israel, particularly the ‘shuk’.

Next Tuesday, August 18th, two additional walking tours are planned. They are booked to capacity. There are many who are wait-listed. Please continue to monitor the list and website for information of upcoming walking tours. I do not plan any others in August, but who knows.

Yeshivot and seminaries who might benefit from my PowerPoint demonstration for students who spend their year in Israel, dates are filling rapidly so if you are interested, send an email sooner rather than later.

By the way, the photo accompanying this article only shows a small group. It appears the participants of this group were quite camera shy.

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A Look at the Hechsher – OU Israel
For me, one who grew up in the East Coast of the United States, OU was synonymous with ‘kosher’, but not just kosher, a level of kashrut that could be trusted, synonymous with transparency, legitimacy, and a genuine concern for the kosher consumer.

When the news began unfolding a number of years ago that the OU existed in the Holy Land, it brought a smile to the faces of many a former N. American, realizing this premier kashrus organization would without a doubt remove the complexities of the Israeli kashrus scene, permitting us to sit back and relax, entering an OU restaurant or hotel and enjoy Israel’s finest cuisine with the knowledge the kosher standard was among the highest available.

That is how I began this report about months ago, optimistic, and admittedly somewhat excited, armed with my pen, pad and digital camera, I set out to show the world what the OU is bringing to Eretz Yisrael.

To my dismay, what I found was not exactly what I expected. There is no kashrus transparency, no written or published standard, and no friendly voice on the other end of the phone to explain the complexities of the kashrus situation. I cannot really say what the standard is, but what I can do is to relay facts, the findings of many many hours in the street, photographing, speaking with mashgichim in the industry, checking eateries and hotels, and of course, speaking and meeting with the head of the OU in Israel, Rabbi Yosef Minsky, and his assistant, Rachel Stewart. I will add that the OU-Israel kosher certificates displayed in hotels do not even all contain the name of a mashgiach or mefakaiach to call, as is evident from the photos accompanying this article.

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I BEGIN WITH SOME TERMINOLOGY & HARD FACTS
Firstly, one must understand some of the basic ins-and-outs of kashrus in Israel, in this case, pertaining to the Jerusalem Rabbinical Council. There are two levels of kashrus, ‘regular’ and ‘mehadrin’, with the later ensuring a higher standard, one that should be commensurate with many many stringencies that permit the food for people adhering to a high standard.

This includes proficient inspection of fish, greens and legumes for insects and bugs, prohibiting the use of many items including but not limited to strawberries, other berries, certain cuts of meat, and the certainty that the milk, vegetables, foods and other items are not the result of chilul shabbos. It also means there is a mashgiach timidi (a rabbinical kashrut inspector) present while the kitchen operates. Yes, this is all an over simplification, but I am trying to give a general overview and not get bogged down in defining the difference between regular and mehadrin).

In a regular kashrut environment, a mashgiach pops in from time to time (yotzei v’nichnas), not necessarily daily, and the level of kashrut adherence in the kitchen is inferior to the mehadrin.

The Jerusalem Rabbinate employs mashgichim, as well as a mefakaiach (supervisor) who is not assigned to a special store, but goes to a number of places supervising his subordinates, the mashgichim.

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OU-ISRAEL
Sometime ago, prior to embarking on this article, I spoke with Rabbi Yosef Minsky to get an idea of what OU-Israel brings the kosher consumer. He explained that being that we are in the Holy Land, the level is higher than in the United States, guaranteeing chalav yisrael, bishul yisrael, and regarding shmitah, only l’chumra. He told me in many a conversation that the level of OU-Israel adheres to the strictest standards, cutting no corners, making certain Americans and Israelis alike can enjoy, well-assured the level of kosher is among the highest in the industry. It is pertinent to the article to insert at this point that on numerous occasions, Rav Minsky added that he views the OU among the premier agencies, like Eida Chareidit, making sure to insert he is operating on a higher level than Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin. This was repeated and stressed on numerous occasions.

I emphasize that I am not making any judgments as to the level of kashrus, but I will use this forum to present facts, and perhaps to express a level of frustration I have not known in dealing with any other kashrus agencies in Israel.

As you, readers are aware, I do not generally write about kashrus agencies as an independent unit in a feature article, but events sort of compel that I attempt to document many isolated incidents into a cohesive report. One of the reasons is the fact that JKN is an English forum, thereby attracting many former and current Americans, resulting in many a query regarding OU-Israel.

I strongly suggest that email recipients take the time to view the article online, where photos accompany the documentation.

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MORIAH CLASSIC HOTEL
The Moriah Classic Hotel, formally the Novetell, is one of the Jerusalem Hotels under the supervision of OU-Israel. It also enjoys the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, regular, not mehadrin.

I will spare you hours of phone calls and investigatory efforts and cut to the chase. The hotel rav and mashgiach, Rabbi Elyashiv Nafcha, will attest to the fact that there is no OU mashgiach in reality, even though the certificate, which is not posted conspicuously as per Rabbi Nafcha’s decision, since the last one expired, stated the mashgiach is Rabbi Eliezer Mendelson. Rabbi Nafcha runs quite the legitimate show, which I will detail in an upcoming report on the hotel. Bottom line, the OU relies on a non-mehadrin Rabbanut hechsher for its OU mehadrin hechsher. In reality, the hotel ingredients are mehadrin but that is not the point. If one phones the hotel and asks for the rav or mashgiach, Rav Nafcha will tell you the hotel is under J. Rabbinate regular, while the ingredients purchased are mehadrin, but this is not the same as a mehadrin hotel .

JKN phoned the OU-Israel office and we were assured the hotel is under its supervision and mehadrin, “not like the Eida Chareidit, but like the Belz and other regular mehadrin hechshers”.

In short, you the kosher consumer are visiting a non-mehadrin hotel and eating, believing an OU mehadrin mashgiach is there. Sorry folks, but this is simply not the case.

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JERUSALEM PLAZA HOTEL
The Jerusalem Plaza Hotel is under the supervision the Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin, and OU-Israel. Once again, the hotel mashgiach, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Altman is the rav and chief mashgiach. As veteran readers know, I am a fan, impressed with the kashrut standard maintained by this senior veteran mashgiach. In this case too, he explains, the OU mashgiach, guess who — Rabbi Eliezer Mendelson, is not really in control of kashrus. Here again, it appears the OU relies on the Rabbanut mashgiach to cover itself.

photocopy of J. Rabbinate Mehadrin certificate

photocopy of J. Rabbinate Mehadrin certificate

photocopy of OU-Israel Mehadrin certificate

photocopy of OU-Israel Mehadrin certificate

I will point out that Rabbi Mendelson is a member of Rabbi Altman’s staff, one of his mashgichim. When I asked the Jerusalem Rabbinate if they are bothered by this conflict of interests, I was told that officially, Mendelson is a “representative” of the Rabbinate and an “employee” of the Plaza, so no problem.

Anyway, here too the OU-Israel enjoys the zealous efforts of the hotel rav and comfortably adds its kashrut sign, but in reality, Rabbi Mendelson does not make the decisions regarding what foods are purchased, used, and so-forth. Rabbi Altman runs the kashrut show here and there have not been any changes in the kashrut operation since the OU added it name.

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MOSHIKO SHWARMA
Once again, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and OU-Israel. As you may remember from a previous report, the Rabbinate mashgiach is present for about 8 hours daily, and the Rabbinate supervisor (mefakaiach) visits several times a week. The OU Mefakaiach, Rabbi Avraham Turetzky told JKN that he relies on the Rabbanut mashgichim and visits from “time-to-time”.

J. Rabbinate Mehadrin - OU Israel Mehadrin

J. Rabbinate Mehadrin - OU Israel Mehadrin

Here I must point out that while the J. Rabbinate Mehadrin seems to be doing its job, the OU office has told me repeatedly its standard is higher than the Rabbanut Mehadrin and it does not rely on the mehadrin hechsher. It appears Rabbi Turetzky is unaware of this policy decision since he does indeed rely on the J. Rabbinate mashgiach timidi.

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JERUSALEM GATE HOTEL
You guessed it, Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin and Rabbi Turetzky as supervisor. In truth, all my investigations show the hotel runs just fine, but again, due to the credit of the Jerusalem Rabbinate with the OU taking a free ride. By the way, R’ Turetzky’s name, or anyone else for that matter, does not appear on the certificate.

OU-Israel Mehadrin

OU-Israel Mehadrin

J. Rabbinate Mehadrin certificate

J. Rabbinate Mehadrin certificate

I will use this opportunity to add that all my phone calls reveal Rabbi Turetzky is a serious G-d fearing Rav, one who take kashrus seriously. In addition to his demanding kashrus positions, he also serves as an employee of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, where he works in their Givat Shaul, Jerusalem, office during the afternoon hours. The point, once again, the hotel relies on the Jerusalem Rabbinate, which the OU office degrades, but in essence, it maintains the level of kashrus.

Here again, as in the case of R’ Mendelson, R’ Turetzky is the hotel rav/mashgiach for the J. Rabbinate, and the OU.

I think it is also noteworthy to add that one who relies on OU for eating out and possibly less comfortable with the Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin, in the overwhelming majority of cases, you are eating the Rabbanut schita, not OU meat or chickens.

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TAIKU
Located on Emek Refaim Street in the German Colony, this fine eatery is becoming increasingly popular, it recently decided to leave the Agudat Yisrael supervision and move to the OU [see previous reports]. Since that time, I have contacted the mashgiach twice by phone and made three unannounced visits. Sorry, but he was never on site. This does not say there are kashrus problems, but this is not exactly what is meant by “mashgiach timidi”.

taiku-store1

taiku-hechsher1
I use this opportunity to add that in violation of state law, the OU has granted a certificate of kashrut to this restaurant despite the fact that it does not have a Jerusalem Rabbinate hechsher. The same was true under Agudat Yisrael as per the Jerusalem Religious Council Kashrut Department.

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PAPAGAIO
This is without a doubt the new excitement on the N. American Jerusalem eating scene. Since moving from Jerusalem Rabbinate regular to OU after Tisha B’Av, it has been standing room only. This branch, the only mehadrin branch of Papagaio is located at 3 Yad Charutzim Street in the Talpiot area of Jerusalem.

OU-Israel Mehadrin certificate

OU-Israel Mehadrin certificate

This story is a bit longer, even the abridged version –
I saw the full page color ad in the weekend J. Post, and decided I will call to make an appointment and visit, to write up the restaurant. As is my custom, I phoned to request permission to interview the mashgiach and tour the kitchen. The restaurant was more than pleased to comply, as is always the case – realizing the potential for free media exposure. I arrived at 10:45am, 15 minutes early, using the time to take photos.

papagaio

Arriving early permits me some time to check out a place before a formal interview begins; something that helps me assess the situation. In this case too, I did just that and I saw an impressive place, a Brazilian steakhouse busy with the daily getting-the-day-started mode, setting tables, preparing the salads, meats and other foods for the 12 noon opening. The prices displayed on the menu were extremely reasonable considering the ambiance and general feel of the place.

head chef Omri Shachar

head chef Omri Shachar

I introduced myself to the branch manager, Yaniv, who actually fit the central casting for the part, shaven head and quite suave in appearance, the type of chap one would expect operating such a fine eatery. I learned from him there are seven stores in Israel, 5 with regular rabbinate supervision in other cities, one not kosher and open shabbos, and this branch, under the OU for only a number of days. I did not know they just moved from Jerusalem Rabbinate regular to the OU, but that is not relevant either. (The J. Rabbinate certificate was not on display so I could not know. I did check with the office of the J. Rabbinate a number of days later).

By any definition of the word, the restaurant is an impressive steakhouse, and it is not difficult to understand why the reservation phone is ringing off the hook since it announced its OU-Israel hechsher.

papagaio3-1

papagaio3-12papagaio3-8

Anyway, everyone was there except for Shaul Ben-Shachar, the mashgiach. I was given his cellular number and we spoke, and it appears no one informed him of the meeting. Anyway, he was apologetic and we agreed I would wait an hour for him to arrive. To speed up the story, after waiting about 40 minutes, Yaniv informed me that he spoke with Rabbi Y. Minsky (head of the OU-Israel) and he informed Yaniv that I may not enter the kitchen without him being present. I was asked to leave – a request that I accommodated, somewhat frustrated and angry, but I do not get into arguments over entering a kitchen. By law, no one has to grant me access since I have no state-given authority, only a press card.

For those who remember the recent updated photo report on Emek Refaim area restaurants, that report was prompted by this chain of events. I had already wasted too much time, and was perturbed. Rather than bus it back to the center of town I walked, passing through the German Colony, using the time to photograph the stores for the updated report.

After cooling down a bit I decided to phone Rabbi Minsky to confirm that he actually gave the order barring me from the Papagaio kitchen. He confirmed the facts. After about 15 minutes on the phone I realized the conversation was not heading anywhere and tried to end it. The rabbi pointed out I am not a rabbi, or kashrut expert, to which I agreed, but I pointed out I am quite proficient in documenting facts and have enough learning under my belt and on-site experience to do just that. I also explained I was not seeking kashrut inadequacies, but just to relay the facts to readers as I have been doing for the past 2.5 years.

When Rabbi Minsky realized I was fed up with his shenanigans, telling him I planned to boycott the OU-Israel in future reports to avoid repeated confrontations, he changed his tone and explained that he did not realize I was the correspondent at Papagaio, but feared it was someone else who might just be seeking to give the OU a bad name. We agreed that I would telephone and come in to meet with him to talk, which I have not yet done. Quite honestly, I do not see any benefit in such meeting and blei neder, I have no intention of re-visiting Papagaio today or any other day in the future.

I spoke with the Jerusalem Rabbinate to see if Papagaio has a certificate, since only the OU-Israel certificate is displayed. I learned it has a Jerusalem Rabbinate regular hechsher and the mashgiach is R’ Avi Levy, who is on duty 3 hours daily, usually during the afternoon.

R’ Levy told me that R’ Ben-Shachar [the OU-Israel mashgiach] is on duty from 8:30am “every day” and makes certain the kitchen never operates without a mashgiach present. He assured me that the kitchen NEVER operates without one of the three mashgichim present, not even during the early-morning setting up hours.

I can only say on the one occasion I popped in, this was not the case. Meats and poultry were being marinated, the grill was lit before my eyes, salads cut and much more was taking place, without a mashgiach present. There is also a third mashgiach beginning at 5:00pm until midnight R’ Levy told me, also under OU-Israel auspices.  (I was unable to get his name).

papagaio-wiskey

R’ Levy told me the meat was OU and the chicken Fleish (OU-Israel also). R’ Ben-Shachar said meat was Agudah and poultry Fleish).

Before moving on, I pose a question here for both the J. Rabbinate and OU-Israel — Those viewing the photos accompanying this article can see the well-stocked Papagaio bar. Well, I sent the photos to a Rabbanut expert on hard drinks and he told me that two items are “problematic” and one is definitely dairy.

papagaio-wiskey-1

My question is what is a dairy liquor doing in a meat restaurant and I ask the OU, what is a “problematic” drink doing in a mehadrin restaurant? Especially since OU America is a leader in raising awareness to the possible kashrut problems related to hard drinks.

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AGAS VETAPUACH

Agas VeTapuach is a high-end operation, dairy/parve, located at Kikar Safra, Jerusalem City Hall.

In short, I spoke with Yonatan, the owner/manager and the Jerusalem Rabbinate. The place is under the supervision of Jerusalem Rabbinate regular and OU-Israel mehadrin. The supervisor is R’ Turetzky, and the J. Rabbinate mashgiach comes and goes, as is fine in compliance with the dictates of a regular J. Rabbinate supervision. There is not OU-Israel mashgiach, only a supervisor who makes occasional visits. In short, this OU-Mehadrin place does not have any mashgiach timidi.

Yonatan assures me all his products are “badatz mehadrin and chalav yisrael”.

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SUMMATION

1.    There are numerous other OU-Israel supervised hotels, eateries and caterers in the Greater Jerusalem area. I do not plan to visit or review them. This is not because of kashrut concerns, but due to the lack of cooperation from OU-Israel office staff and the smokescreen that results in some of my questions.

2.    This report does not intend to hint at the level of kashrut in any of the places mentioned, for good or G-d forbid otherwise, regarding the OU. I have reported on some of the places, such as the Jerusalem Plaza and Moshiko, and they indeed are true to their J. Rabbinate hechsher. The OU-Israel adds absolutely nothing other than a red and white sign.

3.    If one is stringent on eating OU schita (beef and poultry) when entering an OU establishment, think again in Israel. Not all places use Fleish chickens and to date, the OU has not succeeded in having its own cattle schita despite efforts to do so. Therefore, if a mashgiach in Jerusalem tells you the meat is “OU”, it may be OU-Israel approved, which is fine, but it cannot be OU-Israel schita since to date, there has not been any.

4.    If you expect a mashgiach timidi in your OU mehadrin restaurant, then you are out of luck in some cases.

5.    Based on what I saw at Papagaio, the kitchen operating without a mashgiach, it is difficult to say if OU-Israel satisfies ‘bishul yisrael’ for sephardim, which hold by the stringent rulings of the Beit Yosef. Rav Minsky assures me all OU-Israel establishments are bishul yisrael for both ashkenazim and sephardim.

6.    There are many many emails that have come in regarding OU chickens, sold under the Fleish name. I mention this so readers do not think I have ignored this. I just prefer not to address the matter at this time.

7.    Without exception! Any and every hotel mashgiach and rav I spoke with, referring to hotels that the OU-Israel has claimed to be under its supervision, at least three, maintain the OU-Israel has not added a thing towards mehadrin level kashrus and it appears the organization is taking a free ride off the services of the J. Rabbinate hechsher, both regular and mehadrin, as well as the reputations of the fine rabbonim and mashgichim in those very same hotels.

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24 Comments

  • Shimon
    August 16, 2009 - 09:32 | Permalink

    WHAT A SCANDAL!!!! OU is no better than the other phony hechsherim you have reported on in the past. It seems like a few olim have decided to make a quick buck and are not really concerned about whether people eat kashrut or not. Yechiel have you ever checked the OU in the US? Do they really deserve the good name they have? A friend once told be that the OU is run by the mafia now I’m beginning to believe it. Either way watch you back Yechiel. And keep up the great work you are doing!

  • Shlomo
    August 16, 2009 - 11:11 | Permalink

    I wish you have given us a few details about Rav Minsky and his background in halacha and kashrut. Also, who within the OU does he answer to? I sure hope that your report comes to the attention of the leadership of the OU.
    Keep up your good work.

  • Ben
    August 16, 2009 - 12:07 | Permalink

    I too was wondering about R’ Minsky’s bio? Where is his semicha from? Does ha have experience in the field? What is the procedure if something goes wrong? Does O-U Israel have to check with the main office in NYC? Have you contacted the main office with this information?

    When is the new hechsher beginning?

    Yasher Koach on all your good work!!

  • Elie
    August 16, 2009 - 12:46 | Permalink

    Can’t believe my eyes! The OU in US were the ones who first blew the whistle on Southen Comfort! How on earth is it sitting on the shelf of an OU place? (and 2 bottles, noch!!) It was only thru the OU that corrected mistake of LBD that Rabbanut Mehadrin was relying on! this story goes back a few yrs and ain kan makom l’ha’arich. Also saw the Cointreau!
    But which snhapps is michigs there?
    thnx

  • Mike
    August 16, 2009 - 12:59 | Permalink

    Keep up the great work Reb Yechiel,
    I have been in Israel learning in the Mir for a year as an Avreich. The OU in Israel is very disturbing. No one I know eats the Fleish chicken even though it is much cheaper. My wife and I did eat at the Red Heifer once, I hope that wasn’t a mistake. As an American in Israel the OU is supposed to represent a Hescher that is always acceptable. To see that is not the case is very disturbing. The leaders of the OU in America need to be told about this scandal and do something about it. Their BRAND is being destroyed. This is an organization which uses Rabbi Belsky as their head Posek. One of the main criteria that a layman should be aware of in a kosher fleishig restaurant is that there always needs to be a Masgiach Temidi. If the OU in Israel can’t meet this basic standard, then it Hescher is worthless. Thanks for the good reporting Reb Yechiel.

  • yechiel-admin
    August 16, 2009 - 13:30 | Permalink

    To Elie, Southern Comfort is dairy.

  • Aliza
    August 16, 2009 - 13:42 | Permalink

    I am disturbed by R’ Minsky’s comment that you are not a Rav–so you have no right to ask where the mashgiach is? Is that then true for all of us who eat at a kosher restaurant? It’s not our business to inquire where the mashgiach is or even if there is a mashgiach. Sounds like the OU is quite comfortable setting up shop here in Israel like the bogus hechshers, relying on their US reputation to avoid being exposed. Thank you, Yechiel, for taking nothing for granted in your investigations and helping the rest of us understand exactly what is going on.

  • Leah
    August 16, 2009 - 15:05 | Permalink

    I have had very poor response from the main office of the OU in America as well. When I asked about the hechsher on grape juice used in certain products (fruit roll type candies,) I was told I just need to trust them. Same when I asked about pas Yisroel. No, I don’t just trust them. I want to know. I was also told that the OU guaranteed that the INGEDIENTS are kosher, but not the PROCESSES (i.e. checking for bugs, cholov Yisroel, pas Yisroel, bishul Yisroel…) so that they can provide a large variety of products for a wide kosher clientele. So we only use pareve OU products which do not need these additional “processes.”

  • Mike
    August 16, 2009 - 15:06 | Permalink

    Quote “We agreed that I would telephone and come in to meet with him to talk, which I have not yet done. Quite honestly, I do not see any benefit in such meeting and blei neder, I have no intention of re-visiting Papagaio today or any other day in the future.”

    Do you intend to fulfill your commitment and go meet with him?

  • Mike
    August 16, 2009 - 15:14 | Permalink

    Leah — the OU, like any responsible agency, does not want to comment on the specific ingredients… what would happen if you agreed with their use of brand X, but not Y? When the manufacturer wants to change to Y, do you want them to have to call everyone back and say “hey everyone, new recipe?”

    Of course not. If you trust them, you trust them. If you don’t, you don’t.

    For a restaurant, you can always speak to the mashgiach. For an commercial product, that’s completely ridiculous.

  • yechiel-admin
    August 16, 2009 - 15:22 | Permalink

    The information I have gathered indicates Rav Yosef Minsky is quite an expert regarding kashrus and I do not think his smicha is something that should be questioned. He has been involved in the global kashrus industry for decades and is more than qualified to hold his current position — heading the OU-Israel.

  • Leah
    August 16, 2009 - 17:51 | Permalink

    Mike, I disagree. I was not asking for secret recipe ingredients, and other hecher-giving organizations have willingly answered. Yes, you are right, that they can always change the recipe.

  • Yehuda
    August 16, 2009 - 17:59 | Permalink

    BIG NEWS FLASH FOR THE AUTHOR:
    I myself contacted the OU in America and inquired about the OU in Israel. They told me that it is the same organization, and that their kosher standards are exactly the same. They also said that whenever and wherever you are, and you see the OU symbol, it is their organization giving their approval to the product or restaurant. So you now have a big problem to deal with. If you have a problem with the OU in Israel then you have a problem with the OU organization in general. It has nothing to do with the country you are in, according to the OU them self. (please reply)

  • PM
    August 16, 2009 - 23:28 | Permalink

    It seems that people are quoting contradictory information if OU Israel and US are the same standards or not. I think the simple answer is that both are correct. The OU Israel is the same organization and nominally follows the same psakim from the same Rabbonim as in the US. However the big difference is in the practical follow through on the policy. In the US the OU is a huge structured institution with multiple layers of administration and approximately 60 Rabbonim HaMachshirim (called RCs) each specializing in a specific area of kashrus. OU Israel has none of this, it is a one-man-show. As talented as the Rav may be, he must take responsibility for wines, canned goods, candy restaurants and hotels single-handedly. Also, no one reviews his policy decisions on a daily basis.
    So while they are one unit legally and in theory, they may be worlds apart in practical kashrus.

  • Moshe
    August 17, 2009 - 00:24 | Permalink

    If anyone wants to complain about this scandal. one of the people that can do something about it is R. Genack. he or his secretary can be reached at 212-613-8215 or by calling this number and asking to speak to R. Genack. the O.U. is a reputable organization and if there is a public outcry, I am sure that the situation will be corrected. In addition to the above R. Genack can be reached by E-mail at genackm@ou.org .
    As a side point, I personally spoke to three different Rabbonim and people that are very knowledgeable in the kashrut scene in Israel and they all said that the chickens are very problematic. I am not saying that I know this for a fact, rather that this is what I heard and therefore everyone should speak to their Rov before buying the chickens.

  • yankel
    August 17, 2009 - 01:22 | Permalink

    The OU in the US does the same thing that they are doing in Eretz Yisroel. They rely on the OTHER hechsher to do the work, they just stamp the process in return for a fewdinars.

    look at Agriprocessors (Rubashkin). The OU had no representative there for many years. When things came out because of PETA and other things – the OU said that they had no idea what was heppening.

    Bottom line- there are no representatives in meat or cheese plants that thave the hechsher of the OU. And those that know anything, don’t trust them in th US

  • Eliyahu
    August 17, 2009 - 03:02 | Permalink

    I emailed your OU Israel article to the OU USA and OU Israel center with a complaint I suggest you to encourage your readers to do the same. Also to submit this research to frum newspapers and magazines. kosherq@ou.org 212-613-8241 israelcenter@ou.org Tel.: (02) 560-9100

  • jonny
    August 17, 2009 - 03:57 | Permalink

    THIS IS AN E_MAIL CONVERSATION THAT I HAD WITH THE OU AS YOU SEE NO ANSWERS !!!

    Email from:

    Sent at: 2009 05 31

    Can you please send me information about the ou hecsher in Israel? What are

    the standards of meat/dairy and fruits/vegtables as there is no ou on many

    of these products in Israel yet. – For example Badatz which ones or plain

    Rabanut.

    Thank you

    Jerusalem, Israel

    Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 10:45 PM

    Subject: RE: Kashrut in Israel

    9th Day of Chodesh Sivan, 5769

    Monday, June 1st, 2009

    Parshat Naso

    Send comments/questions to: kosherq@ou.org

    Dear Mr.

    Thank you for checking with the OU regarding your Kashruth question.

    Your first question is vague. If you have a particular question about the policy of the OU Kosher in Israel, we would be glad to answer your question. If you have a specific question, please let us know and we will try to answer your question.

    We do not understand your second question.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions.

    With our sincerest wishes for a pleasant summer, we remain,

    Sincerely yours,

    The Web(be) Rebbe

    Dear OU,

    As you kown there are many differnt standards Mehadrin, Batdatz, and plain Rabinut. Point blank can you give a list of what hecsehrim does the ou rely on when it give a hecsher to a resturant. What chickens, meat and diary products (from which other hecshrim as ther is no ou on milk products or meat in israel yet – I know that there is on ou on chickens). Does the ou rely on heter mechira? Are milk product Chlav Yisroel etc.. Do you relv on Belz , Agudah, Machpud , Rubin, Eida, Rabanut eliat as you see there are many different levels of hecsehrim in Israel can you give me a list of which ones that the ou relys on ??

    Thank you – I hope this was a little clearer

    17th Day of Chodesh Sivan, 5769

    Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

    Parshat Ba’ha’alotcha

    Send comments/questions to: kosherq@ou.org

    Dear Mr.
    Thank you for checking with the OU regarding your Kashruth question.

    1) The OU does not rely upon heter mechira on any of their products.

    2) All OU foodservice establishments in Israel are Chalav Yisroel.

    3) The information that you are asking is proprietary because it would indicate where the establishment purchased their chickens. However, we make certain that restaurants under OU Kosher supervision in Israel maintain the highest standards of OU Kashruth.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions.

    With our sincerest wishes for a pleasant summer, we remain,

    Sincerely yours,

    The Web(be) Rebbe

  • Yehuda
    August 17, 2009 - 12:55 | Permalink

    To Jonny: This is what the OU wrote to me by email:

    Dear Mr.,

    Thank you for checking with the OU regarding your Kashruth question.

    The OU Kosher supervision in Israel is the same Kosher supervision as the OU Kosher elsewhere in the world.

    The Kosher standards for both are the same.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us again should you have any further questions.

    With our sincerest wishes for a pleasant summer, we remain,

    Sincerely yours,

    The Web(be) Rebbe

  • Shmuel
    August 17, 2009 - 14:22 | Permalink

    Jonny, I didn’t understand what you are asking. If you don’t speak English, please do not complain about the OU not giving you answers. They clearly said they don’t understand what you are asking. After reading this blog post, I can guess what you are asking but that is because I know the topic you are referring to.

    I think the OU should close its operation in Israel. It should be working with the Rabbinate in Israel. Not in competition to it.

    Rabbinate certifications that meet the OU standard should have an OU on the Rabbinate Teudah.

  • moshe
    August 19, 2009 - 12:43 | Permalink

    Seems the OU has a hard time deciding if the standards are the same in Israel and in the US. One commenter above received a response that everything under OU Israel is cholov yisroel, while another was informed that the Kosher standards are the same worldwide – which certainly means that cholov yisroel is not a requirement. I was told in an informal conversation with someone in OU Israel that everything under OU Israel is cholov yisroel, but there certainly seems to be considerable confusion here.

    Has there been any response from to this piece from the OU yet?

  • August 20, 2009 - 18:21 | Permalink

    Reb Yechiel – thank you for your holy work and all the effort you put in to elucidate the dark labyrinths of kashrus certification in Israel!

    I have to say I was one of those who greeted the news of OU in Israel with a relieved smile, so I am most disheartened by this report … If we can’t rely on the OU’s good name, who CAN we rely on?

    If there’s a hechsher, isn’t there supposed to be a mashgiach? And if they say there is one … shouldn’t he be around? More than the kashrus issue itself, the appearance of dishonesty in this makes my heart sink.

    It makes me want to stay home and grow my own food …

  • Dovid
    August 20, 2009 - 19:57 | Permalink

    I am grateful for the work this site has performed in helping us become aware of kashrus issues in Israel. Regarding the recent story on the OU in Israel, I might mention that it is not necessarily the universal practice, even amongst Israeli mehadrin hechsherim, to have a mashgiach temidi. Today, I walked into a small fleishig restaurant in a chareidi neighborhood of Jerusalem, with a current teuda from Rov Rubin. The gentleman behind the counter was very friendly, and quite cheerfully inform me that a total of two mashgichim supervise their place, and they [well, presumably, only one at a time] come in three times a day [including, or possibly in addition to, whenever they get merchandise/supplies {"schora"} delivered]. Now, this is a small-scale operation, not a hotel or huge restaurant with lots of staff. Still, it’s worth recognizing that even a highly-respected chareidi hechsher does not necessarily insist on a masgiach temidi, even on a fleishig place.

  • PM
    August 22, 2009 - 22:22 | Permalink

    In the US the OU generally requires a mashgiach temidi for a fleishig restaurant.

  • Comments are closed.