JKN Teams with RBS (Ramat Beit Shemesh)

23 Tammuz 5770
July 5, 2010

I am usually not at a loss for words, but my experience yesterday in the community of Ramat Beit Shemesh left me searching for the correct adjectives to describe the exuberance and genuineness of the community’s desire to learn just how one can navigate the Israeli kosher scene – how to enjoy eating out and finding the supermarket bargains without compromising one’s kashrut standard.

In truth, many of us, including long-time residents of Eretz Yisrael learned they really did not know what the standard is, since that requires understanding the system, which many do not.

Breaking from another tradition, I would like to thank those responsible for arranging for the day’s lectures, which were attended by a total of a few hundred residents, first and foremost the mora d’asra of Cong Beis Tefilla Yonah Avraham, Rabbi Chaim Malinowitz. This once-upon-a-time new immigrant is a vibrant spiritual leader who obviously remains committed to his kehila, every aspect of the lives of the mispallalim, with a prominent emphasis placed in enhancing the community’s knowledge of kashrut and how to avoid the lurking pitfalls. The Rav shares his Torah knowledge and experience, in this case in kashrus, and is spearheading a local effort to take control. Confused? Read on…

There is of course the sponsor of the event, Jo’s Club, and two individuals who undertook the brunt of the pre-event logistics, setting up, cleaning up and so-forth, in short, all that a successful event entails, Aryeh Sonnenberg and Eli Gherman.

For you veteran subscribers you are wondering what I am ranting about, for this is not the usual content delivered to your mail box, but this was not the usual day and I for one am confident that this congregation, those in attendance for the 22 Tammuz PowerPoint presentations will now go shopping and eat out with a newly-acquired sense of empowerment, the ability to detect a scam or a less than ideal kosher situation. Over 300 participants joined in the day’s events, exhibiting a desire to learn more regarding Israel’s at times complicated kosher scene.

We have laid the groundwork to build and enhance a system that will bring RBS to an even higher level than exists today. That does not mean everyone must eat a particular hechsher, but now the community will understand what it is getting when it opts for a one hechsher or another. Ultimately, the decision is yours but it is time that the decision is made based on facts, not guesswork or hearsay.

With the continued assistance of Rav Malinowitz, other choshuvah (prominent) Rabbonim, and the community, I hope to make RBS a pilot project, to visit community stores and eateries [blei neder], after which I will publicize a report (with photos) on each individual supermarket, restaurant, falafel store, pizza store, bagel shop, butcher shop and so-forth. Perhaps RBS will become the community that changes things around [for the better], no longer willing to tolerate the evasive response that is too frequently given to concerned kosher consumers by uninterested mashgichim, or the diligent ones who simply do not grasp the need to share information and respond to the questions of shoppers/consumers. It is time to question the kashrut organizations, why a mashgiach is not present when he should be, and why at times, unable to answer questions that are basic to his job description. Please, don’t get me wrong, there are Baruch Hashem many many mashgichim out there who ensure the kosher integrity of our food, and we have no bone to pick with them, but I do plan to target those who simply are not doing what they are paid to do!

For those who attended Sunday’s lectures, the rating was positive and most feel the time was well spent. For those of you who missed the opportunity, you are invited to arrange a similar event in your own shul, community center or special function. At the end of the day, one has two options, to continue as is, living the kashrut status quo and not really having a clue, or taking control and feeling good about knowing that when you eat out, you are truly confident that the restaurant is in line with your ‘kashrut comfort zone’, permitting you to sit back and enjoy because now you realize, it was that easy. It is a matter of education and caring, not spending money or donating, but just exercising your authority as a concerned kosher consumer.

A recent survey conducted by the RBS folks showed an alarming 49% of respondents admitted that when they eat out, there is an element of discomfort surrounding the unknown regarding the kosher integrity of a restaurant.

Remember, this crosses the [Israeli] political divide, and address kosher for all, not just chareidim, not just dati-leumi torani, but all who wish to know that ‘what you see is truly what you get’.

You can sit back and hit the delete key, or take the step towards learning – becoming a kosher consumer who is in the loop. The choice ultimately remains yours.


  • Rafi
    July 5, 2010 - 10:13 | Permalink

    Shkoyach to you for all your work. The presentation last night was enlightening and educational, even for me who has been here 19 years and thought I knew how the system more or less works!

  • SoraLeah Leschen
    July 5, 2010 - 12:01 | Permalink

    Thank you so very much for an excellent and informative presentation yesterday. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have been there truly learned a great deal about how to shop, what to look for and what to avoid.

  • Miriam
    July 5, 2010 - 12:46 | Permalink

    I think it’s great that you’re going to other communities outside Jerusalem and ‘enlightening’ the population to kashrut issues in Israel. Now it will be up to those in the kashrut industry and the kashrut ministry of Israel to shape up.
    I feel that there is still a very great need to informing visitors and students who come for a year to learn here, to become familiar with the issues. It’s also important to emphasize that there are different kashrut agencies, while they are doing the right thing, may have adherents from certain groups and not others. That’s not to say that one kashrut is doing a better job than the other; just a political issue. Also it’s important to address the Sephardic kashrut issues in a similar fashion and also publicizing their issues vs Ashkenazic kashrut.

  • Loren Spigelman
    July 5, 2010 - 13:20 | Permalink

    I was very impressed not only with your extensive knowledge and your well prepared presentation (which must have taken hours), but how you were able to equip the average person to spot the irregularities and make more informed choices without having to become experts themselves. I certainly left with useful information I can apply right away.

    Thank you also for recognizing what Rav Malinowitz contributes to his kehilla and the greater community of RBS. You are correct – RBS is a community that is changing things for the better, not only in kashrus but in many aspects of Jewish life in Eretz Yisrael.

  • Tzvi
    July 5, 2010 - 14:04 | Permalink

    my parents were visiting recently and purchased (unknowingly) some Otzar Beis Din Golani wine.

    How is it possible that this would be sold in a store (who’s owner did not appear to be religious)?

  • David
    July 5, 2010 - 15:02 | Permalink

    Am asking this as someone who generally relies on standard Rabbanut (although if I am by myself I sometimes take preference for a mehadrin alternative).

    From what is written here (or maybe not written here), there seems to be something uncomfortable.

    1) Ramat Bet Shemesh is considered a charedi shechuna of B. Shemesh, one part extreme charedi and another part possibly “lite charedi” or “grey jacket charedi”(if any better way to generalise a population). I assume that this is talking about the “lite chareidi” section because I doubt that in the extreme chareidi section nothing is settled for, less than badatz aida chareidit.
    2) So if lite chareidi only rely on mehadrin hechsherim, and the shops maintain the mehadrin standard that is expected in such circles than what is the problem?
    Unless you are saying:
    3) There are establishments there, that rely on unauthorized bogus hechsherim.
    4) There are establishments that do not have a formal hechsher at all but because the owners are shomrai mitzvot, people still rely on the kashrut.
    5) The mashgichim (of establishments with formal hashgacha) know that all the stuff that comes into the shop needs to have a mehadrin hechsher but do not know more technical details.
    6) Are there more potential issues?

    I realize that in the article a fine line had to be taken against disparaging a community, but reading _between_ the lines of the article, matters maybe seem to be worst there that they really are. Especially by the tone of what you mention of the “changing around” they need to do there.

    So, please could you qualify, and hopefully put matters in a fairer perspective (and I do hope a qualification would do this).

  • David
    July 5, 2010 - 17:17 | Permalink

    To Tzvi,
    You ask about Otzar Bet Din wine being sold in a normal shop.
    I am no Rav (or not even close to being one), but can answer from my observations.

    The issue is actually stricter now because all such products should have undergone a biur [= legal annulling process] before Erev Pesach last year.

    Despite, this, there are Rabbanim who permit a normal shop to be an extension of Otzar Bet Din, even if the owner is not religious. I assume that the rabbanut would brief the owner about his status of otzar bet din and the sanctity of this stock. Apparently, the law of biur does not apply to otzar bet din.

    I doubt such a shop would have mehadrin status, but this issue is (it seems) acceptable to normal Rabbanut.

  • Eli
    July 5, 2010 - 17:40 | Permalink

    I was inspired by your presentation in RBS last night which made the tricky situation of kosher supervision painfully clear
    Many a time I have searched in vain for a mehadrin place to eat when working around the country. Outside Yerushalaim it seems to be almost impossible to find up-to-date information as online restaurant guides seem to be hopelessly out of date . Once in Tel Aviv I searched for a place which it turned out had recently closed down . Why do the certifying authorities not just publish and keep up-to-date an on-line list of establishments which are under their supervision?
    It would appear the way to deal with the situation with unsupervised catering and hotels is to raise awareness by getting heavy-weight rabbonim who have the ear of the community to issue a statement on the subject like they have done on internet , kosher phones and the like.

  • David
    July 5, 2010 - 21:37 | Permalink

    Re my comment above to Tzvi (although the subject is really off-topic to the specifics of this article) :- It occurred to me that if the wine is from the Golan, then isn’t the issue of shvi’it less strict?

  • josh
    July 6, 2010 - 14:45 | Permalink

    How ironic that I recently attended a simcha at the very hall at which you gave your presentation and the caterer’s card distributed at all the tables said “motzarim badatz eida charedis”. Does this hall- at Rav Malinowitz’s shul, allow a caterer in that has no hashgacha???

  • July 6, 2010 - 15:04 | Permalink

    josh, I believe that Rav Malinowitz himself addressed this very point during the lecture – (which BTW, Yechiel, was excellent – shkoyach) – and he said that he supervises everything that comes in to the hall.

  • chaim malinowitz
    July 6, 2010 - 16:11 | Permalink

    To clarify:To Josh and dm:
    From day one the Shul’s hall has had a rule that kol motzrim badatz is not sufficient,the caterer needs the hashgachah(By the way, the Shul only rents out the space(the hall)to someone making a simchah,the shul has nothing else to do with the affair, and really should take no acharayus at all,just as if you would rent out a room somewhere to someone somewhere….nevertheless,I instituted the rule) .
    I do NOT,however, supervise the food or the caterer–I only supervise that indeed the caterer has a hashgachah; people for example who make desserts at home for people,kol motzrim badatz,are NOT allowed to have their desserts at the affair.

  • David
    July 12, 2010 - 12:45 | Permalink

    Will you giving this class in Jerusalem?

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