STAR-K Kosher Certification Hosts Winter Mashgichim Review Seminar


star kBy Margie Pensak

On December 24, STAR-K Kosher Certification held its annual Winter Mashgichim Review Seminar at its Baltimore offices.  STAR-K Kashrus Administrators Rabbis Mayer Kurcfeld and Sholom Tendler conducted the day-long sessions with the goal of bringing together food service mashgichim to inform, review, and reinforce STAR-K food service policies and procedures. Attendees came from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, D.C., and the Baltimore area.

“Everybody at the STAR-K knows that the mashgichim out in the field are the eyes and ears of our organization and even though STAR-K is a large kashrus organization and gives hashgachos all over the world, food service—which is a relatively small part of STAR-K’s activities—is probably the most important thing that we do,” noted STAR-K president Avrom Pollak, in his opening welcome statement. “The most important part of the program has always been the give and take sessions between the mashgichim themselves, and the rabbonim in charge of the kashrus, because the meeting of the minds is what really gives us a standard of kashrus of which we are all very proud.”

“Boruch Hashem, you take this job very, very seriously,” HaRav Yaakov Hopfer, Nasi Vaad HaRaabonim of Baltimore, addressed the participants in his divrei chizuk. “It gives a community a sense of security when they know they are in good hands, and Boruch Hashem, we are.”

One of the seminar highlights was  a presentation of the STAR-K Mashgiach “Award of Excellence” to Seven Mile Market manager and head mashgiach, Chaim Fishman, in recognition and appreciation of his 20 years of outstanding service to the STAR-K and Baltimore community. In a unique position as department manager as well as head mashgiach, Chaim has always shown an absolute dedication to kashrus. “It’s a humbling experience,” said Mr. Fishman, who started working at the largest kosher supermarket in the country as a behind-the-counter mashgiach. “My machshava has always been just to make sure the standards of kashrus dictated by the STAR-K are carried out properly.”

Seminar participants included Ronnie Berman, who for the past eight years has worked in Lancaster, PA, as the mashgiach/manager of the KIVO (kosher, international, vegetarian and organic) section of Franklin & Marshall College’s main dining hall. He remarked, “It is always worth the trip to learn new policies that may have changed over the year and also to get divrei chizuk that gives the impetus to keep us going.”

Mrs. Barbara Price, a 30+ year veteran mashgicha who resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, also attended.    “These seminars keep you on your toes. You can always learn something new. I’m glad to be part of it and keep myself involved with this and aware of policy and Kashrus changes. When you have an open forum and open conversation, you hear concerns that you might not have thought about.”

Tzvi Shear, a mashgiach/manager/cook who has worked for O’Fishel Caterers as its Mashgiach for almost 20 years, noted, “These seminars are important so the new information is disseminated to all the mashgichim in the field and we have a chance to brainstorm so different experiences are brought to light for everybody.”

“We have held these seminars in the past few years,” says Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld. “It’s a great opportunity for the rabbinic administrative staff to get together with the field mashgichim in an atmosphere of friendship and as a means to share information. In fact, some of the participants have worked for us for over 25 years and still benefit from these seminars. What stood out in my mind was that everyone in the room was eager to be updated with any new information while, at the same time, to offer their constructive suggestions. All this was with the purpose in mind to enhance everyone’s ability to properly administer Kashrus. It was clear to me that we succeeded!”

“The seminar serves a few important purposes,” notes Rabbi Tendler. Firstly, to ensure everyone is up to date on all our policies and procedures. It also offers a forum for Mashgichim to ask questions and discuss ideas in a group setting with many combined years of experience present. Finally, it allows the Mashgichim to interact with Rav Heinemann shlit”a, and the entire office staff, which gives them tremendous chizuk by showing them how much we appreciate and support their vital avodas hakodesh.”

The seminar culminated with a Q & A session with STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator HaRav Heinemann.

“I want to thank all of you for your dedicated work,” said HaRav Heinemann in his closing divrei bracha. “A kashrus organization is only as good as its mashgichim. They are the ones who actually do all the work. Without good mashgichim we may never know about the problems and we wouldn’t know how to institute better ways of how to do things. It all depends on the ones who really administer the kashrus. It’s all up to you.”

{ Newscenter / Photo: Mr. Jeff Cohn}