The Eleventh Annual STAR-K Kashrus Training Program attracted attendees from the Catskill Mountains to Indianapolis, IN. This year, in addition to the STAR-K Kashrus Administrators who delivered presentations on everything from Foodservice Challenges to the Halachic issues of Appliances, Rabbi Aaron Metzger, director of the NY State Kosher Enforcement Bureau, addressed the participants. Rabbi Metzger, a resident of Monsey, NY, was appointed to his position by The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, in January. Part of his job is to protect consumers by ensuring compliance with the certification, record keeping and signage requirements relating to kosher food, and maintaining the Department’s online kosher databases.
“Being in this position is important to the Jewish community to maintain a sense of accountability in Kosher,” notes Rabbi Metzger.” Being able to present at the STAR-K conference has enlightened various rabbis from across the globe how important transparency and accountability is in this field.”
Program participant Rabbi Benzion Chanowitz has always had an interest in kashrus and has always been involved in shaalos in kashrus in his position as Rav of the Landfield Avenue synagogue, in Monticello, NY, for the past 20 years, and as director of Chabad of Monticello.
“I’ve gained a lot from the program, as well as respect for STAR-K as an organization; it’s amazing to see,” says Rabbi Chanowitz. “What struck me the most was the detailed policies that have been instituted, as well as the detailed instructions that they give to their Mashgichim. It was also beautiful to see that even in a pinch, the STAR-K will not compromise or look away from the high standards that they uphold.”
Rabbi Naftoli Eisemann, of Philadelphia, PA, joined the staff of Community Kashrus of Greater Philadelphia (Keystone-K), in June, as its Kashrus Administrator, after serving as the Sgan Menahel (Assistant Principal, Judaic Studies) of Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.
“In my new position, I found it very important to attend the STAR-K Kashrus Training Program,” says Rabbi Eisemann. “It was a very big and important piece of what I need to do for my position. Everybody from the STAR-K was very open and honest with challenges that they had. Especially being new to this field, it was reassuring to see that even those who are in the field for a very long time have challenges. I found that in addition to the practical and halachic issues, speaker after speaker stressed that developing a good relationship with business owners and staff, dealing with people who are basically principled, and maintaining best organizational practices, are key to maintaining high standards of kashrus.”
One of the highlights of the seminar is its grand finale-“Kosher Questions: Ask the Rav”, when participants get the opportunity to submit questions to STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator, HaRav Moshe Heinemann. In addition to learning the Rav’s affirmative position on covering or removing knobs of a glass-top stove as a sufficient alternative to one’s inability of using an additional blech on Shabbos (glass-top would crack), and that the Rav holds that microwave cooking is not an issue of bishul akum, the participants enjoyed hearing the Rav’s eye-witness story about the halachic definition of “Yad Soledes Bo” (when one’s hand recoils due to the heat).
The Rav related that he was among the ten talmidim that participated in an experiment that his Rebbe, Rav Aharon Kotler, zt”l, conducted to define the criteria of yad soledes bo. The Rav reminisced how each of the bochurim stuck his hand in large vat of water which was heated up gradually, and that it was at the temperature of 120 degrees that the first bochur recoiled, thus determining Rav Aharon’s position.
Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, STAR-K Kashrus Administrator and seminar coordinator, remarked: “The participants either are already, or are on the road to becoming, leaders in the Torah world. Our goal is to equip them with the knowledge they need to address the constantly changing kashrus landscape. We are gratified to be able to continue to have a major impact in kashrus education.”
By Margie Pensak