By Judah Levi
When the major American kashrus agencies were developing, the Sephardic communities were not well-represented in American Jewish communal life. Over the last 30 years, American yeshivos have been filled with many of the best and brightest boys of Sephardic communities. In addition to Syrian and Moroccan boys studying at the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, many Persian boys studied at Yeshiva Ner Yisroel in Baltimore, where the yeshiva president, Rabbi Herman N. Neuberger zt”l, was instrumental in helping tens of thousands of Jews escape after the Shah’s fall in 1979.
One of the earliest of those talmidim was Rav Emanuel Goldfeiz, who arrived in Baltimore as a refugee from Shiraz almost 30 years ago. Rav Goldfeiz now occupies a major position of Torah leadership in Baltimore’s Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities as the rov of Beit Knesset Beit Yaakov, as a beloved halacha teacher in the local Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, and as a member of the hanhalah of Ner Yisroel. He also answers hundreds of shailos every week from people of all backgrounds and levels of observance.
SEEKING TO SERVE THE NEEDS OF SEPHARDIC COMMUNITIES
Rav Goldfeiz shared many conversations with Dr. Avrom Pollak, president of Star-K Kosher Certification, during his visits for shatnez checking (another of his many talents!) concerning the kashrus needs of Sephardic communities worldwide. As the presence of Sephardim continued to grow, he felt that the particular chumros required in the Edot Hamizrach for centuries should be offered in the United States as well. A logical extension of the growth of Sephardic communities would be caring for their kashrus concerns.
During these discussions, Dr. Pollak pointed out that there was also a major need for this in the New York/New Jersey area. These communities have grown with incredible speed. With two strong communities sharing these common kashrus needs, a solution to this issue was realized. Rabbi Zvi Holland, the newest kashrus administrator at the Star-K, formerly the rosh kollel in Phoenix, and Rav Goldfeiz mapped out a plan to create a hechsher identified as Star-S. This new hechsher would utilize the Star-K’s international network of kosher certified companies to address the needs of all Sephardic communities by providing them with much-needed products at the highest standards of Sephardic minhagim.
It was agreed unanimously between all the rabbonim that rice for Pesach was the highest priority. Finding rice with the highest level of kashrus for Pesach was to be the first Star-S project.
STARTING WITH CAROLINA MEHADRIN RICE FOR PESACH
Producing rice for Pesach with no kashrus concerns was no simple feat. One of the greatest ongoing challenges for Sephardim is finding properly supervised kitniyos foods for use on Pesach. For many years, national kashrus agencies debated as to whether commercially available rice could be used for Pesach. One of the main issues concerned the enrichments used in U.S. rice mills to replace the vitamins removed in the polishing steps of rice milling. Another issue was that rice is often packed in facilities that also pack chometzdike products on the same equipment. For national Pesach certification, this almost always requires some type of meaningful hashgachah beyond just assuming that it is acceptable. Rabbi Holland, assisted by Rabbi Tzvi Rosen, Star-K’s kashrus administrator for U.S. rice production, determined that much of the enrichments could not be endorsed for Pesach according to national kosher standards and that the vast majority of rice packed in the U.S. shared lines with enriched rice and packaging at plants that also pack chometz.
After discussing the project with Rav Goldfeiz, Rabbi Rosen and Rabbi Holland, along with Rabbi Moshe Cohen of Ateret Torah, who agreed to serve as mashigiach temidi at the rice production, traveled to rice country to find a way to produce extra long grain white rice for Pesach. They arranged for a run of this rice for Pesach, l’mehadrin. Carolina Mehadrin will be unique, as it will be the only white rice that Star-S can endorse for Pesach with the following hiddurim:
• The rice is grown and transported in fields dedicated exclusively to rice that is located hundreds of miles away from other grain fields.
• The rice is transported in trucks dedicated exclusively to rice.
• The rice is packed in specially dedicated clean lines, without concerns of chometzdike additives.
• The rice is produced under hashgachah temidis from beginning to end.
Despite the fact that these rice products are meticulously cleaned in the factories with advanced machines, the gedolei haposkim of the Sephardic kehillos feel that the established custom of checking the rice three times, grain by grain, is still required. Therefore, Star-S-P certified rice products should be checked, grain by grain, three times, prior to its usage on Pesach.
For information on how to order Carolina Mehadrin, contact Quality Frozen foods at 718.256.9100. For more information, contact Star-K at 410.484.4110.
JASMINE AND BASMATI RICE
Two other very popular kinds of rice used by Sephardim are the basmati variety from India and aromatic jasmine rice from Thailand. While fundamentally a pure product, when packed in the United States these products can present Pesach concerns with regard to transport and packing. Fortunately, Star-K kashrus administrators Rabbi Avraham Mushell and Rabbi Moshe Schuchman deal with certification of rice produced in Thailand and India. After a review with Star-K mashgichim, Star-S was able to certify two other brands of Star-K rice for Pesach 5773:
• Super Lucky Elephant Jasmine Rice (packed in Thailand) bearing the Star-K.
• Himalayan Pride Indian Basmati Rice (packed in India) bearing the Star-K.
MORE PESACH AND KITNIYOS PRODUCTS TO COME
By Pesach 2013, Star-S hopes to provide other products that meet the strict requirements of the Sephardic community. Rabbi Holland and Rav Asher Eckstein, the Belzer Dayan of Boro Park, met with some rabbonim from the Syrian community to discuss the sidrei hakashrus of California Delight Tuna and, im yirtzeh Hashem, new runs of this tuna will be certified “Star-S P Bishul Beit Yosef L’Sefardim” after implementing some new protocols in place under the direction of Rav Goldfeiz.
Frozen beans that can be reliably used for Pesach by the Sephardic community will also be available in time for the Yom Tov. Furthermore, Star-S hopes to provide other products from Eretz Yisroel and around the world that have never before been available to Sephardim in the United States seeking kashrus l’mehadrin.