If you place food on a crock pot that is on a timer for Shabbos, is it considered bishul Yisroel? Beyond the food, what obligations does a Kashrus agency have in a facility, e.g., the attire of the wait staff, the type of entertainment and music played, etc.? What is the criterion for Kashrus agencies to decide whether or not to certify an establishment that has just lost its certification?
The answers to these intriguing questions and more were shared by STAR-K Rabbinic Administrator HaRav Moshe Heinemann at the 12th Annual STAR-K Kashrus Training Program, held July 13-16, and its back-to-back annual Food Service Kashrus Training Seminar, held July 20-22, in STAR-K’s Baltimore, Maryland, offices. The former was coordinated by STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg; the latter, by STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Sholom Tendler. In addition to lectures such as: Administrative Issues; Appliances; Food Service Hashgocho; Vegetable Checking; Fish; Cheese, Milk and Cholov Yisroel; the Beverage Industry; and Beer, Wine, and Liquor, both seminars featured field trips to the largest kosher supermarket in the country—Seven Mile Market. STAR-K Kashrus administrators also led tours of a candy factory, caterer, slaughterhouse, restaurants, and hotel kitchens, including the designated STAR-K certified kosher kitchen of the Hyatt Regency Baltimore.
Both seminars received rave reviews from the participants. Rabbi Chaim Dovid Kulik, the Rav of Kehillas Sho’avei Mayim, who also teaches in Teferes Bais Yaakov High School and is a member of the Rabbinical Vaad Hakashruth of The Kashruth Council of Canada (COR), in Toronto, shared, “I signed up for the Kashrus Training Program to get a little bit more knowledge about what’s behind kashrus and it was, in fact, fascinating. I know a lot more going out than coming in! The STAR-K is very impressive. You see how much goes in—a lot more than seeing the STAR-K on the package. It’s a pity a lot of people don’t understand what goes deep into kashrus. I’d like to get the message across to some people out there who have things to say, and now I have a little bit more ammunition to answer. ”
Rabbi Dr. Yoel Erblich, a psychologist from Elizabeth, New Jersey, attended the program because he is interested in potentially starting a community in a small neighborhood. “[It was] the idea of being able to take all the Yorah Deah that was learned and then seeing it laid out,” said Rabbi Dr. Erblich. “I wish I could stay longer. I felt like every time one of the Rabbanim spoke, I wanted another hour of their time to hear even more, because there was just so much and it was so amazing. I definitely got a feel, first hand, about STAR-K’s dedication, integrity, and yashrus in trying to figure out how to do the best you can to do something the right way. It’s nice to see that and it’s inspiring.”
Kollel fellows attended the Kashrus Training Program, as well. Rabbi Shmuel Nadoff, a kollel yungerman in Beth Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, said. “I enjoyed the seminar immensely and wish it would have been longer. I hope to use all the things I have learned as background knowledge in kashrus for my own life and for the necessary training for a kashrus position. My impression of STAR-K is that it is a very organized and transparent organization; the warmth and openness that they show is appreciated
by all.” Rabbi Michoel Alt, a member of the Columbus Community Kollel, attended because he will be involved in the local Vaad this coming year. “There was a lot of application of halacha that I learned; I know Rabbi Kurcfeld’s tips and advice from his years of experience will be very, very practical for me,” notes Rabbi Alt.
STAR-K Food Service Kashrus Training Seminar participants, Loretta and Manny Sadwin, are a husband and wife mashgiach team responsible for the kashrus of their shul kitchen, Southeast Hebrew Congregation- Knesset Yehoshua, in Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Sadwin noted: “Our Rav has tried to raise the level of control of what and who goes into the kitchen…The seminar made me aware of all the different issues– what’s going on and how to handle it, and how to establish trust with these people.” Mrs. Sadwin added, “I’m learning all kinds of things and it’s terrific. It’s run professionally. It’s a beautiful program for people who want to learn more about kashrus.”
Although fellow seminar attendee Reus Chaya Hersh, of Worcester, Massachusetts, is not a mashgicha, she made the trip to Baltimore because she knew there was a position opening coming up in a university. She shared, “Whether I ever work as a mashgicha or not, I don’t care; I’m here to learn, and I must say that I’ve gone to other trainings in kashrus and this is the best training I’ve ever been to. It’s very, very good. I really appreciate the opportunity.”
Shneur Friedman, who is in charge of the kashrus of Cedar Village, a nursing home in Cincinnati, Ohio, said, “I’m not under a Vaad, which is unique; it’s fully under me. I came here to get a better understanding of the hardships of different areas of kosher which give me a better idea of food service. I’ll be able to see things more clearly from seeing other fully kosher establishments.”
STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Mayer Kurcfeld led most of the sessions in both seminars—a total of eight hours. “My primary goal is to give them the reality of 35 years of experience in order to enlighten them beyond the simple kashrus basics—the challenges they will have and how to address them, the proper implementation, and how to be effective,” says Rabbi Kurcfeld. “As a mentor, it is a tremendous nachas ruach to see the fruits of my labor—knowing that I have a hand in the ripple effect of the participants’ success, not just in their careers, but in what is happening in their cities. To this day, weekly, I receive a call or an email from one or more of the past participants asking for assistance.”
Rabbi Tendler commented “It’s a tremendous amount of information to cram into three days; even that is not nearly enough. Kashrus is an ever evolving field, which is naturally a reflection of the food industry. No one can become an expert in three days, or even three years! The idea is to give Mashgichim a set of tools that can be applied in a variety of settings. Our goal is to enhance the level of kashrus in KlalYisroel and to whatever end we succeed is a tremendous source of nachas and pride for all of us at STAR-K.”
As Rabbi Goldberg concluded, “We try to cover the kashrus landscape as it really is, and we encourage questions and enjoy the back and forth with the participants. It keeps us on our toes as well, so we all end up benefiting from the programs. “