By Menachem Lubinsky
Last summer a kosher supervisor at a New York restaurant confided in me that he was quite appalled by the filth in the kitchen he was paid to supervise. He said that the owner who “only showed up from time to time” seemed to make light of the situation when he complained and that he was seriously contemplating quitting. I was reminded of my conversation with the mashgiach when I read about Robert Frank, an OU mashgiach at Montefiore Medical Center, who was fired for revealing the filthy state of the kitchen, evidenced by roaches, and the appearance of non-kosher foods and other taboo practices in the kitchen at the Weiler Division.
I have frequently showered accolades at mashgichim who are involved in the thankless job of assuring that a kosher certified facility is indeed kosher. But mashgichim like Frank and the supervisor I met function in a busy and active kitchen. Anyone who has ever been inside a busy kitchen at a restaurant, hospital, or hotel knows that the pace of activity is dizzying. Mashgichim literally have to have 1000 eyes, which is why Frank was part of a team of three mashgichim and a support staff back at the headquarters of the OU. While I don’t know the details of Mr. Frank’s charges, it is clear that mashgichim cannot ignore blatantly unsafe or unhealthy conditions despite the argument that their role is restricted to kashrus. They certainly should not fare any worse than any other worker who is entitled to a safe and healthy work environment.
Mashgichim are notorious for a “hear nothing, see nothing” approach so long as the kashrus is assured. The hospital, of course, denies the charges, but if Mr. Frank is correct, Montifiore is guilty of both being unclean and unkosher, which no kashrus agency can accept.