STAR-K Kashrus Training Program Celebrates 15 Years of Preparing Kashrus Professionals Worldwide

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By Margie Pensak

Since July 2004, STAR-K Kosher Certification has provided a premier training ground for Kashrus professionals, administrators, and field representatives, Rabbonim, Rebbeim, Kollel fellows, and others serving in klei kodesh, from around the world. The comprehensive analysis of pertinent Kashrus and halachic issues is presented by STAR-K’s Rabbinic staff members, including Rabbinic Administrator Rabbi Moshe Heinemann and President Dr. Avrom Pollak. The lectures are supplemented by a visit to a glatt kosher slaughter house, a hands-on vegetable checking practicum and behind-the-scenes tours of various STAR-K certified establishments and manufacturing plants.

From Australia to Zürich

Just some of the illustrious alumni of the Annual STAR-K Kashrus Training Program, over the past 15 years, include:

Rabbi Dovid Asher, Rav, Keneseth Beth Israel/Rabbinic Administrator, The Va’ad HaKashrut of Richmond, Richmond, VA; Rabbi Hershel Becker, Rav, Young Israel of Kendall, Miami, FL; Rabbi Yechiel Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel, Philadelphia Community Kollel; Rabbi Azriel Blumberg, Corporate Kosher Liaison, KVH Kosher, Brighton, MA; Rabbi Meir Bulman, Rav, Hebrew Orthodox Congregation, South Bend, IN; Rabbi Benzion Chanowitz, Rav, Landfield Avenue Synagogue, Monticello, NY/Director, Chabad of Monticello/ Mashgiach, STAR-K Certification; Rabbi Barak Cohen, Rav, Ohr HaTzafon, Saint Ives, New South Wales, Australia; Rabbi Josh Finegold, Administrator, Buckeye Kosher (Vaad Ho’ir of Columbus), Columbus, OH; Rabbi Mayer Freedman, Rav, Congregation Anshi S’fard, Atlanta, GA; Rabbi Yonatan Gorin, Rav, Congregation Etz Chaim, Sharon, MA; Rabbi Yonah Gross, Rav, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, Philadelphia, PA; Rabbi Sender Haber, Rav, B’nai Israel Congregation, Norfolk, VA; Rabbi Eliyahu Hakakian, Rav, Ahavat Shalom Sephardic Congregation, Baltimore, MD; Harav Boruch Hirschfeld, Rosh Kollel, Ateres Chaim Boruch (Torah L.I.F.E.), Cleveland Heights, OH; Rabbi Yisroel Isaacs, Director of Kashruth, Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, Phoenix, AZ; Rabbi Yerachmiel Karr, Rabbinic Administrator, Vaad Hakashrus of Greater Waterbury, Waterbury, CT; Rabbi David Kitainik, Community Kollel of Greater Las Vegas/Jewish Learning Network, Las Vegas, NV; Rabbi Yossi Landa, Rabbinical Coordinator, Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc); Rav Chaim Moishe Levy, Adath Yeshurun (IRG), Zürich, Switzerland; Rabbi Binyamin Marwick, Rav, Congregation Shomrei Emunah, Baltimore, MD; Rabbi Aaron Metzger, Director, New York State Kosher Law Enforcement; Rabbi Chanoch Oppenheim, Director, Charlotte Torah Center, Charlotte, NC; Rav Eliyahu Reingold, Rosh Kollel, Yeshiva of Greater Washington, Silver Spring, MD; Rabbi Mordechai Rhine, Rav, Southeast Hebrew Congregation, Silver Spring, MD; Rabbi Mordechai Rotstein, Kashrus Coordinator, Scroll K Vaad Hakashrus of Denver, Denver, CO; Rabbi David Russek, Assistant Rav, Centro Israelita de Costa Rica/  Rabbinical Kashrus Administrator, Costa Rica Kosher; Rabbi Dovid Schwartz, Rav, Congregation Sha’arei Tefilla, Providence, RI; Rabbi Pinchas Shedrowitzky, Field Rabbi Rabbinical Council of California (RCC); Rabbi Yonason Shippel, Founder/Director, The Beis, New, York, NY; Rabbi Simcha Snaid, Rav, Congregation Anshei Sfard, Louisville, KY; Rabbi Zvi Solomon, Rabbinic Coordinator, KVH Kosher, Brighton, MA; Rabbi Avi Stewart, Rav, Westwood Kehilla, Los Angeles, CA; Rabbi Moshe Walter, Rav, Woodside Synagogue Ahavas Torah/Executive Director, Rabbinical Council of Greater Washington, Silver Spring, MD; and Rabbi Dovid Yachnes, Rav, Orlando Torah Center, Orlando, FL.

STAR-K Groomed for the World of Kashrus

Rabbi Chaim Moishe Levy, Rav of Adath Yeshurun (IRG), in Zürich, Switzerland, attended the STAR-K Kashrus Training Program in 2006.

“After 12 years in Kollel and 8 years as a high school magid shiur, I was thrust into the position as a Rabbi of a large Kehilla,” notes Rabbi Levy. “Included in my duties was running a Kashrus organization, something I had not trained for. My experience with the STAR-K was fantastic. I learned a tremendous amount about the practical aspects of hashgacha and still keep up a strong connection with the STAR-K Rabbonim.”

Rabbi Zvi Solomon, shares, “STAR-K’s comprehensive Kashrus Training Program was a unique opportunity to be exposed to all aspects of Kashrus certification, including the roles and responsibilities assumed by agency administrators. This was most beneficial for me when I was approached, at the end of my full-time Kollel years in Boston, to join KVH Kosher as Rabbinical Coordinator.  I have hakaras hatov to STAR-K for the educated decision I made to get involved in this unique form of tzorchei tzibur and for laying the seeds for my ability to help make a difference in the greater New England community and Klal Yisroel. I continue to enjoy a wonderful relationship with the very gracious STAR-K staff.”

From Tarzana to Sao Paulo

This year, Felipe Kleiman, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, traveled the farthest to attend the 15th Annual STAR-K Kashrus Training Program– 4,751 miles. Mr. Kleiman has been involved in kosher meat production for 18 years; for 11 years, he ran kosher beef and poultry productions. Additionally, he works closely with Israel’s minister of agriculture in consulting for multi-million-dollar projects to adapt South American slaughter houses for kosher beef export to Israel.

“I really enjoyed the program, especially the industrial shiurim and visits, since I am involved in the professional operational side of kosher production,” shares Mr. Kleiman, who deals with the engineering and management of production issues.

Rabbi Mosheh Levihim, who left his native Iran as a young man, in 1983, to settle in the US, had a different motivation for attending the STAR-K Kashrus Training Program. As the Rav of a Sefardic shul, Beith David Education Center, and a Rebbe in Or Hachaim Academy in Tarzana, California, he made the cross-country trip to upgrade his kashrus knowledge gained from his semicha studies, 20 years ago.

“So much has changed in the industry, since then,” says Rabbi Levihim. “I learned a lot—everything from how to apply what I learned about toleim in a practical way to more efficient ways to kasher hotels and train my mashgichim. It was exactly what I was looking for.

“I love the transparency that takes place at STAR-K,” continues Rabbi Levihim. “I asked a question and they were not shy about answering how they do things and how they arrived at their policies. It was eye-opening! I would love to come again—there is so much to learn. I was very impressed when one of the Kashrus Administrators, Rabbi Stern, gave me his business card and told me, ‘Call me anytime.’ It was amazing!”

Rabbi Yisroel Frankel is a member of the South Bend Kollel in South Bend, Indiana, who is starting to teach. He signed up for the training program with the hope that he will one day become a Rav. He was especially appreciative of the slaughterhouse tour and the nikkur demo, which he felt brought his textual learning to life. “I felt like I gained a lot from attending the program,” shares Rabbi Frankel. “I became much more knowledgeable about the ins and outs of hashgacha, in general– what goes into each thing and how to deal with things as they come up–and a lot of other things, like appliances. I was very touched by how everyone in the organization has no self-interest; all they care about is that things should be kosher, without ulterior motives. It’s a pure place.”

STAR-K Kashrus Administrator Rabbi Zvi Goldberg, coordinator of the seminar, concludes, “After 15 years we turn around and realize we have trained hundreds of attendees, many of whom have significant involvement in Kashrus in the US and around the world. It’s heartwarming and we are grateful for the opportunity. It is a function of m’talmidai yoser m’kulam – we learn from the insightful questions they ask, sometimes pointing out approaches we had not thought of. We wish them all much hatzlocho!”

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