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KASHRUS MAGAZINE
July 2020
SURVIVING COVID-19
July 2020
Plus: Foreign Coke & Pepsi, $1,000,000 Win for "cRc", In Memoriam: R. Don Yoel Levy, R. Westheim, R. Bamburger, and Aaron Rubashkin

What The Deli Owner Taught Me by Anschel E. Strauss -

A while back I heard Mark Katz, the owner of a small delicatessen in New York City, talking to people about what is involved in owning a small business. He said that in order to keep what you have, you have to give it away. What he meant was that, in order to increase business, he gives away free lunches, or he adds special extras to the meal for which he does not charge the customers. He claimed that while he might not get the money back right away, eventually he will get it all back and new customers that come along with it. Isn't that an idea connected with how we view tzedakah? A person will never loose by giving tzedakah because the tzedakah that a person gives will ultimately come back to him. To keep your fortune, you need to give it away (Taanis 9A). The deli owner also said another interesting thing. He said that he makes sure the tablecloths in his restaurant are spotless and that the silver wear is shining, the food is fresh, and the saltshakers are clean, full, and not greasy. He told me that if the coffee he serves at the end of the meal is burnt, people will remember only the burnt taste of the coffee and they won't come back to his restaurant. All the effort he put into every other part of the meal will have gone to waste. That is an important lesson indeed. What if we invite someone over for a Shabbos meal and we make sure that everything is clean and the food is delicious. We sing songs and tell divrei Torah. Yet, and at the end of the meal we speak loshon harah or maybe there are harsh words spoken. It is likely that that our company will also remember the loshon harah or the harsh words much more than the other parts of the meal or our generosity. And, if the guests are on the road back to observance, or hopefully so, we may have lost them. We have to be so careful to make sure every experience at our Shabbos table is one that is only positive, from the gefilte fish to the moment we walk our guests part of the way home. We don't want any taste of burnt coffee left in the mouths of our guests. If they do get a bad taste, all of the preparations for the whole Shabbos meal will have gone to waste. Rabbi Matisyahu Salomon, the revered mashgiach of Beth Medrash Gevohah (Lakewood, NJ) once spoke about Machneh Yisroel, the sefer which the Chofetz Chaim wrote especially for soldiers who struggle to observe mitzvos. In this sefer, the Chofetz Chaim prints a special prayer which he composed for soldiers who are entering a battle. The Chofetz Chaim said that two things are needed in order for the tefillah to be accepted by Hashem. First, the soldier must pray with awareness (kavanah) and with a full and sincere heart. Secondly, the soldier must focus his thoughts toward Jerusalem. It is understandable why he must pray sincerely. But, why must he focus on Yerushalayim? Said Rabbi Salomon, when we always daven facing towards Yerushalayim we must also focus our thoughts on that place. Yerushalayim is the heart of the Jewish Nation. The word itself comes from “yirah” (awe) and “Sholom” (peace) because Yerushalayim is the place where one can attain perfection-peace and the greatest levels of awe of G-d. All prayers travel through Yerushalayim. Therefore, when we go to daven the holy shmoneh esrai, we must not only face East but our hearts and thoughts must be focused toward the Holy City. We must prepare ourselves to daven, just as the restaurant owner prepares everything for his guests. We must be certain that everything is ready when we go before Hashem and all the way through our Shmoneh Esrai, till the final bracha for sholom. That prayer for peace connects us once again to the source of all blessing. May the Almighty help us to have the right thoughts so that we may bring peace to the world.

Surviving COVID-19 by Rabbi Yosef Wikler -

COVID 19 Collectively, we are all survivors. Our lives are immeasurably different. Hopefully, we have changed for the better; but let us take a look at what we have experienced during the heavy part of this pandemic, and how COVID-19 affected us as kosher consumers, as well as to see what is the “new normal.” It is impossible in one publication to cover all the impact of COVID-19 upon us as people, as Jews, and as kosher consumers. We will try to focus on three areas in which we have all been affected: 1) Challenges COVID-19 Presented to the Kashrus Agencies; 2) Kosher Products Affected by COVID-19; 3) The “New Normal” for Kosher Post COVID-19. Elsewhere in this issue we honor some of those kashrus greats who have passed to to COVID-19. May their memory be for a blessing. In preparation of this issue we communicated with kashrus agencies; however, we welcome input from readers to help us provide follow up articles in future issues. 1. The Challenges Which COVID-19 Presented to the Kashrus Agencies China, the Great Supplier of Kosher Food Even before the start of COVID-19, we informed readers on these pages and over our weekly radio show (Kashrus On The Air, Mondays, 6-7 PM over www.jrootradio.com) that there is considerable concern over kosher certification being done far overseas in china, other Asian countries, and in those countries which the United States warns people not to travel to them, namely those which the U.S. issues a “Level 4 Advisory—Do Not Travel.” Some kosher agencies took that question seriously, while others seem to feel that their system works. I cannot comment more, but readers should know that this debate is ongoing among kashrus agencies. One anecdote. More than twenty years ago, I was at a general food show at the Javits Center checking out the kosher products there. While in the Asian products section I observed a major U.S. distributor discussing with a company about making their product—an easy to make kosher— kosher-certified by their rabbi and how much it could cost per item to buy from them. I was really shocked when I learned the cost of the finished price with the kosher company’s name on the label and how much it would sell for here. The mark-up, before shipping was over 1,000% (yes, more than one thousand percent). That is why the words “Made in China” are not just on cheap kites, they are on our children’s nosh, and a good deal of what we all eat (even frozen fruits and vegetables, frozen fish, etc.). We became very reliant on China. Producing Kosher Under Travel Bans As of this writing, the following have a Level 4 Travel Ban—Do Not Travel: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, China, Haiti, *Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Mongolia, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. Also, right now, the following bear a Level 3 Travel Warning: Azerbaijan, Burundi, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Guinea-Bissau, *Honduras, Israel, The West Bank and Gaza, Italy, Lebanon, Micronesia, *Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, *Pakistan, South Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. A Level 3 Advisory is issued to “Reconsider Travel.” I especially recommend that you look at those countries where I placed an asterisk. They are countries where kosher food is being produced — plenty of it — yet, it is unlikely that any Jews live there, especially not mashgichim. Many of the other countries in this section are being listed because of Coronavirus; they will be removed from the list in the next few months. But, of those that will remain, is a level of “Reconsider Travel” fair to the mashgiach even though he needs to earn a salary? Is it responsible of a kashrus agency to put their men in that position? The world of kosher supervision is reviewing that issue right now. On the flip side, there are kashrus agencies who do significant work in some pretty challenging countries. Let me share with you how they handle that situation. Yes, we have the new “Zoom Kosher,” where a mashgiach talks to a company worker and requests of him to take a hand-held device to a certain part of the building to show the rabbi, sitting comfortably at home during Corona-19, a certain part of the building. But these agencies send their mashgichim in to some very interesting countries, utilize Jews (not necessarily Orthodox) and/or non-Jews who live in that country to further enhance their kosher program. All in all, they tell me that they’re on top of the situation and that it can be done and is being done thoroughly. At the same time, I cannot get out of my mind what I learned just before Pesach about mashgichim being caught in one country which had closed its borders, leaving them no way to return to their families before Pesach. Maybe they got home, and maybe tahey did not; in any event, it bothers to think that mashgichim are forced to make their living under such circumstances. Zoom Kosher Back to Zoom kosher. Whether the kashrus agencies use Zoom or another company to reach the factories which they certify for making “Virtual Inspections,” that is the way a good deal of kosher supervision was going on throughout COVID-19. Not to be overly concerned, kashrus administrators report that this method is actually quite good. They find that they can get much the same information as they do in a physical inspection and that they take just about the same time, from one to three hours. Many kashrus agencies will not use technique for an initial inspection, the inspection done before the company is actually kosher-certified. Other kashrus will utilize “Zoom Kosher” even for initial inspections. On the basis of that virtual inspection plus an affidavit the kashrus agency will issue a contract for kosher certification. Also, some agencies have been so satisfied that they already announced that, after COVID-19, they will use “Zoom Kosher” to supplement their physical inspections. No “Rabbis” Welcome All of this is fine, but let me share one little issue based on an observation of a mashgiach. The mashgiach shared with me that the health department in his state which always comes down regularly to check on the kitchen at his facility has been using “Zoom Health” to check up during COVID-19. They will ask to see the temperature in the refrigerator/freezer. They will use virtual inspections to examine his kitchen. Indeed, they do a thorough inspection. Just one problem, he told me that it is very easy to pass the inspection this way. Enough said. Initially, the kashrus agencies said that during Covi-19 they would accept less visitation, plus they would allow a few months between visits so as to work with the companies. Fortunately, the companies themselves shut down production, so mashgichim’s visits were not necessary. But, as time moved on, first warehouses opened up, and then production itself resumed. Unfortunately, a number of companies refused to allow any mashgichim to visit because they were viewed as visitors, not workers. This forced the kashrus agencies to try to get “our men into the plant.” Obviously, there as many different stories over this issue as there are kosher-certified companies. KM

Secular and Chareidi - Bridging The Gap -

The little letter above is helping to bridge the gap between secular and chareidi in Israel. Tel Aviv Pop Star Aviv Geffen, an Israeli secularist, during a live performance in May, decided to dedicate a song to the residents of Bnei Brak. For months the secular press in Israel had severely criticized the residents of Bnei Brak, blaming them for not adhering to the government’s lockdown regulations at the start of COVID-19 and their alarmingly high rate of infection. Blame was heaped on them again and again. Mr. Gefen decided to speak up in defense of the citizens of Bnai Brak and so he dedicated a song to them. “They chose G-d and I chose Mark Zuckerberg,” he sang, and went to say that the chareidi cannot be blamed for living a different kind of life. “In light of what’s happening, it’s important for me to say – I love Bnei Brak. It’s like a different era there – cut off from the secular world.” When Geffen completed his performance, he found 420 messages from Bnei Brak residents thanking him for his support. He was so moved that he cried as he read them, staying up the entire night to reach each one. The staff of the emergency command room in the Bnei Brak municipality sent this letter of appreciation to Mr. Geffen for speaking up in defense of the city. When interviewed by Channel 12 News, Gefen began crying when he spoke about the messages he had received. Here’s what the letter says “To the honored artist, Mr. Aviv Geffen: “Topic: Appreciation of your efforts to unite people and to develop respect for the City of Bnai Brak and its inhabitants. “The Coronvirus period was heavy and complex for Israel and for our city in particular. “In addition to the international health crisis, our city was shaken by widespread criticism against the city and its inhabitants. We felt like we paid a high price while enduring days of frustration, difficulty and pain. “Your leadership and your words were like cool water on a tired soul; it showcased the beauty of humanity, a shared unity and respect as the basis of our existence as a nation “In our name and in the name of the entire city: “With Appreciation and a wish for your continued good health.” KM

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