It’s a textbook of sophisticated food technology that is utilized in refining oil, a compendium of kosher law, and therefore, a remarkable combination of centuries-old halacha and the most up-to-date developments. After a long production process, it is now available to set kashrut standards for the entire industry.
The Orthodox Union Kosher Division, the world’s largest and most respected kosher certification agency, today announced the publication of the “OU Manual for the Oil Industry,” a compendium of the knowledge and experience of the expert OU rabbis who travel the world applying the time-honored laws of kosher to the industrial practices of today. (The oil industry refers to edible oils, not petroleum.)
The manual, printed in full color with many illustrations, is the second in a series of such guidebooks scheduled for publication, with the objective that uniform standards of certification be established for entire industries conforming to the rigorous requirements of the OU. The “OU Manual for the Baking Industry” was published last summer.
The manuals are another in a series of departmental initiatives that makes OU Kosher a major force in kashrut education as well as in certification. The standards are not only for the oil industry in the United States, but for around the world as well.
Such leading oil manufacturers as ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) and Cargill are certified by the OU.
The intended audience for the manuals is a wide spectrum of kashrut professionals including the vaadim, local bodies which provide kosher certification in retail businesses, food service facilities, and plants in their local communities. Laymen wanting to explore the intricacies of kosher law will be fascinated as well.
Each of the manuals will focus on three important areas of concern for its specific industry – technology; practical kashrut concerns and the methodology of supervision; and halachic rulings of the OU decisors, or poskim, Rav Hershel Schachter of Yeshiva University, and Rav Yisroel Belsky of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. The project is a collaborative effort of OU rabbinic coordinators based in OU Kosher New York headquarters; rabbinic field representatives, around the world; the poskim; and administrative staff.
To create the oil manual, a group was put together with Executive Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Yaacov Luban as editor; Rabbi Moshe Zywica, Director of Operations of OU Kosher as coordinator; and Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, one of the OU Rabbinic Coordinators who oversee the oil industry. A major role in preparation of the text was provided by Dr. Avrohom Meyer, a Ph.D in chemistry, who according to Rabbi Luban in his introduction to the manual, “is a walking encyclopedia of technology and kashrut.” Rabbi Avraham I. Juravel, Rabbinic Coordinator for Technical Services, reviewed the manual and in the process demonstrated his technical and halachic expertise.
They reported to Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher. Because of his broad understanding of the Jewish community and its needs, Rabbi Elefant provided the guidance which was so helpful in seeing that the manual accomplished its objectives.
An Extremely Complex Process:
According to the introduction to the manual, “A prerequisite for a kashrut professional who is engaged in the supervision of any kosher material is a broad understanding of the process of production of that particular item. With respect to kosher oil supervision, the process is extremely complex and requires a basic understanding of chemistry and modern food technology. This manual represents an effort to provide an in-depth analysis of kosher oil production.”
Reflecting the input of Dr. Meyer and the requirements of the industry, chemistry and technology are everywhere in the manual, for example, in diagrams of a triglyceride. Want to know the three crystal components and melting points of Tristearin, a well-defined fat? That’s in there too, and so much more.
The entire project, including planning, research and design, took months, with the writing alone taking four months; the text was reviewed countless times, mostly by Rabbi Luban, with much input and text from Dr. Meyer, so that the manual could appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
“The work is very significant on several levels,” explained Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. “It’s important to know that each industry has its own requirements and specifications; each of these manuals represents the standards for its industry and what a mashgiach has to be aware of. They enhance the departmental goal of kosher education. And in terms of our corporate culture, they provide transparent standards to be met.”
Industries such as fish and food service (hotels, catering halls, etc.) are in the pipeline and will follow soon. With each manual, something new exists in the kosher world.
Rabbi Genack declared, “This new manual will be a great addition to sources explaining Jewish law for our times. The halachic guidelines of Rabbis Belsky and Schachter, our poskim, will certainly make an extraordinary resource for the kosher world. Only the OU, with its knowledge and emphasis on education, could have done it.”
(To obtain copies of the manual, contact Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld at 212-613-8220, or .)