With the ever-growing focus on kosher food and the intricacies of kashrut, the Orthodox Union, the premier institution in kosher certification, recently established the Harry H. Beren ASK OUTREACH Initiative to provide kosher education to yeshiva students in the convenience of their yeshivot, kollelim and semicha programs. Its latest crown in a series of presentations, which also included Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, Yeshiva Ohr Hachaim, and Mesivtah Tiferes Yerusholayim, drew close to 1,000 fascinated members of the Lakewood, NJ, community, making it a standing-room only event. It was held in Khal Zhichron Yaakov synagogue, with the haskomoh of the Beth Medrash Govoha Roshei HaYeshiva and the endorsement of the KCL—Vaad HaKashrut of Lakewood.
ASK OUTREACH and many other ASK OU programs are sponsored by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, which has just renewed its grant to the OU for another year.
“The Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood has been extremely pleased with how Mr. Beren’s name is being memorialized by the OU,” Rabbi Yosef Grossman, OU Director of Kashrut Education declared. “We are grateful to the Foundation for renewing our grant once again and for making kosher education available to all.”
The ASK OU (Advanced Seminars on Kashrut) program, sponsored by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, for years has welcomed students and professionals in the field from around the world to the OU Headquarters in New York. Today, the new ASK OUTREACH series, brings OU Kosher expertise into yeshivot and kollelim around the United States.
A highlight of the new ASK OUTREACH Initiative was the Lakewood program, Shaylos in Treifus and Nikkur, presented by HaGaon Rav Yisroel Belsky, OU Kosher Senior Halachic Consultant and Rosh Yeshivah of Torah Vodaath, with the participation of Rabbi Shimon Mendlowitz, expert menaker from Monsey.
“There’s a palpable thirst for technical knowledge of kashrut issues in the yeshiva world which the OU is now attempting to satisfy through ASK OUTREACH,” declared Rabbi Grossman. “People learning the sugyot (sources) and inyanim (topics) in the Gemara appreciate seeing the practical application of what they are learning.“
“Participants were literally mesmerized,” Rabbi Grossman said,” as they observed and learned about nikkur (the deveining and removing of non-kosher fat of an otherwise kosher animal) and treifot (the blemishes which render a kosher animal non-kosher).”
With a dissected calf on the table, Rabbi Mendlowitz demonstrated the technical aspects of nikkur by explaining each step as he went along. He showed what chelev (non-kosher fat of a kosher animal) is and where the veins of dam (blood) are, and how to remove them. Rabbi Belsky explained the halachic concerns involved in nikkur.
They discussed nikkur ahcorayim (the hind quarter not eaten in America); the difference between nikkur in the United States and in Israel; and showed how to perform nikkur on organs such as the tongue and the legs of the cow. During this presentation Rabbi Belsky elucidated the verses from the Torah and the Gemarah, demonstrating how each organ is checked and what to look for.
In days following the presentations, Rabbi Grossman received letters of appreciation from the audience. Here is what Mordechai Gold of Lakewood had to say: “I would like to thank you and all of the people whose efforts made this seminar possible here in Lakewood. I am not sure how many people have been verbal about it, but I can assure you, it was really greatly appreciated by the participants. Perhaps these types of seminars can be organized on a monthly basis.”
OU Kosher staff members were also impressed by the program. “I happened to be in Lakewood for Shabbat, and went to see the lecture,” said Rabbi Shaul Gold, OU Rabbinic Coordinator. “Of course, it was impossible to enter the assemblage and I had to sneak through the kitchen entrance to get in. It was a tremendous learning experience and I was awed by the accomplishments of ASK OU – leading the way in educating all segments of Klal Yisrael regarding kashrut and developing a discerning, mature outlook towards our responsibilities. Thank you for your hard work in bringing everything together and creating a first rate program.”
On a return trip to Lakewood a week after the event, Rabbi Grossman found that there was still a major “buzz” in the community, with people continuing to talk about what they had witnessed and bubbling with enthusiasm over the OU presentation. They also asked Rabbi Grossman when the DVD of the program would be available. He told them that the DVD, which would also include other Harry H. Beren ASK OU Kashrut events, is in production and will be available in the near future. (An announcement will be made by the OU when the DVD is ready.)
Other ASK OUTREACH presentations have been held at Yeshiva Ohr HaChaim with Rabbi Hershel Schachter on “The Kashrut of Medications and Vitamins;” Yeshiva Torah Vodaath with Rabbi Dov Schreier on “Eating Out – What Could be the Problem?” and Rabbi Seth Mandel on “A Behind the Scenes Look at a Kosher Slaughterhouse;” and at Mesivtah Tiferes Yerusholayim (of the Lower East Side in Manhattan) with Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer on “Technical and Halachic Issues in Cheese and Whey Production.”
Upcoming series will be held in the tri-state metropolitan area in Queens, Far Rockaway, and Monsey, among other communities.
For more information on ASK OUTREACH or other Harry H. Beren programs contact Rabbi Grossman at or 212-613-8212.