Of Kashrus and COVID-19

My name is Shimon and I do Jewish outreach in a place where Judaism has barely reached. I am not a missionary. I follow the guidelines of my faith and do not seek to bring non-Jews to conversion. My job is restoration—to introduce Judaism to Jews who have never encountered their birthright and heritage.

There are many like me, scattered to all points of the globe, embracers of our mentor’s directive to reach out, embrace, and uplift. We receive no funding from the formal organs of our community. Although we share our mentor’s goals, we are, for the most part, the independent and autonomous directors and fund-raisers of our various institutions.

Very many of us are involved in kosher supervision. It dove-tails with our commitments to our faith, and helps us immeasurably with fund-raising. Every plant visit generates  income that covers our basic necessities and our religious communal programming.

And we are hurting a lot. The virus has driven many of us to flee for our lives and the lives of our families. Many of the factories that we visit are closed. The income we derived from kosher supervision is simply not what it used to be. We wonder how we will preserve our outreach programs. Some of us wonder if we will ever be able to return to our institutions. At the same time, we carry with us our great mentor’s teachings, which both inspire and empower us. Our commitment to our people and our faith is not only undiminished, it is galvanized. And we know that we are, as always, in the providential, benevolent care of the One Above.


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My name is Levi and I’m an account manager for a kosher certification agency. I’m an ordained rabbi, and I work in an office with dozens of other ordained rabbis who serve as account managers.

Well, really, I should say, up until recently, I worked in an office with dozens of other rabbis. That was before we closed the office due to the virus. Right now, an office of hundreds is tele-commuting.

The agency has been aggressively helpful. We were supplied with the software and hardware we needed to work as efficiently as possible at home. The e-mails and phone-calls continue back-and-forth unabatedly. We are in touch with the corporate headquarters offices, plants, and the field rabbis who visit those plants. Although we lack those daily and irreplaceable face-to-face dialogues, we account managers are in touch with each other, as well.

Besides the tele-commuting, the other tectonic shift has been in the method of inspecting a plant. Like any regulatory agency, the ideal and preferred approach is to inspect in-person and unannounced. How better to assess the correspondence between protocol and practice? The “new normal” is that some plants are restricting access as a safeguard against infection. And we understand that. Thankfully, those plants understand that, virus notwithstanding, we still need to know what is happening! So now, we augment the certifications with what we hope is a temporary emergency measure: the virtual visit.

What is a virtual visit? The plant contact and the field rabbi set up an appointment for a “real-time” video tour of the plant. With the field rabbi guiding the walk-through from home, the plant contact uses contemporary technology to show the rabbi what he needs to see. It is not ideal, but for now, it is a technique we must employ to keep people, safe, and food, kosher.

Rabbi Eliyahu W. Ferrell