Late this summer, Binyomin Radner, who learns at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, was an intern in the three-week kashrut training program, ASKOU9, offered by the Orthodox Union Kashrut Division to rabbis, advanced rabbinical students and kollel members to prepare them for careers in kosher certification. Recently, the grateful young man sent this letter to Rabbi Yosef Grossman, OU Director of Kashrut Education, who coordinated the program. We reprint the letter, in abbreviated form, with Mr. Radner’s permission:
Dear Rabbi Grossman:
I wish to take this time and this opportunity to express my deepest heartfelt thanks and appreciation to you personally and to the entire Orthodox Union staff for offering this course. The course was very informative, creative and opened up my eyes to a whole new world of residential and commercial hashgacha on an international scale. I gained an incredible wealth of knowledge and information in all facets of hashgacha, in the inner workings and organization of the OU, in halacha, in technology etc.
Perhaps most impressive of what I saw was the dedication, integrity, commitment to excellence in all areas, and the organization and professionalism exhibited by the entire staff and members of the OU. It is impossible to describe the scope of knowledge imparted to us by so many rabbanim, experts and speakers in such a short amount of time.
We gained so much from the speakers, the experts, the rabbis, and especially from the various trips. It is again noteworthy to mention how many trips were able to be squeezed in to only three weeks. This certainly required much planning and organization to arrange and I and my friends who also took the course wish to commend you and everyone else who helped and cooperated with you to ensure that this course be the acclaimed and smashing success that it was. We appreciate very much all of the time-consuming hard work and planning that, no doubt, was vital for this course. I speak on behalf of my friends as well because I personally know of several other interns who have similar reactions and feedback to mine.
Every speech we heard was given by an expert in his field who really knew the issues at hand. Each expert was able to answer any questions relating to his field of expertise. Each and every trip was educational and enjoyable. I enjoyed the entire course and feel like I gained a wealth of practical halacha, knowledge and information from every speaker and from every trip.
I enjoyed listening and meeting with Rabbi Yaakov Luban (Executive Rabbinic Coordinator, OU Kosher). His speeches were quite informative in all areas of hashgacha, especially with regards to the challenges posed to mashgichim on the front, in factories or in local pizza shops. The stories were quite entertaining and really impressed upon us the paramount requirement for a mashgiach to be on his toes at all times.
I had the great privilege of meeting with Rabbi Dov Schreier (OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinator for Food Service) who briefed us on a variety of kashrut-related issues. It was quite evident that Rabbi Schreier is an individual of great accomplishment and responsibility. He is a shining example of the dedication, hard work, tireless efforts, and the highest standards of professionalism that the OU strives for and does achieve.
Many interns were privileged to meet with Rabbi Moshe Elefant (Chief Operating Officer, OU Kosher) in his office. Listening to Rabbi Elefant describe some of the many goals, accomplishments, and challenges of the OU was quite informative and thought-provoking. One thing was clear and that was the dedication that the OU has to Klal Yisrael.
Before taking this course, I was quite the outsider with regards to the OU or any hashgacha organization. I just remember growing up and hearing that if the product has the OU, then it is kosher. I had no inkling of the magnitude of the OU, its size, its responsibilities, or its goals. I had no idea, for example, that the OU certifies approximately 6,000 factories with locations in all 50 states and in a whopping 80 countries. It is mind-boggling that a frum organization, with the highest Torah ideals, dedication to Klal Yisrael, and strict adherence to halacha, under the guidance of gedolim and poskim, could have the resources, the manpower, the organization, the technology, and the necessary commitment vital, for such a large-scale operation.
There is surely a high degree of siyata dishmaya ensuring that the OU can and does make these mind-boggling, historically unprecedented accomplishments so that the OU can continue to work tirelessly on behalf of Klal Yisrael. The OU is truly an organization which is oisek betzarchei tzibur beemunah.
Another extremely remarkable part of this course was the OU’s initiative, willingness, and confidence to have interns going out and actively auditing current mashgichim in OU-certified restaurants. Obviously, the belief of the OU is that of an open-door policy wherein the OU is proud to stand behind its certification and its mashgichim and has nothing to hide.
When I tell people about this course, several times I have been asked how much it costs. When I respond that the OU actually pays interns to take this course, and indeed, helps to subsidize, or for that matter reimburse completely, any costs incurred by interns (travel, accommodations) people are flabbergasted. After being on the inside of the OU, this is again no surprise. The OU is an organization dedicated completely to the service of Hashem and of Klal Yisrael.
It is equally noteworthy to mention that the OU is a non-profit organization. The OU uses its income to finance the activities of NCSY (the international youth program) and its incredible kiruv undertakings. After all, the OU reaches Jews all over America (and all over the globe) by providing them with kosher gashmius. It is no surprise that income from this venture should go to ensure that the OU can provide Jews all over America (and all over the globe) with kosher ruchniyus via the outreach and activities of NCSY.
I am not exaggerating when I say that this course was the opportunity of a lifetime. In the supermarket, the OU symbol means and represents so much more to me than it did before I took the course.
There is so much more to write and this letter is a mere, minor, inadequate token of my deep appreciation to you and to the OU. I would never trade these incredible three weeks with the OU for anything. Thank you again.