OU Kosher brought its Harry H. Beren ASK OU Outreach program, Kashrut in the Community, to Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) for a well-received series of lectures and field trips to OU certified facilities for advanced rabbinical students.
Rabbi Yosef Grossman, Senior Educational Rabbinic Coordinator of OU Kosher, declared, “We are extremely proud that RIETS has decided to partner with the OU so that the ASK OU OUTREACH Kashrut in the Community Program has now become an integral part of its semicha program, being offered every two years for their students as they prepare to assume rabbinic positions throughout the U.S. and Canada.”
For the first half of June, thirty rabbinical students attended daily sessions ranging from the shul kiddush; the local bakery; eating out; setting up the local Vaad HaKashrut; fish and the local fish store; how to be an excellent mashgiach; bedikas toyloim; identifying treifos in birds; the halachot of kashrut; parasites in fish; contemporary meat issues; contemporary dairy issues; the local butcher store and meat distributor; bagel and pizza stores; factory kosher supervision/ingredients/labels/ kosherization process.
According to Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher, who himself received rabbinic ordination at RIETS and now serves as a Rosh Yeshiva there teaching Yorah Deah, “I am extremely gratified that this generation of rabbinical students at RIETS can receive hands-on experience and practical Kashrut information through the ASK OU OUTREACH Program. They are able to see first-hand the practical applications of the theoretical knowledge they have acquired in their study of Yorah Deah at Yeshiva. This is certain to be an asset to them in their rabbinical careers.”
In addition to a variety of question and answer sessions (ASK The Rabbonim), the students were given hands-on experiences regarding the topics discussed. Representatives from Pos’tiv Produce, a company specializing in vegetables, brought their own bugs and microscopes to explain proper methods on checking fruits and vegetables for insect infestation.
Rabbi Moshe Perlmutter of Passaic, N.J. guided the students around the kitchen at Yeshiva University to illustrate foodservice kashering performed in large kitchens (such as those found in schools, hotels and catering establishments). Participants were given a tour of the Oasis Food Company in Hillside, N.J., a factory that manufactures margarine and other condiments, to demonstrate industrial kosherization performed in plants and factories. A visit to the OU certified restaurant Prime KO, located in Manhattan, addressed issues dealing with food service providers.
Students were instructed in how to properly prepare field audits of OU certified restaurants and how to submit their reports. According to Rabbi Grossman, this practice, which was reviewed together with participants by senior OU rabbinic staff, Rabbi Yaakov Luban and Rabbi Dov Schreier, was in order to “help the students understand what they observed in the restaurants during their visits.”
“The students I have spoken with found it extremely worthwhile and expressed a strong sense that it added a valuable dimension to their training,” declared Rabbi Chaim Bronstein, RIETS Administrator.
Survey results showed participant feedback was very positive. “It was an excellent program and I felt like I learned a lot and got a great overall feeling about kashrut,” was one response. Others included, “It was very informative, organized and professional. I was very impressed with the OU and have gained a new appreciation for their work,” and “It gave me a great appreciation for all the innumerable issues of giving hashgacha (kosher certification).”
Additional comments stated, “I feel this is the perfect completion of this year of learning Yorah Deah. I am very impressed with the OU organization; ” “Organized well in an interesting fashion,” and “the OU rabbis presented us with the most up to date and reliable information on kashrut.”
The presenters included Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher; Rav Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS; Rabbi Luban, OU Kosher Executive Rabbinic Coordinator; and OU rabbinic coordinators with specialties in a wide variety of products and procedures.
Next in line for OU Kosher Educational Programs is the ASK OU 10, coming up in August to provide advanced training for mashgichim, synagogue rabbis and students.