OU KOSHER Releases Educational DVD Containing 91 Harry H. Beren ASK OU Kashrut Presentations

If you “ASK OU” Kosher about the intricacies of kashrut, you are going to get a very substantial answer, almost 55 hours worth.

That became perfectly clear today as the Orthodox Union Kosher Division announced the release of a DVD containing 91 presentations of ASKOU programs —kashrut education seminars presented by OU Kosher and made possible by a grant from the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ, in memory of Harry H. Beren z”l. Played end to end, the DVD would provide 25 hours of video and 29 hours of audio presentations.

Recorded from 2004 until early 2008, the 91 presentations – some of which were stand-alone sessions and others which were part of larger events – reflect the wisdom of OU kosher senior rabbis and guest lecturers on a wide variety of aspects of kosher law and its practical applications to today’s evolving food technology.

“The range of learning encompassed in these sessions is truly remarkable,” declared Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher. “Even those with a lifetime of study of kosher law will find their horizons expanded by this DVD, because the topics that are included reflect the particular expertise of the presenters, rather than general kashrut knowledge.”

The sessions are intended for use on a computer, rather than a DVD player. The project was suggested by Rabbi Yonatan Kaganoff, an OU Kosher rabbinic consultant with a special expertise in technical matters.

“These are major and comprehensive sessions which run anywhere from a half hour to four hours apiece and were recorded at OU headquarters or other venues,” declared Rabbi Yosef Grossman, OU Director of Kashrut Education and the coordinator of the programs and sessions included on the DVD. According to Rabbi Grossman, the sessions are intended for an audience ranging from advanced Talmudic scholars to high school students with a basic grounding in the laws of kashrut, extending as well to kosher consumers interested in learning about the kashrut of the products they purchase.

“It is possible to appreciate these sessions on a variety of levels,” Rabbi Grossman declared. “Certainly, the kollel member, who already has semicha, will have a range of understanding going beyond what a much younger student would have, but by picking and choosing sessions, everyone can be comfortable with the enormous level of learning included on this DVD.”

Presenters include Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher; the two Halachic Decisors of OU Kosher, Rabbis Hershel Schachter and Yisroel Belsky; Roshei HaYeshiva such as Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky of Philadelphia and Rav Asher Weiss of Jerusalem; the “Two Ari’s,” Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan, who conceived the four ASKOU Mesorah Conferences, three of which have already been held, with the fourth scheduled for June 15 at Lander College in Kew Gardens Hills, NY; Rav Ahron Teitelbaum, the Nirbater Rav; and senior staff members of OU Kosher speaking on their various specialties.

Rabbi Steven Weil of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, CA, the newly appointed OU Executive Vice President, effective July 1, 2009, is included in the DVD, addressing the subject of “A Rabbi/Farmer’s Perspective on the Challenges of Producing Kosher Cattle.” Rabbi Weil grew up in a small farming community in upstate New York.

The DVD will be sent to all OU member congregations across North America for congregational use. It will also be distributed at all upcoming ASKOU events, including the June 15 ASK OU Mesorah conference, Kedushas Ha’Aretz and its Mitzvos. Upon request OU members will receive a complimentary copy of the DVD; non-members may obtain it for $10.

“I see the DVD serving at the synagogue level in many ways,” declared Rabbi Bini Maryles, Director of the Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services of the OU. “These include supplying leadership with ‘hands-on’ visuals of areas in halacha that may have only existed in the theoretical, to enhance their Torah knowledge, which benefits us all.”

He added, “The material can be used to supplement and/or boost an already existing curriculum in kashrut education in the shul, or spur the leadership to begin discussions and learning in a wide range of kashrut areas.”

Session highlights include:

  • Shiurim with Rav Kamenetsky and Rav Weiss;
  • Shiur on Shaylos in Treifus and Nikkur given by Rav Belsky and Reb Shimon Mendlowitz in Lakewood, NJ before an audience of close to 1,000;
  • A Study Guide for Hilchos Treifus, with Rav Belsky and produced by Reb Eli Teitelbaum z”l of the Torah Communications Network, who before his recent passing gave permission for this segment to be included;
  • A variety of presentations made at Mesorah Conference I: Kosher Birds and Animals; and Mesorah Conference II: the Pareve Mesorahs;
  • The Halachic Seudah at the Prime Grill Restaurant in Beverly Hills, CA, a highlight of Mesorah Conference III, the Los Angeles Halachic Adventure;
  • Shiurim to a group of rabbinic students from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University during their VISIT OU program at OU headquarters;
  • A three-part presentation on nikkur (deveining) given to 70 of the leading kashrut rabbis in New York and New Jersey by OU experts, utilizing 600 pounds of meat;
  • Presentations on the kosher slaughterhouse, bishul akum and on numerous industries by OU experts during VISIT OU, ASK OU and ASK OUTREACH programs.

“Those of us who spend so many hours of our lives in front of texts now have the option to use technology to supplement our textual study and to enrich this learning in a variety of ways,” Rabbi Grossman said. “This DVD is an extraordinary resource for those who want to apply centuries of commentary to present day applications of kosher law. It is the wisdom of the ages adapted to the 21st century.”

To obtain this fascinating DVD for computer use, contact Rabbi Grossman at 212.613.8212.

OU Kosher Staff