Rabbi Yosef Levy’s official job is as a Rabbinic Field Representative (RFR) in Kentucky and Indiana for the Orthodox Union, in which he certifies food plants as kosher, but in his spare time he uses that position for another, altruistic pursuit: playing matchmaker between the OU-certified companies he supervises and Louisville’s Jewish Family and Vocational Service’s (JFVS) Food Pantry.
Rabbinic Field Representatives are OU Kosher personnel who are proficient in the intricacies of Jewish law, modern food production and chemical and biological processes; there are nearly 500 such representatives worldwide for the OU.
Rabbi Levy declared, “I believe that the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century founder of Hasidic Judaism, was right when he stated that a soul comes down to this world for 70 or 80 years just to do a favor for humanity. Those are the words I try to live by.”
In accordance with that belief, Rabbi Levy realized a few years ago that the surplus of foods from various companies he supervises could be used for a worthy cause. He said, “I knew about the food pantry of the JFVS, as it frequently places ads appealing for help in The Community, a local paper in Louisville published by the Jewish Community Federation. I write a weekly D’var Torah (commentary on the weekly Torah portion) for the same paper, and so that’s how my matchmaking scheme began.”
The Louisville JFVS coordinates a wide variety of charitable programs, one of them being the Sonny and Janet Meyer Family Food Pantry, which provides food for community residents in need. Some of the OU-certified companies, based in Kentucky, that have donated food in response to Rabbi Levy’s efforts are: Flowers Bakery of London; Kellogg’s Snacks; Morgan Foods; Preston Farms; and The Carriage House.
Rabbi Levy said that while some of the companies produce non-kosher products in addition to kosher, OU-certified ones, he only accepts donations of kosher food parcels. “This way, even though both Jews and non-Jews receive items from the food pantry, I can be assured that only kosher food is going to those who are Jews.”
Shelley Kahn, Volunteer Coordinator at JFVS, wrote in appreciation to Rabbi Levy. “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you and the Orthodox Union for your continued support for the Jewish Family & Vocational Services Sonny and Janet Meyer Family food pantry for these past several years. The generosity of your contacts and manufacturers have been overwhelming, thoughtful and appreciated. Your donations have allowed us to continue to provide hundreds of pounds of food to those families in need in the Louisville Jewish and non-Jewish community. By quietly soliciting food and by keeping our pantry full, you have helped to sustain a viable program that touches the lives of hundreds of people.”
Ms. Kahn concluded, “Know that your actions are making a huge difference in the lives of so many. You are a treasured member of this community, and we sincerely appreciate all of your time and efforts on behalf of our clients.”