If you keep kosher, and enjoy eating a handful of Tootsie Rolls or drinking a tall glass of Gatorade, you have Phyllis Koegel to thank. As marketing director of the Orthodox Union’s Kosher Division, Koegel is charged with convincing companies of the financial and commercial benefits of going kosher—and getting the OU symbol, the most widely recognized kosher-certification in the world, on their product.
Koegel has been all over the world, from China and France to Germany and Italy, and most major cities throughout the United States, to make the case for OU kosher certification, which she’s helped secure for hundreds of products. The only female executive among the in-house OU staff of more than 55, she works out of a nondescript corner office on the 12th floor of the building at Greenwich Street and Broadway in Manhattan where OU Kosher is stationed. The kosher business is a pretty male-dominated field, and the males in it are mostly very observant rabbis. But if any of them have issues with Koegel—who is Modern Orthodox and favors stylish, brightly colored, but modest blouses and skirts in the workplace—working alongside them, no one shows it, she said. “When I was hired in 2006, I was, and remain, the first non-administrative staff member who’s not a rabbi,” she told me in a recent interview, “but I think it’s worked out well. Working in a religious environment means everyone is very respectful of one another, and furthermore, I feel I’ve earned my stripes. People view me as a true professional, so they treat me that way.”
While I spoke with Koegel in her office, she was fielding calls from a variety of clients. Her virtual Rolodex has everyone from the highest-ranking executives at renowned brands like Coca-Cola and Hershey and others at equally large but lesser-known food-processing conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge, to representatives of one-man manufacturing companies and niche and private labels.
Read the full article at Tablet Magazine.