OU Kosher Rabbinic Field Representatives –Friends or Foes?

Remembering a Beloved RFR, Rabbi Avrohom Chesny of Blessed Memory

This past September, Rabbi Avrohom Chesny, the Midwest region’s longtime OU Kosher Rabbinic Field Representative, passedaway. For over 37 years, the many manufacturing plants on his roster welcomed his inspection visits as they would a trusted friend. How did he accomplish this?

Although, no one enjoys someone looking over their shoulder, when it comes to maintaining high standards of kosher –heavy regulations and painstaking inspections are a necessary reality. Companies tolerate regular inspections as one of the costs of doing business. OU Kosher acknowledges this fact of human nature and effectively addresses this potential dilemma in its RFR training.

OU Kosher’s RFR’s are taught to project themselves as helpful “kosher consultants,” and not inspectors out to find fault. Their role is to assist and guide plant personnel in the (sometimes arduous and complicated) task of manufacturing a product that satisfies all the essential kosher requirements. When OU Kosher programs run smoothly, the manufacturers benefit; they realize that the quality kosher status significantly enhances the marketability of theirfood products.

On the other hand, mishaps in Kosher food production can result in costly and embarrassing recalls of improperly certified product. The RFR is there to prevent errors and unpleasant consequences from occurring.

An RFR can be a friend or foe, but OU Kosher aims to cultivate RFRs who are perceived as valuable allies and supporters of the OU Kosher certified companies.

Rabbi Chesny personified the perfect blend necessary to become a consummate RFR. While serving as an astute, thorough, and professional inspector, he also forged close and meaningful relationships with plant personnel.

We at OU Kosher were proud of our treasured colleague and will greatly miss him –as will the manufacturers and plant personnel blessed to have worked with him.

We asked some of these plant managers to share their recollections of Rabbi Chesny. Here is a sampling of their reflections. “Rabbi Chesny was always helpful and professional, but most of all, kind. Over the years, I came to think of him as a friend. Iwill truly miss his guidance” Chris Bullof Echo Lake Foods, Burlington, WI

“During his monthly visit to the plant, I enjoyed his sharing with me[news of]any new grandchildren that have arrived, marriages and what his family had been up to. He loved his family so and showed it when he spoke of them with such a warm smile and laugh. He became more to me than just a monthly kosher audit visit, he became my friend. My husband became very ill three years ago, and every time the Rabbi would visit he always asked how my husband and family were doing. This was not just a polite act of a plant visit; he would listen to my worries/concerns about my husband’s recovery and offer peace that the Lord has a plan. The Rabbi also was a great teacher for me. Not coming from a kosher background when I would have questions for him, he always took the time to explain. I will truly miss my friend Rabbi Chesny and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife and family that they will always feel him near.” Keli Bergan ofEdy’s Ice Cream, Ft. Wayne, IN

“During our meetings, Rabbi Chesny always conducted himself in a professional and friendly manner. He demonstrated great patience and showed kindness to our young staff. He was very much loved and appreciated by the team at Saratoga Potato Chips.” Paul Navendra, Vice President of Saratoga Potato Chips, Fort Wayne, IN

“Rabbi Chesny was an imposing figure. What first appeared to be a bear with his demeanor, was really a very kind and gentle teddy bear. The first meeting was very difficult, as I didn’t fully understand the kosher process. He proceeded to educate me on the process and coach me through some difficult situations. Ultimately his monthly visit was greeted with anticipation and friendship. Thoughts and prayers are with his family.”Mike Busart Sr.,Regulatory AffairsManager of Zens North America, Plymouth, IN

“This is very sad to hear. Rabbi Chesny was always patient and kind.”Sarah Ludowise, Quality Supervisor of Nestle USA, Burlington, WI

“The news of Rabbi Avrohom Chesny passing brought great sadness to us. Rabbi Chesny was known to us both as a colleague and as a friend. When Rabbi Chesny would arrive at our facility, he would call me on my phone to announce his arrival and give a thunderous knock at the door. We all knew Rabbi Chesny was here. Rabbi Chesny was a kind and patient man. As we hurried to meet him, I would most likely find him sitting in our lobby quietly reading. Rabbi Chesny was a professional and carried out his duties for Orthodox Union by keeping us on track for compliance. As a friend, Rabbi Chesny and I would catch up speaking of our families and trips. Having Rabbi Chesny come to our facility was a pleasure and it was an honor to have worked and known such a good man.”Judd Girard, Quality Manager (and friend) Inventure Foods Inc, Bluffton, IN

“Rabbi Chesny was my friend. Our families were often the topic of discussion as we weighed and reviewed the progress of our families as they developed and matured. We shared news of aging parents as well as growing children, often asking, “what did you do when you encountered . . . and what did you do then?” I frequently met some of his children, watched as they grew up over the years, and knew of his pride for his children. Rabbi Chesny also provided spiritual knowledge, and never shied away from direct questions about Hebrew culture, beliefs and practices. His candor on such matters was always appreciated, and his knowledge was respected. Rabbi Chesny will be sorely missed, and I wish to offer my sympathy and sincere condolences to all his family and numerous friends.”Mike Mooney, Quality Manager Emeritus, H. J. Heinz. Company Holland, MI

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Rabbi Yaakov Luban is Executive Rabbinic Coordinator of the Orthodox Union (OU) Kashrus Department. He has been a Rabbinic Coordinator for the past 34 years and has been involved in many different aspects of the organization