Now that the Internet has made the expression “information at your fingertips” an ever-present reality, OU Kosher views it as an every-second opportunity. “As the world’s largest and most respected kosher certification agency, we can now educate the world at large about what kosher represents,” says Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President, Communications and Marketing. “The medium of the web allows us to reach thousands of people whom we otherwise couldn’t.” Since its debut in 2004, the OU Kosher website is doing that and more.
If you find yourself logging onto the site, you most likely fall into one of three main audience categories: an OU certified company (or interested in becoming one), interested in learning about kosher; a kosher professional aiming to gain more specific information about kosher supervision, or a kosher consumer looking to see what’s new on the OU kosher market, checking to see if a particular product is OU-certified, or seeking to expand your kosher knowledge.
Apparently all three OU Kosher website watchers are getting what they come for; they keep coming back for more. “A tour of the website indicates why it’s so useful,” says Rabbi Yonatan Kaganoff, rabbinic coordinator and website supervisor. Through the site, companies can learn the basics of kosher and its requirements. What can make breakfast cereals, cakes, and doughnuts non-kosher? You’ll find those answers and more. With a click of a mouse, you can view comprehensive and entertaining videos about kosher and the OU Kosher standards. Just by perusing the site, you can find out the origin of kosher laws, the basic categories of food items which are not kosher, and why many foods other than meat, fowl, and fish, require kosher supervision.
Companies can also find out how to apply for OU Kosher certification. The site affords online access to Behind the Union Symbol, the OU’s quarterly trade publication now in your hands, which is read by over 6,000 food executives and reaches thousands of food manufacturing facilities worldwide, as well as food industry leaders, editors and analysts. In addition, the website spotlights OU-certified companies and brands on a rotating basis as an ‘OU Featured Company.’ Each item includes a corporate or product image; a description of the company, product, or brand; as well as a link to its website. The “OU Companies Speak” feature draws the diverse array of food companies together, offering them a closer look into each other’s world of kosher operations.
The site covers the latest news and events in the world of kosher, such as, “The Largest Liquor Kosher Certification in U.S.: DeKuyper 60-Flavor Line Liqueurs Receives OU Symbol,” Identifying Opportunities in the U.S. Food Market: A Seminar for Trade Consulates,” and U.S. News & World Report: Is Kosher Food Safer?”
Consumers interested in learning the finer details of the kosher laws can choose from over one hundred “Kosher Tidbits,” online mini audio-lectures presented by the OU’s rabbinic coordinators on a myriad of salient kosher-related topics. “People are listening to Kosher Tidbits from far distant corners of the world,” reports Rabbi Safran.
To make it easier for the Chinese and Spanish-speaking visitors to partake of the plethora of site’s kosher knowledge offerings, the OU hired professional translators. “These are the two biggest markets outside the English-speaking market,” says Rabbi Yaakov Luban, executive rabbinic coordinator. “China is the fastest growing market in the food industry. They are providing more and more of the raw materials used in the foods today.”
Aside from picking up the nuances of kosher in the kitchen and factory, companies, consumers and kosher professionals can also enjoy humorous and informative human interest pieces about the work lives of the OU’s traveling rabbinic field representatives. The website also avails the more kosher-scholarly visitor opportunities to pore over publications such as Daf HaKashrus, by Rabbi Yosef Grossman, RC; The Mesorah Journal, edited by Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, about the thought of the late Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik, renowned Talmudist and Jewish scholar.
Aside from a regular array of recipes, the website’s most popular features include “Kosher Alerts,” announcements informing the public of products bearing an unauthorized OU symbol and “Product Search,” the OU products search engine. “If a consumer wants to know which potato chips are OU certified, he/she could run a search and get 500 different brand names,” says Rabbi Luban. “It’s a powerful resource for consumers to be able to quickly see what’s OU Kosher out there.” The site also offers those interested in dining out the convenience of locating OU-certified restaurants across the New York metropolitan area. And if they have any kosher questions or concerns, they can send an e-mail through the “Ask a Kosher Question” feature, which addresses all matters pertaining to Jewish kosher law.
Drawing from both the Jewish and non-Jewish populations, including consumers, industry people, and the erudite, the site has created an online kosher-conscious community. It even offers “Kosher Kidz,” an educational video, as well as an OU Kosher Contest for the young consumer. Gary Magder, Director of Internet Development, sums up the website’s primary mission and outcome: “We are building an awareness of the value of kosher.”