Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the Orthodox Union on the West Coast, who is also one of the OU’s kosher certification experts, wanted to fine-tune his skills and so he flew to New York last week to attend the OU’s ASK OU 8 seminar on kosher certification.
The ASKOU program, held every other summer, provides intensive instruction in the intricacies of kosher food certification by senior rabbis from the OU’s Kosher Division. It has now trained more than 500 mashgichim (kosher certifiers), many of whom occupy leading positions with kosher agencies across North America, in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. The program, which offers two tracks, a three-week and a one-week session, is made possible by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ.
Those who intend to go into kosher supervision full-time and have already developed an extensive background in kosher law attend the three-week session. The one-week participants are synagogue rabbis or members of a community Va’ad HaKashrut who conduct kosher supervision on a local level.
For Rabbi Kalinsky, who is involved on a local level, the one-week session was a perfect opportunity.
Following his week of attendance at the seminar he gave the following report on his activities:
“For a number of years I had been trying to attend this OU program. I felt it was important for me to attend because in addition to my duties as the Director of the OU West Coast Region, I do visit a number of plants that are certified by the OU. I felt that I needed to upgrade and enhance my knowledge about the latest developments in food technology and how they are reflected in laws of kashrut, so that I can continue to do my duties well.
Also, in my capacity as West Coast Director, I interact quite frequently with rabbis all around the region who are in constant need of the most up to date kashrut information. Many times they turn to the OU for advice and assistance. In addition, the OU has been most helpful in presenting our guidelines and principles to assist communities in establishing their own Va’ad HaKashrut.
In this way, I am able to be a resource to many of the younger rabbis on the West Coast who have limited knowledge or information about community kashrut – who turn to our office first for guidance.
I personally obtained from this program an opportunity to interact with a large number of OU kashrut staff and to hear their presentations on a wide array of important subjects. In addition, there were a number of field trips which took us to see kashrut in action and I gained a great deal from that as well.
Since I’m not a full time OU mashgiach, I do not have the opportunity to get much of the ongoing training that mashgichim in the field receive on a regular basis, so attending this event made it possible for me in a very concise way to get cutting-edge information and insights to enhance my own knowledge, appreciation and application of the laws of kashrut.
It is my hope that the successful ASK OU program can one day be made available to further kashrut education in the West Coast community.”