By Rabbi Tsvi Heber, Director of Community Kosher Operations
September 2011 marks the onset of my seventh year working for the community at COR. One of the most remarkable aspects of working for a world class kosher certifier in the 21st century is the vast network of colleagues from all across the globe that we connect with on a continuous basis. There is a tangible sense of camaraderie amongst kosher professionals that has become an invaluable resource for all. Although we do meet face to face at conferences that are generally held more than once per year, it is technology that enables us to stay connected; from websites and email to conference calls and fax machines. There is a constant flow of information and policies as we consult with one another and use each other’s expertise and best practices to benefit our home communities. Communication that spans the globe is now commonplace in the kosher world. In a sense, kosher certifiers from around the world have become our very own world wide web.
I recall the first project that I tackled after joining COR in 2005 was to help formulate the COR Guide to Checking Fruits and Vegetables. This Guide would bring transparency to our fruit and vegetable policies and would be used to implement consistent standards amongst our certified establishments. This task would have been impossible without the resources that were available to us by some of the world’s experts in checking methods. So off we went to NY to train with Rabbi Yosef Eisen, Head of the Vaad of Five Towns and formerly of the Orthodox Union (OU). We consulted with expert Rabbanim such as Rabbi Shlomo Gissinger, a noted Rav and Posek who serves as the Rav Hamchshir of “Bodek”, a company that produces insect free fruits and vegetables at the highest standards, and is a consultant to Kof-K Supervision. We studied published and unpublished materials of other kosher certifiers and consulted with their experts. These resources enabled COR to create a Guide that is consistent with the guides and policies of the other renowned kosher certifiers.
The Association of Kashrus Organizations (AKO) is an umbrella organization that serves to unite the resources of approximately 75 member kosher certifiers from all around the world and has been described as the “nucleus of international kosher administration”. The COR’s Rabbi Sholom Adler sits on the prestigious AKO Executive Board while I serve as the Chairman of the Tolayim Committee and as a member of the Liquor Committee. On July 18, 2011, the Liquor Committee was called to Brooklyn, NY to pool our resources and discuss the nuances of alcoholic beverages from a kosher perspective. The discussion, headed by Rabbi Sholem Fishbane, AKO’s Executive Director, lasted three hours and ranged from Sherry casks to Sake – an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin made from rice. After much intense discussion, members left with a sense of confidence and newly acquired expertise. COR is currently examining various aspects of its liquor policy and is expected to make a presentation to our Rabbinical Vaad Hakashruth (RVH) in the very near future on the kosher status of Scotch aged in sherry casks.
As the largest kosher certifier in Canada, COR is consulted regularly by smaller community certifiers and Rabbanim. “What is COR’s policy on Canadian Whiskey?” How does COR wash and check its fresh herbs so that no insects remain?” “What is COR’s position on Starbucks?” “Is the pizza shop in our small city up to COR standards?” “How does our pricing model compare with COR’s?” “How does COR manage the terumos and maaseros of an ever-increasing amount of Israeli produce entering into the market?” These are examples of questions from other Rabbanim and local Vaadim that come across our desks. Indeed, it was COR’s Catering Guide that was displayed as a model for local Vaadim at the 2009 AKO Conference in Florida.
Kosher certification agencies such as COR have become more sophisticated through the use of technology and this has enhanced the camaraderie between organizations and ultimately, increased standards of kashrut. Indeed, technology has helped spin this complex web of kosher information and ultimately, those who benefit most are the kosher consumers.