ASKOU Programs 7/30-8/17 to Give Hands-on Experience in Kashrut Certification
It happens every other summer, and beginning in late July and extending until the middle of August, OU Kosher will once again present the Harry H. Beren ASKOU Kashrut Summer Programs, now in its 11th cycle. There are two varieties: a three-week Kashrut Internship Program, from July 30-August 17 and a one-week Kashrut Training Program, from August 13 to August 17.
The programs are sponsored by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ.
Rabbi Yosef Grossman, OU Kosher Senior Educational Rabbinic Coordinator who organizes a variety of Beren ASKOU initiatives, reports that the three-week program is now closed to new applicants, but that a few places remain for the one-week session. The three-week program is directed at advanced semicha and kollel students to provide them with an in-depth Kashrut internship while the one-week training program is aimed at congregational rabbis, semicha and kollel students, and members of a Vaad HaKashrut who want to refine skills for use in their local communities.
Over the ten previous cycles, graduates of both programs have gone on to join the staffs of a variety of kashrut agencies around the world. The one-week graduates -- for example, congregational rabbis -- are provided with knowledge to pass on to their own congregations, by answering questions and by overseeing kiddushim and other events involving food preparation at their shuls.
“There is a great thirst for reliable kashrut knowledge and as in past years, I have noticed a tremendous surge in interest in both programs as we draw nearer to their start,” Rabbi Grossman said. “We look forward to providing this quality educational initiative to this year’s participants, with some coming to us from Israel and South Africa, as we have done for the more than 750 graduates who preceded them.”
The participants span the range of the Orthodox community, as together they learn the intricacies of kosher certification. “It is a great source of pride that over the years the entirety of the Orthodox community has sent participants to the program; it is an example of Jewish unity that so eloquently emphasizes what the Orthodox Union represents,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher.
The three-week internship includes field work; visiting plants with an expert OU Kosher rabbinic field representative; and includes an overnight hotel field trip. In addition, the time spent at OU headquarters is devoted to sessions led by OU Kosher rabbinic coordinators, senior halachic authorities lecturing on their specialties while providing hands-on training.
The one-week program, which is also attended by the three-week students, teaches how to set up a local Vaad HaKashrut; “treibering,” or removal of fats and veins; as well as the kosher issues related to bakeries, butcher stores, fish stores, pizza parlors, restaurants and other food service establishments. It includes factory supervision; the basics of ingredients and biotechnology; the practical halachot of kashrut, including “Bedikat Toloim”; and how to perform industrial and retail koshering. Together, both groups visit the kitchen of an OU restaurant, a meat processing facility under OU supervision, and an OU certified factory.
The programs emphasize what Rabbi Grossman defines as “the cutting edge of modern-day kosher food technology; food science is continually evolving, while the halachot remain the same. How you blend the two while maintaining the highest standards of kashrut certification is what the two programs are all about,” Rabbi Grossman said.
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