It was called the Three-Day Los Angeles Halachic Adventure, and was devoted to exploring “The Mesorah (tradition) of Kosher Birds and Animals” through lectures, food tasting and site visits for kosher professionals, but don’t let the “Los Angeles” designation fool you – the impact of the event held earlier this month at OU West Coast Region headquarters, the Prime Grill Restaurant in Beverly Hills, and processing plants in Oxnard, Fullerton and Corona, went far beyond the confines of Southern California.
Much to the delight of OU officials – both from the West Coast Region in Los Angeles and from national headquarters in New York who came west for the event -- the Harry H. Beren ASKOU Mesorah Conference, as the Halachic Adventure was officially known, drew full houses to each of its sessions, with participants hailing not only from Los Angeles but from Tucson, Vancouver, Houston, Miami – and even from New York, where the event originated and was held twice in recent years.
“Amazing,” declared Rabbi Yosef Grossman, Director of Kashrut Education at the OU and coordinator of the mesorah programs in Los Angeles and New York, when considering both the turnout for the West Coast sessions and the distances traveled to get there. As director of the various Harry H. Beren Foundation programs – which are supported by the Lakewood, NJ foundation named after Mr. Beren – Rabbi Grossman has been accustomed to large and enthusiastic audiences back east, but was uncertain how the event would draw in the summertime in Los Angeles. He didn’t have to be concerned.
Post-event written evaluations showed that participants were rewarded for attending. “Great,” “Just wonderful,” “Very Informative,” “Most interesting,” and in several cases the same word Rabbi Grossman used – “Amazing” -- were used to describe their reactions.
Taking a Los Angeles perspective, Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director of the OU West Coast Region, declared: “The excitement and enthusiasm that had been building for months reached their apex at the three-day event. Our Region was very gratified that OU Kosher, based in New York, realized how meaningful and appropriate it would be to take this wonderful program that had been presented in the New York area twice and bring it to the West Coast.”
Rabbi Kalinsky expressed his appreciation to OU leadership; to Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky and Dr. Ari Greenspan (“The Two Ari’s”) for their development of the mesorah conference concept; to the Prime Grill Restaurant for hosting the food tasting event; and to the faculty members, including Rabbi Seth Mandel, the OU meat expert, who delivered the various presentations.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher, who participated in the Los Angeles adventure, was delighted as well with the results. “There is a growing emphasis in OU Kosher to take our programs on the road and to bring them to North American audiences wherever they may be,” Rabbi Genack declared. “Our rabbis travel widely not only as part of their certification responsibilities, but as part of OU Kosher’s growing list of educational initiatives as well.”
“For example,” he explained, “we will send a rabbi to a synagogue or a yeshiva wherever it may be to address a topic of mutual interest. But the Halachic Adventure is in a class by itself in terms of size, complexity and cost. Thanks to the work of Rabbi Grossman, Rabbi Kalinsky and his staff, and the support of the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ, we were able to bring the Halachic Adventure to Los Angeles. We look forward to presenting OU Kosher programs on the West Coast as often as possible because that Region is extremely receptive and the community wants to learn as much as possible about our kosher laws and traditions.”