When they return to Germany, they will use their newly acquired expertise to advance kashrut in Central and Eastern Europe.
Zsolt Balla, 29, from Budapest, and Avraham Yitzchok Radbil, 24, from Ukraine, are advanced students at Yeshivas Beis Zion, a project of the Lauder Yeshurun Foundation to bring organized Jewish life to Central and Eastern Europe. They will receive semicha, or rabbinical ordination, next summer. Both fluent in English, they applied to ASKOU at the suggestion of Rabbi Joshua Spinner, executive director and founder of the yeshiva, who himself had taken the ASKOU program several years ago and who represents the first generation of kashrut professionals trained by ASKOU in its 13 years of existence.
ASKOU9 is sponsored by the Harry H. Beren Foundation of Lakewood, NJ, which sponsors a wide variety of OU Kosher educational initiatives. There is also a companion one-week ASKOU9 program, with an enrollment of 70, for rabbinical and kollel students and for communal rabbis and members of Vaadei HaKashrut who want to brush up on their kosher skills. The three-week program is reserved for rabbinical and kollel students only.
With lectures on a wide variety of topics from OU experts on the intricacies of kosher law, and field trips to factories and kosher establishments to see what they learned put into action, the three-week ASKOU9 participants are able to return home and to assume positions of responsibility in their communities regarding kosher certification and kosher education.
“We consider it both a great privilege and an enormous responsibility to be able to train the future rabbinic and kashrut leadership on the European Continent as well as Russia,” commented Rabbi Yosef Grossman, Director of OU Kashrut Education. “The Orthodox Union takes great pride and joy in the fact that Zsolt and Avroham Yitzchok represent the second generation of European rabbinical students that we are training for the sacred mission of implementing excellent kashrut standards on the other side of the Atlantic.”
“We need all of this kashrut experience to take back to Europe,” declared Avraham Radbil, who came to Germany with his family in 1997, when he was a teenager, for reasons of economics and education. “The OU is the best place to come for kashrut education. You can’t get so much practical experience in Europe like you can get here."
“Anyone involved in rabbanut (the rabbinate) needs kashrut, in providing Yiddishkeit, the first thing is kashrut,” agreed Zsolt Balla, who came to the Berlin yeshiva following a scientific and technical education in Budapest. Both students are married, and both have their wives with them for their stay in New York.
When they return home, they will spread the word, with plans to visit communities in Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, Poland and elsewhere, serving as a rav hamachshir, a kosher supervisor, answering questions, making sure kosher food is available, and taking advantage of Berlin’s central location for easy access to both Central and Eastern European locations and to Western Europe as well.
“We plan to continue learning, to take back whatever we learned here,” Zsolt Balla said. Avraham Radbil agreed. “Both of us enjoyed the experience of ASKOU,” he said. “Wherever we go we will bring our knowledge with us.”