OU Kosher hosted a kashrus conference in Israel to honor and educate the country’s community of kashrus professionals. The event attracted over 120 attendees and featured esteemed speakers such as Rabbis Yoseph Efrati, Chaim Feinstein, Mordechai Gross, Nisson Kaplan, Shmuel Rabinowitz, Yoseph Rimon, Shmuel Weiner and Asher Weiss.
The discussions centered around the halachic principles of kashrus and emerging trends in kosher supervision. With Israel being the world’s largest kosher food market, OU Kosher’s presence in the country has signifi cantly expanded over the past fi ve years. This conference served as a platform to let the community know that OU Kosher is committed to Israel and to supporting its kashrus programs.
"OUR MASHGICHIM ARE THE BACKBONE OF OU KOSHER. EACH MASHGIACH IS TALENTED AND BRIGHT. THEY WORK COLLABORATIVELY TOGETHER, LEARNING FROM EACH OTHER EVERY DAY."
The Community Education Department at OU Kosher serves as a vital bridge between OU Kosher and the wider Jewish community.
Its objective is to provide educational resources, programs and events that enlighten and inform about the intricacies of kashrus and Jewish law. The department engages with individuals, schools and institutions.
The OU Kosher hotline was particularly active this Passover, receiving close to 10,000 calls. A notable moment occurred on Erev Pesach, when we fi elded 495 calls in just three hours. Special Sunday staffi ng and extended hours led to an 18% increase in average daily calls during this Passover season compared to 2022.
On the web front, our dedicated Passover site attracted 283,450 unique visitors, contributing to a total of 525,589 visits to oukosher.org. Overall, pageviews during the Passover season increased by 2.7% compared to last year.
ASK OU 2023 Women’s Kosher Experience, a part of the OU Kosher Community Relations Department, held a weeklong seminar exclusively for women, offering participants an in-depth education on the complexities of kashrus. Managed by Rabbi Eli Eleff, Managing Director of OU Kosher Community Relations, the program took place at the OU headquarters in Manhattan and included educational fi eld visits to locations like the David’s Cookies factory and the Hilton Meadowlands Hotel’s kitchen. Topics ranged from “Red Flag Ingredients” to “Securing the Kosher Supply Chain.”
Participants, ranging in age from 18 to 75, hailed from various states. They received teachings on specialized kashrus concepts and witnessed real-world applications, leaving with a newfound appreciation for the intricacies of kosher certifi cation. Participant feedback was overwhelmingly positive, underscoring the program’s critical role in educating the community on topics affecting their daily lives.
This daily newsletter offers a Q&A on the laws of kashrus and daily living, with over 1,200 questions in the online archive. Subscribers are encouraged to send in their own questions on kashrus issues.
Recent questions included:
■ When is the optimal time to shop and prepare for Shabbos?
■ I accidentally poured hot meat soup into a dairy ceramic bowl. Can this be kashered?
■ Is one also required to review the Torah reading of Yom Tov or Chanukah, shnayim mikra v’echad targum?
OU Kosher partnered with the U.S. Navy and the Aleph Institute to tackle the complexities of meeting the needs of kosher-observant sailors on Navy ships. Due to space limitations and supply challenges, offering kosher options is no small feat. In conjunction with the Aleph Institute, OU Kosher Rabbis Eli Eleff and Daniel Sharratt met with service members and reviewed the food service operations aboard numerous ships. Their fi ndings were summarized in a comprehensive report presented to Fleet Command. This will serve as the basis of guidance to naval offi cers and Jewish sailors to facilitate kosher options. This initiative builds on the Orthodox Union’s longstanding commitment to ensuring the availability of kosher food wherever it is needed.
“THE FEEDBACK WE RECEIVED FROM ASK OU PROGRAMS IS UNBELIEVABLE. PARTICIPANTS APPRECIATE THE LEVEL OF PROFICIENCY OF OUR STAFF AND FIND EVERYTHING VERY ENGAGING."
Over the past decade, OU Kosher has experienced significant growth in Central and South America, now certifying around 840 plants in the region. Guided by the hands-on leadership of Rabbi Yitzchak Gutterman, the team manages everything from new company onboarding to ingredient changes and field inspections. Key staff members like Rabbis Shoshan Ghoori, Shmuel Dajialovski and Uriel Tawil are instrumental in this expansion.
While there are unique challenges— economic instability, safety issues and language barriers—the region’s cultural emphasis on in-person communication adds another layer of complexity. Nevertheless, our RFRs (Rabbinic Field Representatives) are the linchpins of our success. They navigate these hurdles, ensuring safety and effective communication while maintaining the personal touch that’s so valued in the region. Their crucial role not only addresses these challenges but also fosters trusted relationships with the certified plants.
In May, over 100 OU Kosher Rabbinic Coordinators (RCs) and Rabbinic Field Representatives (RFRs) gathered for the annual two-day Kashrus Conference. The event featured discussions on halacha, procedures and trends. Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher, emphasized the importance of coordinating efforts to make the certification process more effective. Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO, discussed the global reach of their work, noting that mashgichim inspect more than a million ingredients across 104 countries.
Special guests included Merkaz HaRav Kook, Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, who has had many students called up to war and Rabbi Elya Brudny, Rosh Yeshiva at Brooklyn’s Mir Yeshiva. Following a welcome from Rabbi Genack and OU Kosher Commission Chairman Dr. Joshua Penn, participants attended breakout sessions on various topics. Rabbi Yaakov Luban (RC) was honored for nearly 40 years of service as he prepares for retirement.
“THE CONFERENCE IS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR OUR RCS AND RFRS TO CONNECT AND SHARE IDEAS. THAT PERSONAL INTERACTION IS SO VERY VALUABLE."
This year, OU Kosher celebrated its 100th anniversary, a testament to its enduring commitment to preserving the laws of kashrus in a modern industrial world. Founded in 1923 through the initiative of the OU Women’s Branch, OU Kosher initially focused on educating Jewish women about the benefi ts of kashrus observance, both for its religious signifi cance and its health and hygiene advantages. Spearheaded by Rebbetzin Rebecca Goldstein, the Women’s Branch laid the groundwork for what would become a benchmark in kosher certifi cation.
By the 1950s, under the guidance of Rabbi Alexander Rosenberg, OU Kosher expanded its reach, certifying hundreds of products and leading the way in professional kosher supervision. This expansion continued into the 1980s when Rabbi Menachem Genack took the helm. Genack welcomed competition from other certifi cation agencies, pushing the industry toward higher standards and broader consumer trust. Today, OU Kosher certifi es over 1.3 million products worldwide through a staff of 900 inspectors and managers in 113 countries.