OU Kosher to Present Awards to Three Senior Rabbis at Dec 9 Melave Malka

24 Oct 2006


In a first-time program to pay tribute to the Rabbinic Coordinators of the Orthodox Union Kosher Division – the senior rabbis whose knowledge of the complex laws of kashrut, dedication to their work, and understanding of the constantly changing world of food production have contributed greatly to the OU’s status as the leading kosher certification agency in the world – a presentation of the OU Kosher Safran-Guttmann Award for Professional Excellence and Accomplishment will take place at a Melave Malka of Appreciation and Recognition, on Saturday, December 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Renaissance Ballroom, 5902 Fourteenth Avenue, Brooklyn.

The awards will be presented to three Rabbininc Coordinators and will include a financial stipend.

The event and award are sponsored by Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran and his wife Klara “in memory of their parents – Rabbi Dr. Joseph and Esther Safran and Yehoshua and A. Rachel Leah Guttmann — and their legacy.” Rabbi Safran is Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Communications and Marketing of OU Kosher. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Behind the Union Symbol, a quarterly four-color publication of OU Kosher he originated to give OU certified companies and their executives an education into the complexities of the world of kashrut. Mrs. Safran is an internationally renowned designer and manufacturer of Clary’s Wigs.

The tribute marks the first time that a senior professional of the OU has established an award to recognize the excellence of his colleagues. The Safrans have announced a three-year commitment to the award program.

The awardees will be selected by a committee consisting of Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher; Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher; Stephen J. Savitsky, OU President and current Chair of the OU Kashrut Commission, which oversees the Division; and Dr. Steven Katz, Upcoming Chair of the Commission.

“We are most grateful to Rabbi and Mrs. Safran for establishing this award and for sponsoring this event,” declared Rabbi Genack. “Who can better recognize the high quality of our Rabbinic Coordinators than a colleague who works with them daily, exchanges ideas with them on a regular basis, and seeks their input and insights on articles for Behind the Union Symbol?”

“Rabbi and Mrs. Safran are most gracious for recognizing the need for this award, agreed Rabbi Elefant. “When a peer initiates an award it has enormous impact, for who is in a better position to recognize talent than a close colleague? The Melave Malka will be a most significant occasion for OU Kosher as we honor our own.”

Mr. Savitsky and Dr. Katz recognized the selection committee’s major problem in its deliberations. “The talent among the Rabbinic Coordinators is so great, the wisdom is so all-pervading, the dedication so manifest, that picking the honorees will be like choosing between various nuggets of gold as to which shines brighter,” they said in a statement. “There are no second place finishers here. The entire department is the beneficiary of Rabbi and Mrs. Safran’s generosity for enabling OU Kosher to present these awards.”

According to Rabbi Safran, besides memorializing his parents and in-laws, the award seeks “first and foremost to provide recognition of excellence and outstanding performance in all areas of the OU Kosher program and its administration.” In addition, he explained, it is intended to “reinforce excellence among OU Kosher peers and colleagues; to recognize the best, both through public acclaim and a financial gift; and to raise the status and awareness of the public communal debt due to the Jewish professional, as well as to stimulate and prompt other Jewish organizations to publicly honor, recognize and pay tribute to those who improve and enhance the quality of Jewish life and its needs.”

OU Kosher employs a staff of hundreds of rabbis, known as Rabbinic Field Representatives (RFRs), who observe the production and certify as kosher more than 400,000 products manufactured in 80 countries around the world. They in turn report to, and are supervised by, some 50 Rabbinic Coordinators (RCs) at OU Kosher’s New York headquarters. The RCs are acknowledged experts in kosher law as a whole and in specific areas to which they are assigned; a number of RCs serve as group leaders encompassing several colleagues in related areas.

“RC’s have tremendous knowledge, going well beyond halacha (Jewish law),” Rabbi Safran said. “Depending on their areas of expertise they are well versed in chemistry and other sciences; in engineering and metals; in agriculture, meat and dairy; in the law of trademarks and copyrighting; in plant operation; in transportation and so much more.”

“They may supervise RFRs and companies in China or Turkey, in Alaska or Alabama,” Rabbi Safran explained. “They must be alert to special business concerns of their companies and assist them in meeting production goals and in satisfying their customers. They are on call round-the-clock; if an RFR in Australia makes a call at 2:00 a.m. New York time which is during the work day in Melbourne, they must be prepared to respond. They are called upon to leave their families and travel to distant plants, and to participate in programs of OU Kosher by visiting schools and synagogues around the country. RCs truly merit appreciation and recognition, and my wife and I are very proud to provide it to them.”