OU Rabbis Go to Wall Street to Explain Why Bulls Are Kosher and Bears Are Not

23 Apr 2007


In the weeks to come, starting Wednesday, May 9, rabbis from the Orthodox Union Kosher Division will visit the headquarters of Credit Suisse, American Express, Ernst & Young, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and it will not be to check on their portfolios. They will be guests of Center for Return’s growing Corporate Torah Entitlement Program, which provides lunchtime seminars to corporate professionals. The OU will discuss kosher observance, explaining such matters as why some animals are kosher and others are not, and by doing so, help Center for Return bring these up-and-coming executives closer to their Jewish heritage.

The first OU Kosher seminars were presented in March at Center for Return’s weekly Torah classes at Citibank, Credit Suisse and Ernst & Young. The upcoming May 9 session will be held at Credit Suisse.

Center for Return’s (CFR) goal is to educate Jews about Judaism, regardless of their background, affiliation or level of observance. For the past 26 years, CFR has made it possible for anyone with an interest in Judaism to connect with his or her roots and heritage. For the past two-and-a-half years, CFR has focused on the corporate workplace and currently gives weekly lunch and learn classes at five major corporations. There is a sixth class after work hours for traders who cannot make the lunch hour class. The Center is currently adding a new corporate site at a rate of one every four months.

“We can have no better partner in our corporate outreach work than the OU, where 3,300 years of Torah tradition is regularly applied to even the most modern food production techniques,” asserts Rabbi Avrohom Kahn, founder and director of the Center.

The Orthodox Union Kosher Division was only too happy to join with CFR in these outreach efforts. “It is particularly gratifying for OU Kosher, the world leader in kosher certification, to join with Center for Return in sharing kosher certification information with enlightened representatives of America’s corporate world,” declared Dr. Simcha Katz, Chairman of the OU Kosher Commission.

OU Kosher, the world’s most recognized kosher symbol, can be found on more than 400,000 products manufactured in 80 countries around the globe. In recent years, OU Kosher has gone beyond certifying products to establishing educational programs explaining the technicalities of kosher law and observance to audiences ranging from rabbis and their students to those with little or no knowledge of Judaism. Programs such as Coming to a Yeshiva Near You, and Coming to a Synagogue Near You, send rabbis on the road across North America to address significant topics within the kosher world, chosen by the respective institutions to be visited.

Kosher Tidbits, 15-20 minute presentations on the OU Radio website, www.ouradio.org, turns rabbis into radio personalities as they give lectures for general audiences on the finer points of kosher law, on topics ranging literally from soup to nuts. Titles include, “Kosher Yogurt: An Uplifting Cultural Experience,” and “The Hole Truth: Bagels and the OU.” Kosher Tidbits audiences range from North America and Israel to the United Kingdom, Singapore, Spain, Mexico, Germany, the Philippines and Australia/New Zealand, among other countries.

Now the corporate world is the beneficiary of Orthodox Union expertise, thanks to the existing structure of CFR’s Corporate Torah Entitlement Program. The same OU Kosher rabbis who hop on planes to travel the world to certify products and whose voices go worldwide on Kosher Tidbits, now have to walk only a few blocks from the OU’s Lower Manhattan headquarters to the financial centers of Wall Street. “It’s a feather in OU Kosher’s cap to be stepping into the heart of corporate America, and we thank Center for Return for inviting us to their existing classes,” declared Rabbi Dr. Eliyahu Safran, Senior Rabbinic Coordinator and Vice President of Marketing/Communications of OU Kosher, who oversees the educational programs.

The March sessions were rewarding for rabbis and students alike. “It was amazing to be able to reach such a diverse group of Jewish professionals, whose insightful questions showed how thirsty Jews are for spiritual growth,” declared Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, who travels the world certifying fish, discussing his session last month at Citibank headquarters on Wall Street. “My impression was that the audience really enjoyed it,” he said.

At CFR’s Credit Suisse and Ernst & Young classes, also in March, Rabbi Eliyahu W. Ferrell explained the basics of the laws of keeping kosher and of certifying plants and products. “Some of those who attended were not aware that there is actually a system to the Jewish dietary laws — that it’s not a random string of regulations,” Rabbi Ferrell said. “These joint programs are extremely worthwhile, as they give Jews an opportunity to learn Torah and to charge their spiritual batteries in their work environment.”

The next series of CFR-OU lectures, extending until July 19 and led by Rabbis Yisroel Bendelstein, Raymond Morrison, Gad Buchbinder, Avraham Ossey as well as Rabbi Safran, will include the following topics:

• Why do we have supervision agencies?

• What are the demographics of kosher consumers? Are they overwhelmingly Jewish? (No)

• What kind of kosher establishments/companies does the OU certify?

• What does a mashgiach (kosher supervisor) do in general?

• What kind of training does a mashgiach have?

• What kind of infractions may be found in a certified plant? How are they dealt with?

Companies wanting to bring OU Kosher’s experts to their offices should contact Rabbi Safran at safrane@ou.org, or 212-613-8115.