The halacha of kashrut came alive last Sunday before a capacity attendance at Lander College in Queens, NY as the Orthodox Union presented The Pareve Mesorahs: A Halachic and Historical Perspective of Fish, Plants and Color.” This was the second in a series of mesorah (tradition) conferences, established by the OU Kosher Department to explore the intricacies of kosher law, while at the same time providing enthralled participants with the chance to see and even touch examples of that law.
“There are very few opportunities to see what the halacha looks like, particularly its more unusual aspects,” declared Rabbi Yosef Grossman, Director, ASK OU and Kashrut Education which, with the support of the Harry H. Beren Foundation, presented the conference. “It’s difficult to normally get a full view of these realities.”
The conference provided such a view.
With presentations by Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher, and the two poskim (halachic decisors) who advise the department – Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Rabbi Yisroel Belsky – the conference was addressed by the highest levels in the OU Kosher universe. They were joined by “the two Ari’s” – Dr. Ari Greenspan and Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky – Americans who made aliyah to Israel; who spend much of their time traveling the world looking for rare examples of kosher mesorah; and who are the dynamic forces behind this year’s conference and its 2004 predecessor, The Mesorah of Kosher Birds and Animals.
Other speakers included an array of talent from within and without the OU Kosher Department: Rabbi Chaim Goldberg, Rabbi Dr. Seth Mandel, Dr. Shalom Kelman, and Rabbi Ami Cohen. OU Executive Vice President Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb provided greetings and an appreciation of the work of the two Ari’s and the ASK OU program.
Those attending received a large, highly professional and deeply detailed source book, prepared by Rabbi Dovid Cohen of OU Kosher, which provided a reference to be used during the lectures themselves, and then for intensive study at any time. “If we had to buy this book, it would have cost $200,” said one participant.
In an e-mail to OU Kosher, Dr. Eric Goldschmidt, a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard, commented: “I attended the Pareve Mesorah Conference last Sunday, and one after another the speakers were just top-notch, their presentations were excellent, fluent, well-prepared, and perfectly timed. It was an exhausting day, but I learned so much from an astonishing variety of situations where attempts were made, and are continuing to be made, to reconstruct mesorah as faithfully as possible.”
The photos below illustrate how the halacha came alive and could be seen, touched and appreciated by those in attendance.