This is my attempt at blogging. I'm still learning about the blogging world, and this is my own personal study hall.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kashruth Conundrums: A Quest for Answers to Common, Unfortunate Questions - Update II

Here is a post that I apparently forgot to finish and post. It is from about a year ago (August 4, 2005). It was called "Kashruth Conundrums: A Quest for Answers to Common, Unfortunate Questions - Update II". The reason I never finished it is that it requires a great deal of research to answer the questions I've been asking. I have found enough answers to get by in my own quest, but not nearly enough to comment on them authoritatively. If that is not clear enough, let me do this: Disclaimer -

THIS IS NOT A CRITIQUE OF THE KASHRUTH SUPERVISING AUTHORITIES, NOR IS IT MEANT TO SUPPORT OR CONDEMN/PROMOTE OR DISCREDIT ANY SUCH ORGANIZATION/INSTITUTION OR ANY MEMBERS/STAFF/LEADERS/EMPLOYEES/VOLUNTEERS OR ANYONE ELSE IN ANY WAY INVOLVED OR ASSOCIATED WITH ANY SUCH ENTITY/ENTERPRISE. THIS IS JUST MY OWN PERSONAL BLOG, WITH MY OWN PERSONAL THOUGHTS, AND IF YOU DON'T KNOW ME, DON'T TRY READING BETWEEN THE LINES. I AM LOOKING FOR MY OWN ANSWERS ON MY OWN WITHOUT ANY UNSOLICITED HELP, AND IF YOU ARE OFFENDED BY WHAT YOU THINK ARE MY THOUGHTS, JUST KNOW THAT I GO BACK AND FORTH AND ANALYZE THINGS MY OWN WAY, AND MY FEELINGS ON THE SUBJECT ARE NOT AT ALL CONCRETE. If I get any negative comments, I reserve the right to delete them (which I did not do with my first post, so it was quite annoying that I felt the duty to keep one such negative post up).

Anyway, here is the incomplete post from last year.


I am hereby changing the name of my research project from "Kashruth Police" to "Kashruth Conundrums: A Quest for Answers to Common, Unfortunate Questions". I hope nobody minds. I am afraid that the original title might convey disrespect to the "establishment", which was never my intention at all. While many see the Kashruth industry (and it is an industry) as evil and corrupt, I have never felt this way, although I do recognize that there are major problems with it, and that there are those who use Kashruth certification as a means to earn money, sometimes illegitimately. My goal from the beginning, however, has been to find the reasons for various degrees of "reliability" among different Kashruth certification agencies and organizations, and to see if perhaps there was/is some level of fraud and/or Motzi Shem Ra' (slander) going on.

I had a phone-meeting last Thursday morning with Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb, the Executive Vice President of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (commonly referred to as the Orthodox Union or the OU). The OU is one of the original, and currently the largest Kashruth certification organization in America, and perhaps even the world. OU certification is almost universally accepted, with major exceptions being certain Hareidi (so-called "ultra-orthodox") communities, which rely only on their own communal standards and certifications for things like meat and milk. There are varying stringencies held by certain communities regarding milk, which are not held by all Orthodox Jews, and varying opinions regarding what makes meat Kosher or non-Kosher, some opinions based in stringencies, and some based in different interpretations of the actual Halachah (law) itself. The vast majority of Orthodox Jews of Ashkenazic (lit. German; also northern and eastern European) descent follow a particular interpretation, while, again, some small groups, primarily Hasidim, follow their own communities' standards. Orthodox Jews of Sephardic (lit. Spanish; also southern European, Mediteranean, Middle Eastern, and northern African) descent have slightly different understanding of the Halachah itself, and I have not looked into their practices very closely. I am therefore only researching the Kashruth industry and its effects on the Ashkenazic Orthodox Jewish community.

Other than the aforementioned, relatively few exceptions, the OU's is the most universally accepted Kashruth standard among Orthodox Ashkenazic Jews, in America and in many other parts of the world as well. I started my inquiry by asking Rabbi Weinreb if the OU has one individual Posek (Halachic authority figure) or several. He told me that the OU refers its questions to Rabbi Yisroel Belsky, a prominent rabbi and leading Posek in New York and, by extension, the US, and Rabbi Herschel Schachter, dean of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary of Yeshiva University.

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